In 2015, Ontario revealed the newly updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum which included much needed changes to a previously outdated sexual education outline. Changes included topics and discussions centred around gender identity, sexual orientation, emotional and physical factors to consider when making sexual health decisions as well as dealing with sex on social media platforms. According to the government of Ontario, the changes the new curriculum added were necessary since many children now enter puberty at a much younger age. It is also very common for young children to have access to the internet, social media and smartphones, therefore they can actively seek out information that can be incorrect and potentially harmful. Previously, the curriculum hadn’t been updated since 1998, 17 years ago. Many of the students here at Laurier Brantford experienced this very outdated version of sex education, some not receiving any at all. We asked some students what they took from their high school sexual education experience and whether or not they agree that the new curriculum will help, or harm the next generation of students.
“I didn’t really get a proper education in regards to sex,” Taylor Burk, a second year explains. “I went to a Catholic high school so if anything the focus was on abstinence. Literally we talked about abstinence for one week and that was it. Which is hilarious since everyone in my grade was definitely not practicing that.”
What was the one thing you remember about your sex education?
“All I remember is this chart with a bunch of stick figures … It was something to do with well, if you sleep with this person then really you’re sleeping with this many people,” Burk says. “So I hook-up with someone who’s hooked up with 20 other people so really I slept with 20 something other dudes? It was definitely a scare tactic, me and my friends just laughed about it.”
“I was supposed to have [sex ed] in Grade 9,” Brandon Setten, a third year Leadership student explains. “However, my teacher completely skipped the sex ed portion of the course. I know this because other gym teachers for my same grade taught their classes sex ed.”
So did you have to learn things such as prevention of STDs and pregnancy all by yourself?
“Most of what what I learned came from basic elementary school sex education, or learning from friends within my high school who had the proper sexual education, or learning from their older siblings,” Setten says. “I think it was good in a way to learn since I was comfortable with the people sharing so it was easier to learn. We figured it out as a community, me and my groups of friends. Obviously I had to do my own research to figure out what was right and what wasn’t.”
As a future teacher, are you familiar with the recent revisions to the Health and Physical Education curriculum?
“I can’t say that I am… yet,” Grace Puccia, third year con-ed students says. “But I do think it is a good idea for students to have more conversations about sex, especially the emotional aspect of sex and healthy relationships. So I agree that the revisions were needed.”
The majority of this student consensus found they did not receive a proper, formal education in regards to sex, and what they did learn came from factors outside the education system such as peers, family members and the internet. While these outlets can be helpful, the school system is meant to prepare kids for their adult lives, which eventually will include sexual activity and intimate relationships.
“For future generations,” Setten explains. “I think the proper way to learn [about sex] is from the school because that way the information they are getting will ultimately be correct, there wouldn’t be any confusion like I experienced.”