Dear Leveller Editors,
Firstly, thank you for highlighting student-led efforts to walk out of class in protest of repealing the Ontario sexual education curriculum along with the under-told Indigenous history of this country.
I have been following the media since Ford’s government revoked the necessary changes and promised a snitch line against teachers who continue to work with a curriculum that was responding to a needed change.
There must be some deeply ingrained issues in society for students to have learned these behaviours
As a teacher, I would happily give notice of the curriculum that is being covered in the classroom, and give parents the option to keep their kids at home during lessons that they wish to shelter them from. At the end of the day, at least most of the class will understand that censorship or prohibition doesn’t work as well as informed choice does.
There is a very important piece missing from public dialogue. Why did sexual education need to be updated? What is happening in schools today?
Consent is essential after all, and more people would know that if the Ontario curriculum had been updated sooner.
I would like to share a few examples from inside the classroom, from my experience as a supply teacher in intermediate and senior schools across Ottawa.
What would you say as an adult in a senior class when the first response to “how do you know that someone wants to have sex?” is a casual “by what they are wearing”? Would you think they need better sex ed?
What would you do if two of your grade 9 students were loudly (very loudly) watching pornography on their phones in class, only to protest your requests to turn it off – and to further protest your efforts to have a conversation about why this is not ok? Would you confiscate their phones?
What about when you do confiscate them and a nude photo of an intermediate student pops up on the screen – and you have to call the police on yourself for being in possession of child pornography, albeit accidentally?
Would you know what to do when you found out that one of your students had forced themselves onto several (yes several) students in your class?
How would you respond after you cut your hair and get asked by more than one student “whether you’re a boy or a girl”?
Would you agree something has to change when students (yes students) have catcalled in your direction on your first day at their school?
Having experienced all this, would you agree that the curriculum definitely needed to be updated? Might you concede that there must be some deeply ingrained issues in society for students to have learned these behaviours by accident?
In fact, these issues are very deeply rooted for us to not even be able to talk about them. Sadly these are not the only examples that I can share, and every scenario that I’ve shared really is something that I have witnessed or experienced first-hand in Ontario schools within the past five years.
When I graduated high school I understood the pressure to engage in sexual activity, but didn’t understand consent. I knew that Indigenous people existed, but I did not know that their culture had so brutally been stripped from them.
These are the conversations that are missing in the classroom and in society, and I wonder how we’ll ever have them with a government that thinks it’s ok to prohibit education.
Thank you again for your efforts to share the story.