In February, the Ontario government released their revised health and physical education curriculum and outlined the changes that had been made at every grade level. The most notable changes to content include:
– the addition of ways to identify and respect the differences between people;
– the addition of ways to use digital communications technology safely;
– explanations of how a person’s actions, either in person or online, including making sexual comments and sharing sexual pictures, can affect people’s feelings and reputations;
– explanations of the importance of building understanding with a partner about delaying sexual activity and the concept of consent;
– understanding of how relationships develop and how to maintain a healthy relationship.
Over in Alberta, the Wiseguyz project is slowly spreading to schools and fostering conversations about “good” masculinity in a safe space – which seems to be making high schools safer places for LGBTQ teens.
While both provinces are making strides and shaping younger minds into better citizens, I am left wondering about two other demographic groups – the one that is just out of high school and beginning their post-secondary education where there is no formal sexual education, and the one that my peers and I fall into – out in the workforce. Perhaps because it impacts me most, I wonder where my cohort and the one just behind mine are going to get their safer sex education – and where the associated information about safer use of digital communications tools, sexualized violence and bullying will come from.
I genuinely hope that it doesn’t have to come from restorative justice programs after harm has already been done – as was the case for the Dalhousie University dentistry students. While I appreciate that restorative justice is a productive fix, it does not actively prevent what should be a preventable situation. I also hope it doesn’t have to come from punitive measures from an employer or institution – as was the case for a certain Hydro One employee – after harm was already done, both to the survivors and to people who should know better.
While organizations like White Ribbon are creating the space for conversations and awareness about issues like gender violence though public events like Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, these address a small part of a larger problem – that there are few useful adult sexual education resources available. I’m curious to see if the shift in materials available for younger generations prompts a demand for materials for everyone – especially as those better-educated and prepared young people start insisting on better behaviour from the rest of us.