Here is a column I wrote two months ago in the Kitchener Post, when Ontario’s sex-education curriculum again became an issue for the Conservative leadership. I stand by everything I said, and I am appreciative of the good things others have said about me in response:
Knowledge is power when it comes to sex education
Ontarians deserve better than another dog whistle issue like sex-ed says James Bow
The single most discouraging thing to come out of the sudden leadership race for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario are new promises to roll back the sex education curriculum by candidates in this race.
One candidate in particular infuriated me with the comment, “Educating our kids is the most important job in the world … We need to focus on teaching kids facts, not ideology. That’s why if I’m elected as leader, I’ll take issues like sex-ed to parents.”
Because, sure, there are no facts in sex education.
Look, I’m a parent of two daughters. I know the idea of our children eventually having sex is uncomfortable for us. And I believe that, as a parent, I should take an active part in my children’s education.
But do you know the real reason why I send my kids to school? Why I have teachers teach them English when I’m already reading to them at bedtime?
Because I alone do not have the resources to teach my kids everything they need. It takes a village to raise a child well, and in that village are a whole lot of teachers.
So, while my wife and I have spent a lot of time teaching our kids a healthy approach to their sexuality, particularly regarding issues of consent and birth control, that’s not enough. I want my kids to have a better education than we can provide, and schools are an important resource.
Do you want to talk about the damage ideology in education can do? Then look at the education systems in the United States that teach “abstinence only” sex education, or don’t teach sex education at all, like Mississippi.
Now look at education systems like New Hampshire that teach comprehensive sex education, including forms of birth control, sexuality and consent. Now compare the two.
Which state has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies? Mississippi, with 55 births for every 1,000 young women.
Which state has the lowest rate of teenage pregnancies? New Hampshire, with 16 births for every 1,000 young women.
According to the Centres for Disease Control, Mississippi has the highest rate of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea in the United States. It has the third highest rate for chlamydia and the seventh highest rate for syphilis.
Massachusetts, which also teaches comprehensive sex education, has one of the lowest rates for STDs.
Knowledge is not only power, it is safety. Sex education is as important to our children as mathematics, English and science. The sex education curriculum provided to our kids here in Ontario is a vital resource that will keep our children healthy and safe through their teenage years and will reduce unwanted pregnancies.
Parents who want more control over their children’s education already have options. They can home school their children. I have tremendous respect to those parents who make home schooling work for their kids’ benefit.
But it is unfortunate that Conservative leadership candidates have decided to take up complaints against the sex education curriculum as a dog whistle to social conservative voters. This puts the Conservative Party at odds with the majority of Ontarians who understand that this knowledge will keep our kids safe.
Rather than deal with facts, these candidates would sacrifice facts about sex and sexuality to the ideological alter of parents wishing to believe that they can prevent their teenagers from having sex.
It’s a dishonest approach, and it’s one that will mean more tragedies for our children if implemented. Ontarians deserve better.