Catholic Concerns About Ontario’s Sex-Ed Curriculum

PAFE has received numerous requests to explain how sex-ed in Catholic schools was affected by Kathleen Wynne’s 2015 sex-ed changes so that parents and grandparents can take advantage of the Ontario government's survey on sex education.

What is Catholic Sex-Ed?

Ontario Catholic schools rely on their family life program known as Fully Alive to teach about sexuality. When Kathleen Wynne’s sex education program, Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum 2015, was released, the government asked the Bishops’ Institute for Catholic Education (ICE) to produce supplemental resources to support Catholic teachers in integrating HPE themes into Fully Alive.[1] These ICE resources are of two types: 

A) lessons that revise Fully Alive in view of HPE material and

B) lists of material in Fully Alive cross-listed with the HPE prompts from Wynne’s sex ed curriculum. 

Where it is specified below that certain material comes from an HPE prompt, that means that it comes from a list of HPE prompts reproduced verbatim that teachers may choose to use if they wish.  A table showing where Wynne’s sex-ed themes can be taught in each grade of the ICE resources is included at the end of this piece. 

Problems with the Catholic Sex-Ed Resources

Catholic families may have strong concerns about how moral material that is not Catholic has been adopted in Catholic schools through the ICE resources in two areas: 1) gender ideology and 2) early sexual activity.

Gender ideology

The ICE resources present the Wynne government’s ideology of gender in grades 3, 6 and 8.  In the introduction to the resources, it states that the government’s teachings on gender ideology are allowed to be presented in the Catholic curriculum in order to teach students the values of multiculturalism:  “Properly understood, difference is something to be recognized in a society that honours diversity, multiculturalism, human rights, and human responsibilities.”[2] The resources say the Church has different teachings about sexuality and that it is appropriate that these teachings be presented as the “clear moral background” when discussing the government’s ideology.  The Church’s full teaching on homosexuality, including that homosexual acts are wrong, is presented in the introduction and grade six (200c). 

Grade 3:

Grade three teachers are referred to the HPE prompt:

“Describe how invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique.”  (214a)

Grade 6:        

Grade 6 children learn definitions of homosexuality (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), homophobia, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. (200c)

Grade 8:

The curriculum states “The Ontario Human Rights Commission, for example, makes a distinction between the term sex, which is defined as the category of male and female, based on characteristics biologically determined, and gender, which is defined as a term that refers to the characteristics of men and women that are socially constructed.  Those people who believe that gender is socially constructed, and is separate and distinct from sexual identity also may understand gender not as binary (male and female) but as something more fluid, non-binary, and an element of identity that may be changed.” (160b)

Grade 8 students learn definitions of gender identity, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, and intersex. (138a)

The resources suggest the grade 3 prompt is appropriate to be taught in two different theme areas of Fully Alive, which makes it difficult for parents to stay on top of opt-outs for their children. (214a)

The ICE resources say in the introduction and in grade 8 that they will teach the government’s views on gender ideology while making it clear what the church position is. 

In grade 3, however, the resources refer teachers to the HPE prompt on describing invisible differences, including gender identity, with no definition of terms at all, and no mention of Catholic teaching, which could lead to third graders being taught that people can choose one of many types of genders.

The larger point here is that teaching about homosexuality and gender identity in grade 3 is premature.  The Church teaches that the age of sexual innocence (before the age of puberty) must be respected by not teaching unnecessary sexual information.

(see the Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, s. 6, Learning stages).

The curriculum adopts the secular term “gender identity” in the mini-lesson on stereotypes for grade 6, redefining the term from its ordinary non-binary meaning to something that fits in the Catholic understanding of the binary nature of sexuality.  It calls it “a person’s sense of self with respect to being male or female.”  Here no mention is made of what the usual non-binary meaning of the term is.  Without clearly distinguishing the difference between what Catholics teach and what the secular view is, this lesson risks confusion in the way it is taught or interpreted.            

Points you could use in your submissions:

  • Teaching about homosexuality and gender identity in grade 3 is premature.
  • Curriculum teaches about gender identity in grade 3, without defining it, leaving open the possibility of teaching that people can choose one of many types of genders.
  • Curriculum teaches the terms gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual at an age some parents will find too young, before their curiosity about such matters has been awakened.
  • Forcing Catholic schools to teach gender ideology in grade 8 violates Catholic schools’ constitutional rights to teach the essential truths of their faith. Religious instruction for children should be catechetical, not “comparative religion.”

Early Sexual Activity

In the ICE resources for grade 7 and 8, children will learn about making decisions about sexual activity in a way that is inappropriate given the church’s prohibitions against pre-marital sex. Here are two examples:

Grade 7:

How can you prevent being sexually exploited? (…not to be sexually active; …do not consent to sending sexually explicit pictures of yourself; communicate clearly with each other and respect each other’s values and beliefs, including religious values and beliefs, when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship” (182a)

Grade 8:

Grade 8 teachers are referred to the HPE prompt:

“Identify and explain factors that can affect an individual’s decision about sexual activity and identify sources of support regarding sexual health (e.g., a health professional [doctor, nurse, public health practitioner], a community elder, a teacher, a religious leader, a parent* or other trusted adult, a reputable website).” (Appendix B, 284)

* Sidebar:  observe the disrespect for parents displayed in placing them so far down the list of trusted authorities of sexual information!

The grade 7 discussion of preventing sexual exploitation by respecting each other’s values when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship does not suit the Catholic context and is open to more than one interpretation.  It could be understood to mean that young people could decide not to have sex due to religious beliefs, but the precise nature of the communication is not stated.  A better tactic would have been to leave it at “not to be sexually active.” Referring teachers to the HPE prompt teaching grade 8 students about factors that can affect an individual’s decision about sexual activity is similarly inappropriate in a Catholic context.

The opt-out situation would be even more challenging for parents of seventh and eighth graders, since inappropriate material on early sexual activity (as well as gender identity theory) is woven through three themes of Fully Alive

The curriculum also teaches about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and contraception in grade 7, (166-166a) which have traditionally been left until high school.  It provides an HPE prompt on the same material for grade 8.

Points you could use in your submissions:

  • Teaching grade 7 and 8 children about how to have a conversation about sexual readiness conflicts with the Church’s teaching on abstinence before marriage and appears to normalize pre-marital sex.
  • Grade 7 students are too young to need information on sexually transmitted diseases and contraception.

Please send a copy of your submission to Most Rev. Gerard Paul Bergie at: chancery@saintcd.com, and cc PAFE at tanya@pafe.ca

To assist you in your letter writing PAFE presents this table of the ICE materials.  The table shows which Fully Alive themes have been revised to include HPE themes, as outlined in the ICE resources.  In some cases the teaching prompts from the HPE are faithfully reproduced in the ICE resources, which means they are there for teachers to read.  Highlighted text indicates PAFE areas of concerns, which may also be explained in square brackets.

ICE

Grade

Fully Alive

theme

HPE material

ICE page

1

3, topic 5

Identify body parts including genitalia (e.g. penis, testicles, vagina, vulva) using correct terminology

137, 202

2

3, topic 5

Reporting exploitive behaviours, such as improper touching of their bodies or others’ bodies

204

3

1, topic 1

1, topic 2

5, topic 1

Describe how invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique

214a

4

3, topic 6

Describe the physical changes that occur in males and females at puberty

221

5

3 topics 2, 4

Introduction to the human reproductive system and the process of puberty

242

 

3, topic 3

Describe the process of menstruation and fertility

242

 

3, topic 5, 6

Identify strategies that they can apply to manage stress, build resilience and enhance their mental health and emotional well being (…talking to a trusted peer or adult [parent not mentioned])

242

 

1, topic 4

1, topic 6

2, topic 6

4, topic 1

4, topic 2

4, topic 3

Explain how a person’s actions, either in person or online, can affect their own and others’ feelings, self-concept, emotional well-being, and reputation (e.g., negative actions such as name calling making homophobic or racist remarks, mocking appearance or ability, excluding, bullying, sexual harassment [including online activities such as making sexual comments, sharing sexual pictures, or asking for such pictures to be sent…)

242

6

5, topic 2, mini lesson on stereotypes

Teaches terms homosexuality; homophobia; gender identity and gender expression; and gender role [Teachers are told to follow terminology the student uses such as “lesbian/gay”, despite the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario teaching terms “gay” and “lesbian” are not to be used]

200a-e

7

1, topic 4

Sexting, the practice of sending explicit sexual message or photos electronically

70a

7

2, topic 1

We need to determine consent or lack of consent in intimate, sexual relationships

88b, 166a, 182a

7

3, topic 2

Puberty and the development of fertility

154

7

3, topic 3

Information on STIs and contraception

166-166a

7

3, topic 4

Feature on homosexuality that explores some of the questions young adolescents may have about their sexual orientation; masturbation and pornography called sins and immature behaviors [use of term “same-sex attraction” would be better]

176

8

1, topic 1

3, topic 1, 3

Homosexuality, gender identity, transgender, transsexuality, two-spirited, intersex

135-138a, 155-156, 160a-d, 284-285

8

3, topic 2

Sexting

150a

8

5, topics 1, 3, 4

Identify various groups and organizations that work to improve quality of life (e.g. Free the Children, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Médicins sans frontières/Doctors without Borders, Right to Play, Water for People)

282

8

1, topic 4

1, topic 5

2, topic 2

3, topic 1

3, topic 2

Theme Three Virtue: Chastity,

3, topic 3

3, topic 4

3, topic 5

Identify and explain factors that can affect an individual’s decision about sexual activity and identify sources of support regarding sexual health (e.g., a health professional [doctor, nurse, public health practitioner], a community elder, a teacher, a religious leader, a parent or other trusted adult, a reputable website) [note how far down the lists parents come]

284

8

1, topic 4
1, topic 5

3, topic 1

Theme 3 Virtues, Chastity

3, topic 3

3, topic 4

3 topic 5

Contraception for pregnancy and STI prevention, consent and matters they need to use in order to make safe and healthy decisions about sexual activity (e.g. self-knowledge; abstinence; delaying first intercourse; establishing, discussing, and respecting boundaries; showing respect; need for additional information and support; safer sex and pleasure; communication, assertiveness, and refusal skills

285

8

2, topic 1

2, topic 4

3, topic 2

3, topic 4

3. topic 6

 

Analyze the attractions and benefits associated with being in a relationship…as well as the benefits, risks, and drawbacks for themselves and others, of relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy (e.g. hurt when relationships end or trust is broken; in more sexually intimate relationships, risk of STIs and related risk to female fertility, unintended pregnancy, sexual harassment and exploitation; potential for dating violence

285

[1] Supplemental Resources for Fully Alive to Support Catholic Teachers with the Ontario Curriculum, Health and Physical Education, 2015, http://iceont.ca/resources/teacher-resources/resources-for-elementary-teachers/

[2] ICE Supplemental Resources, Introduction, p. 2


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  • Paul Wood
    commented 2018-12-04 12:16:03 -0500
    what the hell is the government doing sexualizing our kids? any need they can claim for this ‘education’.. none. We want it stopped,, it is likely more gay agenda.
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