To the Editor:
Follow-up to letter on Sex-Ed
“I was wrong and you were right”. Ask any married couple and they will undoubtedly tell you that this is one of the most daunting sentences in the English language. However, being able to utter those words when they are
due – even if ceding grudgingly – is a sign of honesty and integrity, and rightfully earns a certain amount of respect. In that sense, I am asking Premier Ford to admit that he erred in his decision to revert to the 1998 Health and Physical Education curriculum – now infamously labelled the Sex-Ed curriculum – and to reverse course.
I recently wrote to Premier Ford and to Education Minister Lisa Thompson regarding this issue. The Education Minister did not reply, disappointingly, but Premier Ford did by way of a typical form letter – no surprise there – which was addressed to “Undisclosed recipients”, suggesting that there has been much in the way of response. The Premier reiterated that: “During the recent election campaign we made a clear promise to replace the entirety of Ontario’s current sex-ed curriculum with an age-appropriate one that is based on real consultation with parents.” Further, he added “This will be one of most robust consultation processes in the history of Ontario’s education system… While these consultations occur, we are reverting to the full health and physical education curriculum that was last taught in 2014. He ends with: “Our goal remains to ensure Ontario’s children are protected while their parents are respected.”
Premier Ford sounds like he is still on the campaign trail. He now ingeniously refers to the 2014, rather than the 1998 curriculum. Is he perhaps hoping we won’t notice that these are one and the same, given that the newer one has been taught in elementary schools since 2015? He also states that he is forging ahead, this despite the years of studies and consultations that have already taken place, despite the voices of a majority of parents who support the use of the 2015 curriculum, despite the opposition in the academic field. To date, twenty-two school boards have registered their disapproval of this plan, a plan which will only add to the loss of assistance children have already experienced but desperately need. (Here, the DARE program, an excellent platform whereby police officers went into schools to talk to grade five students about drugs, cybersecurity, cyberbullying and consent was cancelled by the Bluewater District School Board. That too was a step backward as the children at that young age were already, surprisingly, much more aware than most would expect, and in need of guidance.)
I do not suggest that pledges should be taken lightly, but some campaign promises are conceived in the heat of the moment, in the rush of supporter approval. This particular one caters to an ultra-conservative minority of parents and should never have been made. Pressing forward with this, or should I say backward, will only create chaos in a system that is currently working well, and will be a complete waste of time and tax dollars. I repeat: the consultations have been done, and thoroughly. As well, an old adage that has stood the test of time applies here: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Premier Ford, if your goal is as you state, show foresight by leaving things as they are. Let teachers work with the current program which has proven to be effective. A suggestion that instructors adjust or expand willy-nilly on an irrelevant older program can only expose teachers to local and/or legal challenges and is out of the question. Education across Ontario must be consistent, with clear guidelines. It cannot and should not vary on a board by board basis, or worse, on the options of individual teachers. Show respect for the academic experts and the majority of parents who disagree with you on this. Admit that going forward is the better way. You will, in turn, earn the public’s respect.