As Frank Zappa sang in his 1968 song, What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?:
What’s the ugliest
Part of your body?
What’s the ugliest
Part of your body?
Some say your nose
Some say your toes
I think it’s your mind, your mind,
I think it’s YOUR MIND, woo woo
I’m not a fan of the Wynne government, but I respect their current willingness to wade into the public muck that clings to any attempt to implement or even update a sex education curriculum in public schools. The old curriculum was last updated in 1998 – years before sexting became headlines, before the internet became awash with pornography or Millie Cyrus twerked onstage. Before young women committed suicide over cyberbullying and rape videos. Before we became this hyper-sexualized culture.
Whether you agree with the curriculum, you have to admit it takes a brave government to tackle something that has always been a flashpoint for public dissension, and all too often a rallying point for the uber- and religious right (always a vocal minority). Governments should be willing to tackle the tough issues, not simply pander to the vote or themselves.
The protesters may have some valid points about the age at which some of the content may be presented, and those should be considered. However, the protests have become trolling dragnets; capturing all sorts of ideological and theological flotsam and jetsam. Frankly, much of what floats to the media surface from these protests is idiotic, chaotic and archaic.
Governments should not kowtow to the fringe, no matter how vocal it gets.
Any valid debate that could be held about the curriculum is being drowned out by the screams of the rabid – their angry voices remarkably like those protesting vaccinations, evolution, or abortion. And, as explained in a recent Toronto Star article, a lot of what the protesters are claiming will happen is simply made up codswallop.
I heard one of those anti-curriculum protesters on the radio last week, arguing (loudly) that sex ed should not be taught in school; that it should be taught only by parents, at home.
Which, as we all know, is nonsense. Parents don’t teach sex ed. Not properly. Not even in home schooling (which is, for the most part, inadequate fluff taught by the unqualified or ignorant).
In my town, you just have to go downtown and stand in front of the coffee shop mid-day to see the 14- to 16-year-old parents pushing their babies around, while they stand outside, smoking, drinking their pop or other sugary confections, the moms showing off their tattoos, the dads (when they are present) pulling their pants up from below their buttocks or adjusting their sideways baseball caps.
These kids know enough about sex to have it. Not enough to know about the messy consequences of it. And certainly nothing about raising children responsibly.
What sort of parent teaches their children to be parents when they’re barely teenagers? What sort of parent doesn’t teach their kids about birth control, STDs and the consequences of early pregnancy? What sort of parent doesn’t want their kids to know what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t, and when no means no?
The sort that don’t want the schools to teach it. And that’s exactly why schools should teach it: so these kids will know better. So they will have a better chance at life, enjoy more opportunities to experience, to travel, to explore and fulfill themselves – not simply have their lives truncated and boxed in by unwanted pregnancy or avoidable disease.
Frank Zappa concludes his song:
All your children are poor
Unfortunate victims of lies
A plague upon your
Ignorance that keeps
The young from the truth
Some parents may be able to give their children the basics, but unless they are teachers, how can they involve children in social interactions or role-playing with their peers? These parents cannot teach kids the whole gamut of information – the biological, social, personal, psychological and moral issues unless they have studied it themselves. That’s what the sex ed curriculum is meant to do. Parents can still talk to their kids about morals, ethics and behaviour.
Sure, parents want to protect their children, but what parent is so afraid of the real world they don’t want their children to learn about it? But learn they will: from the internet, from their cell phones, from their peers and sometimes from bitter experience.
Would these parents rather their kids learn about sex from the internet? Do they want porn sites – often violent and misogynistic – to provide the role models for their kids to imitate? Do they want their kids to learn about gender identity from watching soccer hooligans or Russian thugs on the news beat gay men into bloody comas?
Let’s face it: kids will have sex. You can’t stop them. You may delay it, but you can’t stop it. Sex is too much fun, feels too good, and the hormones are too demanding for them not to. Sex is also the main rite of passage in our lives: it marks the end of childhood. We want to have it because it defines us as our own person, as adult, as having left the nest – even if only metaphorically.
And all these kids want to be treated like adults, not like children. Sex is the measuring stick for them. It always has been, always will be.
And what’s the big deal about sex, anyway? It’s not like we don’t all do it, it’s not like it’s something new, something invented about the same times as the internet. It’s ancient biology, as old as the first multi-celled creatures that swam in the primordial seas. We are hardwired to have sex because we are hardwired to perpetuate our species. You didn’t think the stork brought you, did you?
So what if children learn at an early age to call it a penis instead of a winkie or a wee wee? The names aren’t vulgar, but euphemisms can lead to vulgarity and offence. Body parts are just biology. Treat them accordingly.
One of the medical problems we are only now starting to overcome is our reluctance to talk about cancers and other problems with anything related to sex – be it breast, prostate, cervical or testicular. We can help that along by teaching our children about their body parts, to understand and to respect them, without fear or shame. Naming them properly is a start.
Yes, they will learn that masturbation is normal, that they or some other people prefer sex with their own gender, and that not all sex is confined to one position or one connection. Better that they learn about sex properly and fully, in a peer group where they can talk about it, ask questions, learn what is and isn’t safe, and learn what behaviour is right and wrong, than to get it from the internet.