Doug Ford should accept the evidence on sex-ed

Posted on December 21, 2018 in Education Policy Context – Opinion/Editorials
Dec. 20, 2018.   By

When it comes to sex education, Premier Doug Ford must be working at being willfully ignorant.

How else to explain his persistence in believing he was right to scrap the 2015 sex education curriculum and replace it with one from the last century in the face of all evidence to the contrary?

The latest on this fraught file?

An overwhelming majority of the 1,600 people who weighed in on Ontario’s sex education curriculum on the first day of public consultations told him to stop putting kids at risk and reintroduce the modernized curriculum launched by the previous Liberal government. Indeed, scarcely two dozen supported the government’s decision to repeal the syllabus.

Faced with this evidence that his self-described “largest consultation ever in Ontario’s history” — on the so-called website — was heavily weighted against his position, the premier countered this week by saying the results were skewed by “certain groups” in the early stages in the process.

That’s rich.

The only reason Ford promised to scrap the 2015 curriculum was to pander to certain groups, such as the right-wing Institute of Canadian Values and REAL Women of Canada, who helped him win the Progressive Conservative leadership campaign by a squeak over Christine Elliott.

What Ford should realize is that the evidence is in: Kids need to learn about body parts, masturbation, same-sex relationships, gender identity, sexting and consent.

Ford should reverse course now and reintroduce the 2015 curriculum in January to save a school year for students across Ontario who need this information for their own and others’ safety.

After all, how many hoops is he prepared to jump through to try to find evidence that he was right to impose the two-decades old 1998 curriculum on teachers and students?

Already, his government is facing two legal challenges to his regressive move in court and another two cases before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

Further, as some submissions to the government website pointed out, the premier is wasting taxpayers’ dollars on a needless consultation, since a massive one was already undertaken and paid for under the Liberals.

In fact, the 2015 sex-ed curriculum was developed over eight years after the then-Liberal government consulted hundreds of psychologists, police, educators, religious bodies — and more than 4,000 parents from elementary schools across the province.

And it was introduced only after it received a stamp of approval from professionals at more than 50 hospitals, not to mention organizations as varied as the Institute for Catholic Education, the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, and the Ontario Public Health Association.

It also bears repeating that if Ford truly wants to consult, as he says he does, he will listen to the health and education experts, 27 school boards, 28 First Nation communities, students and parents that have spoken out in submissions, protests and rallies since he was first elected, to demand that the 2015 curriculum be reinstated.

Instead, Ford has said he will “run through the 35,000 responses (now on the website) … and make a decision.”

That sounds an awful lot like he is desperately looking for the feedback he wants to hear, rather than the evidence that is already out there.

What is getting lost in all of this is that no political promise made to a small group of social conservatives is worth sacrificing the safety of students. They must be prepared to navigate the world they are living in, not the one their parents did.

Indeed, it’s time Ford respected the one “certain group” that matters in all of this: the students.

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