By PAT WATSON
Some of the most avid ‘consumers’ of pornography today are children, most of whom are receiving very unhealthy information about sexuality outside the classroom and away from their parents via the Internet. It’s as easy as going to the public library or Internet café and going online in the privacy of their own homes.
True story: A few years ago, in fact even before the Ontario Ministry of Education’s implementation of the 1998 curriculum on sex education came into being, a group of neighbourhood kids, mostly boys, all pre-teens, found themselves watching videos at the home of the local ‘bad boy’, apparently stolen from that boy’s father. The kids were watching pornography. It was a lesson in sexuality that would be disturbing to any caring parent.
Aside from not having the emotional maturity to process what they were viewing, and the usual demeaning images of women, they were also viewing images of sexuality that are pure horrific fantasy. Yet, with no other frame of reference, these images would no doubt leave a lasting impression on the kids. In fact, the boy who took it upon himself to host the showing went on to become a teenage father.
This scenario can be multiplied countless times across this city and beyond. Moreover, our consumer-centered culture is steeped in sexualized content when it comes to marketing products.
Parents may be uncomfortable about this reality, but there is a need to counter the overexposure to sex and sexuality young minds encounter daily.
Despite this growing dilemma, there has been very vocal opposition to the government’s proposed new curriculum on sex education in Ontario’s elementary schools.
Educators, health professionals and parents have vetted the program, which took a number of years to develop, a process that was not done in secret. But, overlooking the larger context, some parent and church groups are stirred up by the inclusion of sensitive aspects within the curriculum.
Ontario’s Ministry of Education faces a difficult path in finding agreement across the vast population of parents about how best to educate the current and coming generations of children.
To adequately answer the disparate concerns there is a range of educational environments from which parents can choose. We in the Black community are very aware of this, as there had been a long battle waged to have even one public school available for Black children that is focused on educating them from a cultural and historical perspective.
One of the balancing acts that education systems have to confront is that of being educators and social engineers, for school curricula are about more than the ‘three Rs’. Beyond reading, writing and arithmetic there is science, history, French, physical education and, depending on the school, religion and even ‘home economics’ and, yes, sex education.
On the other hand, within many cultures discussion about sex is taboo, so there is discomfort among some immigrant families about their children learning about sexuality in schools. But, parents are uncomfortable talking to their children about sex, and children get the unspoken message that they are not to ask. The safest environment left is within the physical and health education context at schools.
Part of the concern of some parent groups is that because children do not all develop at the same rate emotionally, as well as physically, some children would be receiving sex education information when they are not ready for it. But, children today are far more exposed to adult themes of sexuality than children of past generations. To counter this quandary, they need to be appropriately informed.
Also, there is no reason that any information presented to children in schools cannot be further discussed within families. Parents may consider this as a form of support in dealing with what can sometimes be an awkward matter between them and their children. Of course, they also have the option to take their child out of the classroom when sex education is being taught.
Why couldn’t Premier Dalton McGuinty have taken a step back from the coming Harmonized Sales Tax with as much speed as he stepped back from the proposed new curriculum on sex education in our elementary schools?
On a related note…
More than 50 per cent of young children living in Toronto could be courting health problems because they do not experience enough daily physical activity needed to stay healthy. Apparently, children are spending too much time playing video games and not enough time playing sports or simply playing outdoors for a couple of hours each day.