Fully Alive a start

By 
  • April 29, 2010
sex educationProposed changes to Ontario’s sex-education curriculum were ill conceived and ineptly delivered.  Premier Dalton McGuinty’s only good move on this file was his hasty flip-flop on a plan to muscle explicit sex instruction into elementary schools this fall.

Contrary to some interpretations, the sex-ed initiative was not derailed by Catholics. The government had no intention of imposing a curriculum on Catholic schools that conflicted with Church teaching on sexuality. McGuinty wasn’t about to risk a court challenge by requiring Catholic teachers to teach sexual orientation to Grade 3 students. Instead, Catholic educators had a government blessing to integrate the proposed new curriculum into the Fully Alive program, which has been delivering elementary students faith-based lessons on sexuality, marriage and family for more than 20 years.  

McGuinty was undone largely by faith-based opposition from within the public system. A provocative sex-ed curriculum that would begin at Grade 1 was never going to fly in a multicultural, multi-religious school system comprising such diverse groups as Christians, Muslims, Orthodox Jews and Hindus. These groups mostly share the Catholic view that sex must be taught within a moral framework, and defining that framework is the role of parents, not government.

The architect of these reforms, former education minister Kathleen Wynne, suggested that opponents to her so-called progressive proposals lived in the Dark Ages and were narrow minded. Nonsense. Ontario is among the world’s most tolerant societies. But there’s a big difference between embracing tolerance for all people and condoning all lifestyles.

By and large, parents have no objection to age-appropriate instruction on sexual anatomy, biology, disease and health. They do, however, recoil when their value system is mocked by a government minister who seems determined to impose her values on them.

The issue is not dead. New Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky has the difficult task of untangling the wreckage of Wynne’s policy to salvage a new sex-ed curriculum. All school subjects should be periodically reviewed and updated. Sex education is no exception. For Dombrowsky, a sensible starting point for a province-wide curriculum might be the Fully Alive program that she will remember from her days as a Catholic school trustee.

A collaboration between parents, educators and church leaders, Fully Alive is far less explicit than Wynne’s ill-fated lesson plan but more detailed than the current public school curriculum. It introduces age-appropriate sexual concepts to children, beginning in early grades, while always respecting family values and traditional morality.

Some politicians may not like that approach but it’s what most parents want, regardless of faith.

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