The Ontario government released a powerful advertisement about the new "sex ed" curriculum (formally known as Human Development and Sexual Health) http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/liberals-to-release-sex-ed-ad-blitz-as-school-year-begins-1.2539952 . This new clip is by far one of the most accurate, too. I'm glad the reporter highlighted that teacher prompts and student responses are only suggestions to help navigate the curriculum - they are not mandatory, and teachers can choose to approach the specific expectations in other ways.
I could only find the full version in French - see here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPaOTEHyJg. To translate loosely, the ad says that kids have questions and this new curriculum will help answer these questions.
At the start of each of my workshops, I begin by asking a question: "what does sexual health education mean to you?" Almost consistently, the first couple answers are "puberty" and "STIs" (sexually transmitted infections). These answers are not wrong; in fact, they're very essential components of holistic sexual health education, but these are just two pieces of a much larger puzzle.
There is a push for student-centred learning and critical thinking across North American schools and beyond. As the new school year approaches, I challenge teachers to re-evaluate their pedagogical approaches across all curricular areas, but especially in sexual health education.
Ontario has a new Health and Physical Education curriculum that lends itself to student-centred learning and critical thinking. Historically, sexual health education was very biological- (e.g. reproductive system) and risk-focused (e.g. STIs and unplanned pregnancy). Ontario, as well as other provinces across Canada, have realized that there is more to understanding sexuality and sexual health beyond the biological and risk scopes. But, how do teachers approach the new curriculum when they have spent decades developing lessons based on curricula that don’t go beyond much further than menstrual cycles, puberty, and chlamydia?
Before you implement the new curriculum, ask yourself: What is the purpose of me teaching this? What do I want my students to learn? The core of Health education, overall, is learning to live a healthy life and developing the skills and insight as to how to go about living healthily. Personally, I'm not very concerned with specific details like identifying the exact symptoms for each STI; we are not here to teach students how to be medical doctors and diagnose maladies. We are here to teach them strategies and skills to make healthy and informed choices – instead of memorizing a list of symptoms for STIs, teach students to recognize "if my body doesn't feel right, I have to decide how I am going to handle the situation in a healthy way. Contact my doctor, tell an adult I trust and with which feel comfortable discussing these matters, and be proactive about my health. Also, I need to be responsible enough to take care of my sexual health by regularly getting tested to be proactive about my health since STIs may be asymptomatic” (as per specific expectation C2.3, Grade 11).
We need to help students feel agency, to help them realize that they have the power to make choices. However, teachers have the responsibility to make sure that students are getting the information, resources and tools they need to exercise their agency in a responsible and healthy way.
One of the newly added topics in the Health and Physical Education curriculum in Ontario is cyber safety. The Toronto Police has a useful handout for tips to engage in cyber safety practices.
I am excited to host the Canadian Safe School Network's first ever Twitter chat! Join CSSN on September 2nd, 2015 from 8-9 pm for an Interactive Twitter Chat on how to make LGBTQ students feel safe at school. Follow CSSN at @CndnSafeSchools and use the hashtag #TeachTheTeacher
Ryerson University just opened an Office for Sexual Violence Support and Education (OSVSE). There has been growing attention paid to the amount of sexual assault and sexual violence on campus, and surprisingly, very few universities had explicit policies when sexual violence and assault occurred on campus. Ryerson is clearly taking steps in the right direction to educate their students about consent. Take a look at this video that describes what consent means.
Superstore and chain Target decided to remove labels from some of their items - specifically, items for children and youth. This is a big step forward with regards to challenging gender stereotypes and the construction of gender.
Considering that even adults have difficulty understanding gender, children have an even more difficult time deconstructing this complicated and loaded concept. Commercials, print ads, and the language we use is loaded with expectations for "girls" and "boys". Big boys don't cry. Girls wear pink. Boys wear blue. Girls fight with words and boys fight with fists. Girls play with dolls and boys play with trucks. Youth don't understand that they can challenge these concepts, because if they do, they'll likely get responses from their peers such as "you're a boy, you can't play House," or "you're a girl, you can't play on our soccer team." It takes small steps, such as removing "girl toys" from shopping aisles and replacing it simply with "toys" that make a difference. These changes do not go unnoticed.
Kudos to you, Target.