By Kamya Ramaswamy
Toronto, January 15 (CINEWS): In the last few months, there have been widespread protests at Ontario elementary schools from parents who disagree with the updated sex-ed curriculum—or more likely, disagree with their kids being taught any sex-ed curriculum. Every time I saw these (mainly South Asian) parents on the news, I cringed at their responses to reporters’ questions of why they were protesting.
Answers ranged from the inaccurate, “This curriculum will encourage our kids to have sex,” and “They’re too young for this,” to the ridiculous and bigoted, “It will put homosexual thoughts in our children’s heads,” made me embarrassed to share a heritage with these people.
Especially since, as a first-generation South Asian who has actually taken all the classes within the Ontario entire sex-ed curriculum (albeit ages ago), I think it’s not only okay, but incredibly important that all our kids participate in these classes and not be pulled out by their misinformed and sometimes undereducated parents. When my son comes of age, I fully intend for him to go through the same curriculum.
Ontario schools have been teaching sex-ed for half-a-century. It’s not a brand-new thing the way some of these protesting parents make it seem. Let’s go through the common arguments they have against the updated sex-ed curriculum:
“Our kids are too young for this.”
Uh, no they’re not. More and more of our kids are going to have friends who have two moms or two dads. What are you going to do, tell your first-grader he can’t be friends with Tommy because you don’t want to explain why Tommy’s family is different than your own?
Even children in grade 1 need to know that being gay is completely normal and okay, although I know a lot of people in the South Asian community privately disagree. But guess what? Your kid is going to go out into a world where her boss or her best friend or her teacher might be gay and she needs to know from the get-go that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And if your child, herself, discovers one day that she’s gay, the education she and her peers received from such a young age will remove a lot of the angst and turmoil such a discovery may entail.
“This curriculum will encourage our kids to have sex.”
What about India, where there is no such curriculum and the population is exploding at about 1.2 billion? So many studies have been done on this topic that it’s almost common knowledge—kids who have gone through sex education are less likely to have sex at a younger age. Moreover, as adults, they’re more likely to have fewer kids (not the 7 or 8 you still see per family in rural India), and have them at an age when they’re mentally and financially ready for them.
I know this first-hand—the only girl in my 10th grade class who almost never attended the sex-ed classes turned up at school 7 months pregnant when she was 15.
When you’re sitting in a classroom with a sinfully boring teacher discussing the functions of reproductive organs, it’s more like an anatomy class. In elementary school, all we were lectured on was sexually transmitted diseases during our “health” classes, and it was so mind-numbing that it seemed sometimes the clock was ticking backwards. We weren’t watching porn or reading the Kama Sutra, which is what some of these protesting South Asian parents seem to think sex-ed is about. You only think this because you have no idea what it’s actually about!
And trust me, the videos your kids will see when they get to high school are probably designed to make them think sex is weird and gross. If you want your kids to wait until adulthood to have sex (more like marriage for most South Asian parents), you want them to take sex-ed. Nothing will demystify and de-glamorize sex more than these classes.
And finally, the best lie you’ve ever told yourself…
“Discussions about sex should be had privately at home between children and their parents.”
Should be, but won’t be. Because the same parents who bring up this argument would also like to pretend sex doesn’t exist and would rather stick their heads in the sand than have this discussion with their kids. If the discussion is had, it would most likely tout abstinence and pay no attention to any of the physiological, social and psychological aspects that the Ontario sex-ed curriculum goes through over several years of schooling.
And when an education is sorely lacking or non-existent, it will raise lots of questions among the youngsters. If the parents aren’t even acknowledging those questions, that will leave kids to seek answers among themselves or the Internet. Would you rather have your kids learn about basic human physiology in a cold, boring, unsexy classroom, or from erotic websites in their bedrooms?
By the way, parents who stick by this argument—do you know what an endometrium lining is? What about a vas deferens? If the answer is no, what makes you think you’re more qualified than the Ontario curriculum to teach your kids these things?
But let’s move on to a bigger issue that the entire sex-ed debate is unfortunately highlighting—how some close-minded immigrants are unable to share the values of a largely liberal-minded Canada. This gives all of us immigrants and children of immigrants a bad name, and also makes it impossible for your own children to integrate into the land where they will make a life for themselves.
Much has been said about Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is an experienced and brilliant public servant who just happens to be a lesbian. No, she’s not “pushing her values on our kids” by including homosexuality in the curriculum; she’s simply acknowledging reality, which is something many South Asian parents refuse to do.
The school boards are bending over backwards to put across the message that it will teach the curriculum with sensitivity, but that isn’t something they should have to do to prevent parents from pulling their kids out of school in protest.
I believe in Darwinism when it comes to this issue—let the curriculum go on as planned without pandering to any of the parents who are spewing misinformation, conspiracy theories, or unabashed bigotry.
Let them stupidly pull their kids out of entire days of school to protest a tiny, tiny part of the instruction time they will receive. And let the schools decide that those kids, due to poor attendance, will have to repeat the grade over. That would be a real education for everyone.