Lubrication is only for squeaky wheels: Ontario sex ed plan scrapped

Dear Premier McGuinty:

That didn’t take long.

Apparently, the threat of an ultra-right Conservative Christian was enough to have the Ontario Liberal government pull the updated physical and health education curriculum this afternoon.

It’s left you looking like you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth. On the one hand, in this morning’s Metro, you spoke clearly on not letting Catholic schools weasel out of teaching the new curriculum:

If parents are uncomfortable with certain aspects of this new curriculum, they can and they are free to withdraw their children from the classroom.

Hours later, while announcing your sudden change of heart, you said:

For most parents, it came out of nowhere. They are obviously not comfortable with the proposal we put forward.

Make up your mind, Mr. Premier. Either you stand behind your assertion that parents who are challenged by the content are free to excuse their children, or you don’t. The flip-flop move you’ve made has left those parents who SUPPORTED the changes in a situation of grave disappointment.

In their press release, the AIDS Committee of Toronto referred today to a 2003 study in which 2/3 of Grade 7 students and 1/2 of Grade 9 students thought there was a cure for AIDS. The curriculum you shelved would have addressed this dangerous myth accurately and possibly led to a decrease in new infections in Ontario over the next 5-10 years.

The earlier normalization of a spectrum related to sexual orientation and gender identity combined with an effective anti-bullying campaign could have led to a dramatic decrease in risk-taking behaviours (unprotected sex, substance use, suicide attempts/successes) by young people who continue to be marginalized by their communities for their differences, or who have hidden in the deepest parts of the closet out of fear of what would happen if others knew.

You had the opportunity to be a leader, Mr. Premier – your government was poised on the edge of implementing some amazing programming that would have reduced the risks of all kinds of issues related to sexuality: by teaching every first grade child how to accurately name ALL of their body parts, you would have been equipping children with tools that might keep themselves just a little bit safer from sexual predators. You had the opportunity to reassure a third-grade student that her life with her two moms or two dads was visible and acceptable and acknowledged. You would have given that child feelings of legitimacy that she’s not systemically getting right now. You would have given another child the awareness that while uncommon, it’s okay to feel like that child’s insides don’t match the outside, which would reassure that child that s/he isn’t alone in having these feelings.

You could have opened a forum for middle-school-aged children to ask the questions they can’t ask their parents. You could literally have made your province a safer and healthier place.

Instead, Mr. Premier, you chose to fold in the face of controversy. Rather than stand tall and discuss sex education as a provincial public health issue, you fell back on the morality argument. What’s next, Mr. Premier? A re-evaluation of the science curriculum? An analysis of the potentially problematic themes taught in language arts? A return to faith-based instruction (and let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that such instruction would be anything other than some brand of Christian) through all public schools?

I was really angry this afternoon when you changed your mind, Mr. Premier. Now, I’m just disappointed.

With appropriate regard,



  1. misskitty_79 said,

    April 22, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    This is eloquently & intelligently written. I really hope you’re planning on actually sending this letter to every public official you can find a mailing address for, as well as all the major newspapers in the province.

  2. plastikgyrl said,

    April 22, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I sent a copy directly to McGuinty, as well as to the Toronto Star. I’d have sent it to the Globe as well, but I would have had to cut 400 words. 🙂

  3. Soire said,

    April 22, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    It makes me angry that he buckled! I was SO excited for the new stuff!

  4. karyn said,

    April 23, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. Is it all right if I send another copy of your letter to Dalton indicating that?

    Also IMHO you could cut the 3 inner paragraphs starting from “In their press release, the AIDS Committee of Toronto…” and still have a very strong letter to send to the Globe and Mail – the more newspapers that hear this point of view, the better!

  5. abi said,

    April 23, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    thank you, thank you, thank you

  6. john said,

    April 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    So, if threatening to pull kids out of school got them to back down, perhaps it could get them to reconsider and put it back?

  7. Marko Mitic said,

    April 25, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Nice work.
    I will be back to check some new info.

    Thank you,


  8. Heather Ann said,

    April 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I’m going to be the lone dissenter!

    Granted, I haven’t read through the curriculum, but what was discussed on the news seemed to have elements that I was not comfortable with being taught at the time they were taught. It was the timing that bothered me.

    I have four children – 10, 7, 4 and 6 months. We have been talking about their bodies and sex since the beginning of time. My 10 year old explained to her Dad about AIDS/HIV two years ago. I thought she explained it better than he could have explained it to her. She’s had books and we have talked openly from day one. She drags her brother along in her wake. Body parts have always had the correct name. Masturbation is understood and more. We discuss what is appropriate and where it is appropriate. We are openly naked. All my friends think we are a bit abnormal, but I have always thought knowledge was power. However, we always teach only what the child seems to want to know/what is age appropriate. Lots of details get left out at the beginning and you gradually build on the previous conversations. And, during each conversation, questions come up that you may not have expected.

    So, I guess the anal intercourse bit was what bothered me. In my opinion, if you are going to discuss it, you had better be prepared for the questions that follow your broad description of it. And you have to answer those questions. Do I want my grade 6 kid discussing anal intercourse? No. My grade 8 kid – okay/probably. Now, if I have my facts wrong, or have misunderstood, then I stand corrected.

    And, preventing abuse by teaching sex ed.? That would be nice. I don’t know if it does. We moved out of our home to escape from a neighbour exposing himself aggressively to me and to my kids for two years. Police. Court. Restraining orders. Fear. Depression. My four year old had the words to describe seeing the neighbour’s penis, but it didn’t stop him from seeing that penis.

    Just my two cents.

  9. Heather Ann said,

    April 26, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I read fast. Skimmed.

    No. I don’t think I spoke out before really knowing the issue. I spoke before knowing the exact/correct details. Not my fault for not listening to the news. Because I did. But when I went looking for confirmation of the details I found them hard to access and trusted what I had heard. For me, the issue was control over what happens to my children at school. And I am in the public board so I had no choice except to pull my kids if I felt what was going to be discussed was not to my liking.

    You have to understand, that while I am open with my children, I am also 43. Old. And what I got taught at school and what is being taught to my children is wildly different. Thank G_d for Our Bodies Ourselves. And some of my reticence with the info that seems so fine when printed out matter-of-factly is that my old 43-year-old self just didn’t do what the kids today are doing. And yeah, if there are kids giving oral sex to each other in grade 7 then we as adults need to talk about it with them. But, I’m not comfortable with having to talk about it so soon/about all the details so soon. I want my babies to be babies longer – or at least, I would rather that I was having those conversations with them, rather than some teacher that I may not trust or know. (My daughter’s grade 5 sex ed. class was just taught by a gun for hire.) So now, I have to start some converstations a bit earlier than I would like so that I explain them first.

    So, maybe the new curriculum isn’t so bad. But, I need some time to wrap my head around all that has to be taught. And soon.

    • Heather Ann said,

      April 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm

      Hey, no problem. I move around the internet to read and learn – not just to validate what I am already thinking. You helped me today to find what I needed. You pushed me. Those are good things. I pushed back a bit because I have worked really hard at educating my kids about this subject and I’ve thought about the issues a lot. Thanks for speaking with me.

  10. nadinethornhill said,

    April 27, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Hey, Plastikgyrl,

    Kudos to you for writing such an eloquent, thoughtful response to an infuriating action on the part of our Premier. As an SRH educator and a parent I agree 100%

    Heather Ann. Would that there were more parents like you who could and would start the process of sexual education early and in the home. Your initial anecdote about your neighbour exposing his penis to your four-year-old struck a chord. First, I’m very sorry your family had to endure such hideous behaviour for so long. But the fact that your four-year-old could identify exactly what was happening is significant to me. I have to believe young victims of sexual predators are made more vulnerable when they don’t have the language to articulate what’s happening nor a framework to understand it.

  11. September 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    […] before, first lauding the proposed changes to the physical education and health curriculum, then expressing my disappointment when the provincial government caved to the complaints of those who’d prefer their children […]

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