Ford’s Promise to Repeal New Sex Ed Curriculum Ignores the People It Hurts Most

On election night, I watched with the rest of Ontario—and the nation—as the PCs took the majority. In Doug Ford’s acceptance speech he said his win was “for the people.”

Earlier that day, when I voted at my old primary school, I was greeted by an unfamiliar sight: the Pride flag, sailing below Canada’s red-and-white on the flagpole. I attended this school for eight years over a decade ago—there were no rainbow flags then. I don’t think the word “gay” was uttered inside those walls, unless it was weaponized like so many proverbial sticks and stones, flung carelessly by children to hurt each other.

Times, it seemed, had progressed.

Then, the day right after the election, Ford confirmed he would keep his campaign promise to repeal the new Sexual Education curriculum, installed by former Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Controversial, it tackles some of the hashtag generation’s most complex issues and lessons—subjects like consent (#MeToo), gender and sexuality (#Bornthisway), and mental health (#EndtheStigma).

Ontario’s youth are about to lose the opportunity to learn about these critical topics in a safe environment among their peers (#wtf).

In his win “for the people” Doug Ford has forgotten one very important thing: children are people too. They have minds of their own, ever-expanding worlds inside of them, and a right to the facts. Facts can be vetted, discussed, and spun perhaps—but not ignored.

In his win “for the people” Doug Ford has forgotten one very important thing: children are people too.

His concern for Ontario’s youth seems to extend no further than the opinions of their parents. Ontario’s youth are not their parents. They are growing up in a different world than their parents did. They need different lessons. The last curriculum was updated in 1998. Texting was out. Pokemon cards were in.

The new curriculum was designed to inform and protect children wrestling with a world of mobile apps, YouTube celebrities, and social landmines. It provides knowledge and tools to navigate the modern world—not omit it or ignore it.

The Ontario government refusing to discuss gender fluidity in classrooms doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and it won’t keep kids from seeing it on the internet or even in the halls of their school. What it will do is “other” it—make it strange, make it the enemy.

Omissions of this information lower the rainbow flag from the pole. They erase those who feel invisible or misunderstood. They blind those who could be allies instead of bullies. They set our youth stepping backwards in a forward-thinking world.

The new curriculum also was designed to protect our youth. It teaches children the anatomical names of the parts of their bodies early on, giving them the language and tools to understand personal barriers and speak up when someone wrongly crosses them. These measures can shield children from abuse. 

It also engages older students on convoluted topics like the dangers of sharing sexual pictures and messages via media such as Snapchat or Facebook.

A study from the University of Calgary showed one in four teens are receiving “sexts.” One in seven are sending them. What’s more, one in ten of these teenagers are forwarding these sexually explicit messages to others without consent.

The new curriculum includes frank discussion that online actions could have real life consequences, including charges for the distribution or possession of child pornography if they share this content with peers.

The birds and the bees talk ain’t gonna cut it anymore.

The birds and the bees talk ain’t gonna cut it anymore. Neither is systematically ignoring topics such as acquaintance rape, racism, or the questioning of gender roles.

What's more: do people think kids won’t go elsewhere for information if they aren't getting it at school?

I grew up in the Ontario public school system. I learned about periods from my best friends before three years before girls and boys were separated for “a talk." In high school, Sex Education was an awkward punchline to what my peers and I had already found on the internet. Even then, we were ahead of the curve.

Now, kids have access to more info online than ever before. They're Googling. They're talking to their friends. Isn’t it wiser to give them this information in a safe, stable environment where we can prepared them for the rest of the world? To trust them and discuss with them like the future citizens they are, instead providing flimsy shelter for the sake of a political platform?

Keeping these discussions in a classroom means they’re normalized. It sends the message to teens that it’s okay to explore and engage in discussions at home, at school, and with each other. If we really want to protect Ontario’s youth, we need fight to keep this curriculum right where it belongs—in their hands.

Repealing the curriculum is a divisive step backwards. As society moves forward into equal rights, it’s a retrograde initiative that ignores the autonomy of today’s youth. It’s a move that underestimates their cultural intelligence, and puts them out of touch with the wider world outside the schoolyard.

Ford won’t suffer by following through on this campaign promise—Ontario’s youth will.