Sex in the Limestone City: Canada's approach to sex education needs improvement

Galen Eye Centre

The negative effects of Catholic school sex education

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Growing up, I was raised in a Catholic home and attended Catholic school for both my elementary and high school careers.
 
Overall, I’d say I received an excellent education, allowing me to gain entry into Queen's and excel in my program. However, there was one major gap in knowledge that attending Catholic school left me with respect to sex education. 
 
Luckily, I grew up in a home where my parents decided to take it upon themselves to teach me what I needed to know about safe sex and correct the false information I received in my schooling. However, not everyone is as lucky as I am and for some, the gaps regarding sex-ed are never properly rectified. 
 
The teaching of false, distorted or biased information to students was a great disservice that my high school and, allegedly other Catholic schools, are guilty of maintaining. 
 
From my experience, the main message conveyed to students learning sex-ed in many Catholic schools is that abstinence is the answer to all matters of sex. 
 
Don't get me wrong, there are certainly people that choose to abide by this practice and there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what they truly want and believe is morally right. However, demanding abstinence from a group of hormone-crazed 14-to 18-year-olds is like putting candy in front of a toddler and telling them they can't have it. It’s fruitless and unproductive. 
 
The biggest issue that’s presented when abstinence is the only example of a contraceptive taught in school is that students are failing to get a well-rounded education with respect to sex. 
 
When teachers are instructed to teach solely abstinence, it makes it difficult for students to understand the precautions they must take prior to engaging in sex. On top of that, it can make them feel extremely guilty for partaking or simply desiring to partake in the act. 
 
This lack of a proper education puts students much more at risk for developing STIs or becoming pregnant since, if they do make the personal choice to engage in sexual activity, they have no grasp of the correct procedures to take in terms of health and safety.
 
To give some insight into the absurdity of what is often taught with regards to sex-ed within the Catholic school system, I will draw from my own education, or lack there of.
In high school, I had one teacher tell me that any sexual activity that goes past the boundaries of kissing is considered morally wrong in the eyes of the church. 
 
Another teacher told me that failure to wash your hands after touching the genitalia of another person and then touching yourself “down there” could get you pregnant. It took 3 years of university-level science, but rest assured, this isn’t true. 
 
The fact that teachers taught such false or biased information as fact is problematic.
 
Beyond all those falsified fun facts, we were also forced to sit through videos such as "how an abortion is performed." Even more than the goriness and the insane concept of it being necessary for the curriculum, all I could think of was, what if there was a girl in class that was pregnant and struggling with what to do about it? Here this girl would sit, knowing that if she made that decision she would be forced to endure the same fate at which her classmates were currently expressing their horror towards. 
 
When Kathleen Wynne introduced the new sex-ed policy in 2015 — a year after I graduated high school — I put my personal thoughts about Wynne aside and applauded it. Although I won’t argue there are some age discrepancies that may need to be worked out with this new policy, the new curriculum encourages the education and use of condoms and birth control — a definite step forward to ensuring safe and healthy sex education. 
 
Additionally, this new curriculum teaches about gender as a changeable social concept and normalizes homosexual family structures. 
 
Although the new policy hasn’t been received well by members of the Catholic Church, I really do hope some parts of the curriculum remain a staple for teaching in all schools, including ones that value Catholicism. 
 
Barrie Cradshaw

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