Grade 5: Things I cannot control include… personal characteristics such as …my gender identity, sexual orientation…
This is not scientific fact, but a statement of belief. It is a contentious statement, representative of only one side of a hotly debated issue, and yet it is being taught to our children as if it were truth. According to the American Psychological Association:
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
Why teach that sexual orientation is a biological fact that one is born with, when this is speculative theory and not accepted by scientists?
Grade 4: Advances in technology … come with risks and potential difficulties, such as … exposure to people who ask you for sexual pictures or want you to share personal information.
Isn’t this conversation something that parents should be having at home with their children? Yes, advances in technology do come with risks. But not every nine-year-old is exposed to these risks, and not every nine-year-old needs this conversation presented in this way. This conversation seems more like parenting than school-teaching.
As a parent, I make choices about my child’s use of technology. I do not permit my children to have a cell phone or access to the Internet without my direct supervision, sitting right there beside them. They do not have social media accounts. Indeed, as a parent I have made a choice not to have a cell phone myself. Neither am I on social media (with the exception of this blog, where I do not use my or my children’s real names.) There are many reasons for these choices, but one major reason is to prevent my children from having inappropriate exposure to the risks of these technologies before they are mature enough to handle it. I do not model texting, cell phone usage, and social media usage as a norm, and this is my prerogative as a parent.
Of course, not every parent makes the same choices, and that is fine. My point is that we as parents have the right to make different choices for our children in these matters, and as a result, we will be having different conversations at different ages with our children about these matters.
I do have conversations with my children about the dangers that they may face in the world, but I have these conversations in such a way that I as the parent determine to be appropriate for my child, and at a time and place that I as the parent determine to be appropriate. I do not need nor want a teacher’s help with these conversations, nor do I want a classroom full of nine-year-old girls and boys to be privy to the conversation.
Again, the problem with this curriculum is that it is entering into the parent’s domain.
Grade 4: describe the physical changes that occur in males and females at puberty (e.g., growth of body hair, breast development, changes in voice and body size, production of body odour, skin changes) and the emotional and social impacts that may result from these changes
- identify the parts of the reproductive system, and describe how the body changes during puberty;
- describe the processes of menstruation and spermatogenesis, and explain how these processes relate to reproduction and overall development;
- describe emotional and interpersonal stresses related to puberty (e.g., questions about changing bodies and feelings, adjusting to changing relationships, crushes and more intense feelings, conflicts between personal desires and cultural teachings and practices), and identify strategies that they can apply to manage stress.
When I was in grade 6, my school mailed home a letter to the parents. They were going to have a class on puberty, and were inviting parents to participate with their children. The lesson would be presented in the evening, after the regular school day, so that if a parent did not wish their child to attend, it would not affect their regular attendance. One evening would be a girls’ session, which the girls could attend with their mother, elder sister, grandmother, aunt or female family friend. The following evening was for the boys, which they could attend with their father, elder brother, grandfather, uncle, or male family friend.
My mother and I attended, along with my best friend and her mother. I remember it as a fun evening, sometimes embarrassing (but how much more embarrassing if the boys in the class had attended?), where we learned all about the changes we could expect in puberty in our own bodies, and a little about what changes the boys would be experiencing. There was coffee and juice, and snacks after the presentation, and I remember it as a fun evening out with my mother, where I felt very grown up about being admitted into this world of women.
Looking back, I think that was the perfect way for a school to address the issue of puberty. If a parent is too uncomfortable to speak with their child about it (although I can’t imagine that being as much of a problem in our present-day culture), they could attend a session taught by a professional, which would have the affect of teaching the child what they need to know in front of the parent, and open discussion between the child and the parent for the future.
Why do we need a teacher to be in the place of mentor and puberty-educator? Leave these sensitive issues to the parents, and stick to reading, writing and maths at school. Of course, there is room for biology within academia, but that is a course for high school, not ten-year-olds!) Teaching a prepubescent about the changes about to occur in their own body is not an academic subject, and deserves the respect and sensitivity accorded by a private conversation with a parent, not a mixed classroom environment.