Friday, May 28, 2010

In spite of everything you've heard, Canadian teens are becoming more responsible.

The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality has just published a study showing that the number of pregnancies among Canadian teenagers dropped by 36.9% from 1996 to 2005! Who would've guessed? It seems all we hear about in relation to teen sexuality is how over-sexualized they are and how they are getting involved in sex earlier and earlier every day. If that were true, one would expect that the numbers of teen pregnancies would be increasing right along with all that horrible, early risk-taking behavior. But they aren't. In fact, teen pregnancy rates are down significantly in the last ten years in most developed countries, including the USA (their drop was 25%). Alexander McKay, co-author of the study and research co-ordinator of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of Canada says that the number of teenagers having sex has remained essentially stable, over this time period, with somewhere around 50% of those 17 or under having been sexually active. McKay says “Teenage women in Canada are not more or less likely to be sexually active than they were 10 or 15 years ago. The difference is that we have seen a steady increase in the percentage of sexually active young women who are using contraception. That comes mainly in increases in condom use but also increases in birth control.” (quote taken from Globe and Mail, May 26th). So in spite of all the public bemoaning about 'those girls growing up too fast', it appears that all the evidence tells us that:
1 - the numbers of teenagers having sex has stayed pretty much the same since 1996
2 - the ones who do have sex are making good choices about contraception
3 - far fewer of them are getting pregnant

But there are still some, that in spite of all of these good news fact, hold steadfastly to their belief that Canada's sexual morality is going to hell in a handbasket. Point in case, Barbara Kay, of the National Post, who is quickly becoming one of my least favorite wingnuts, published an editorial on Thursday entitled 'Teen Pregnancy Study Fall Prey to Wishful Thinking'. In it, she asserts that the decline in teen pregnancy rates is mainly due to a decline in birth rates in Canada on the whole. How this follows, I simply cannot understand. She also asserts that the general decline in birth rate is due to a huge increase in the number of abortions, with 47% of the decline in births being attributable to abortions. Huh? How she is getting this stat is not at all clear to me. How in the world can you determine that 47% of the decline in births was due to abortion? But I had a look at some statistics directly from statistics Canada to see what I could find. First of all, the number of live births in Canada did take a dip in the 90's but has been steadily climbing again since 2001. So the decline in birth rates is nowhere near as dramatic as she claims. Secondly, the number of abortions has been steadily decreasing. Since a highpoint in 1997, with almost 112,000 abortions, it has dropped by a little over 12% with less than 97,000 abortions in 2005 (I personally wonder is this is due, in part, to the decreasing access to abortion services in Canada). So really, Barb, what are you on about? The stats show very clearly that although our birth rate has declined, it was actually on a slight increase throughout the period of this study. And it shows that fewer people are getting abortions (the teen rate for abortions reflects a similar trend and has been dropping steadily since 1996).

However, good old Barb states that "The bottom line is that fewer young people are having early sex, slightly more of those who have sex are using contraception, and a critical mass of those who are having sex, in spite of a tsunami of education, prefer not to use contraception, but have no problem with abortion as retroactive contraception. It seems to me on the evidence that western sex ed programs must be something like dietary information programs to combat obesity that present a list of healthy foods on one side of a blackboard, and a list of practices like anorexia and bulimia on the other side, making no moral distinction between them." Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Again, why focus on one, clearly biased editorial? Because it reflects the views of too many people in Canada who still cling to their ideas and opinions in spite of the overwhelming evidence that sex education in Canada is working and that our teenagers are making better choices about sex. The proof is in the comments on Barb's article. Here are just a few:

"First, SIECCAN has an agenda to push. If wonder [sic] what it is, check the report their sister-organization in the US (SIECUS) prepared for the UNESCO last year: It advocates "sexual education" at the earliest possible age including teaching kids aged 5-to-8 about masturbation, "gender stereotypes," and the rest of the closet pedophile agenda." - yes, those SIECCAN researchers are really just closet pedophiles out to lure children into their trap!

"In any study one has to look beyond the author's conclusions to find the real reasons for same. Today 90% of abortions are either a method of birth control or sex selection....Our first step as a nation is to defund abortion from the healthcare system for anything other than medical necessity including rape/incest. Let those on welfare or unable to afford it go through a course on responsible sexual relationships before any state funding is provided. Make it clear the funding is only provided once." - so really, this whole study just shows us that we need to stop funding abortions - how did this get to be an abortion debate? And only those on welfare should get not only abortions, but also sex education. Talk about an agenda!

It's people like this, who have not taken the time to understand the issues and clearly don't care to, who influence the actions our government takes regarding these matters.

So even though all evidence points to the fact that sex education is working, that not only teen pregnancies but also teen abortions are on the decline, our federal government still makes the outrageous decision to underhandedly completely obliterate funding for the Canadian Federation of Sexual Health (formerly Planned Parenthood) and to try to put legal abortion back up for discussion.

We need to take a giant step into the world of reality and start listening to the people who are actually in the know about these things, like Alexander McKay and SIECCAN. Because opinions and fact are not one and the same. You know what they say.......opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one.....

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You'll really get a bang out of this toy!

I just got a notice about this new toy. I'm not even joking - this is a real toy! This is from a line of toys 'inspired' by the porn movie 'Pirates'. In case you can't tell from the picture, that cute pink thing branching off of the toy is a cute pink elastomer GUN. Yeah, I really get off by masturbating while staring down the barrel of a gun. Who thinks of these things?

Friday, May 7, 2010

More on the shameful spectacle of the Ontario sex Ed program

I am currently attending the Western Canadian Conference on Sexual Health where I got to hear directly from members of the Canadian Teacher's Federation who were involved with the development of the Ontario sex Ed curriculum. Imagine my surprise to hear from them that, before the program became public, it was reviewed AND APPROVED by the Ontario Catholic Bishops! Did we hear that in the media? No, certainly not. What we've heard is them loudly and publicly proclaiming that they do not support the implementation of the full program in Catholic Schools. Whether or not they actually approved of the full program including the grade three section regarding differences and homosexuality is unclear to me. But what is clear to me is that they seemed to do their best to make sure that there participation in and approval of the program was not public and that their objections to it, whatever they are, are not. All of the details and subtleties of this issue are being lost and all we are really hearing is that there is massive outrage about this program. In actual fact, this is not true. It was set for implementation in the Catholic school system with their blessing and the blessing of the bishops. What we are also not being told is that the program was developed in order to bring Ontario into line with other provinces and the recently developed Canadian guidelines on school-based sexual health programs. The international declaration on sexual and reproductive rights guarantees the right to accurate sexual health education and it specifically identifies the things that are taught in this new program. And guess what? Canada signed this declaration. Canadian children are promised access to this information by international declaration. The Catholic bishops clearly know that. It's time for them to tell the whole truth and publicly stand up for a program they supported in private.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ontario Fails the Public School System

Last week, I heard on the radio that the Ontario School System was introducing a new sexual health education curriculum. This new program, which covers grades one all the way to junior high, has been in the works for two years. It includes, among many other things, basic health education in grade one, mainly learning the proper names for all the body parts, including sex organs. In grade three, children will learn about the concept of sexual orientation and preference - understanding terms like 'straight' and 'homosexual'. The topic of puberty will be dealt with in grade four and five. In grade six and seven children are taught about different types of sexual activity and they learn what oral and anal sex are. I was thrilled to hear this. Studies have shown clearly that comprehensive sex education programs are more effective in reducing early pregnancies than abstinence-based programs. The radio story also noted the outpouring of objection from religious groups. I wasn't surprised by that, anytime you even say the word 'sex' in public, someone objects.

But sadly, the very next day, the news came that Ontario premiere Dalton McGuinty had caved in to public pressure and put the program on hold. He stated that there had not been enough public consultation on the issue and that more time was needed to consider those views. Does this make any sense at all? Why in the world is he allowing anyone, much less conservative religious groups to dictate what is taught in public schools?

Those who object to it make it sound like a bunch of gay teachers got together and decided they should tell grade 3 children about sodomy. This is not at all what this is. This program was developed by educators and experts in sexual health education over a two-year period. It is based on other programs in Canada and around the world that are considered best practices in sexual health education. What makes Dalton McGuinty, or anyone else for that matter, think that these lobby groups know better than actual researchers and educators? Why is this open to public consultation at all?

If the Ontario school board came up with a new curriculum for Math or Language Arts would we even know about it? No. We would simply trust that teachers and the school board know what they are doing when it comes to education. But when the topic is sex, suddenly that confidence in teachers goes out the window.

The pressure groups, including the Canada Christian College and the London Islamic School, are objecting, in part, to the fact that the curriculum was not initially made public, but rather quietly rolled out to public school employees in January. It was only recently made public. Conservative MP Christine Elliot says that the Ontario government 'got caught trying to sneak the curriculum through'. Really? Are they under any obligation to clear this curriculum with anyone? They didn't get caught doing anything. What happened was that this coalition of religious groups caught wind of it and threatened to pull their kids out of school. Then it became a media story.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College has accused McGuinty of listening to special interest groups with an agenda in allowing this curriculum to go through. Wait a minute? What are you Mr. McVety? are the head of a conservative religious group that lobbies the government. Wouldn't that make you a..........special interest group? And you oppose comprehensive sexual health education and you strive to promote 'family' values. Wouldn't that mean that you agenda? And yes, Dalton McGuinty listened to you. So yes, he did listen to special interest groups with an agenda. But only when he choose to put a hold on the program!

What makes me so angry about this is that I'm sure if you could do a poll of all Ontario parents, the vast majority of them would say that they support sex education for their kids and that they want the new program. But those are the ones that are not speaking up because they don't think they have to. Are they going to sit back and let these people determine how their kids are taught? Are they going to stand by and allow these groups to push their religious agenda on their kids in the public school system? It appears that they are because I haven't heard anything about protests from the other side.

I haven't seen the details of the curriculum but I bet you anything that children are sent home with a note about upcoming sex education portions of their health program and an option for parents to pull them out of the class. This was the way it was when I was in elementary school many years ago and I'm fairly certain they are still doing that. If you don't want your kids to hear that information, pull them out of that class. It's as simple as that. Don't tell other parents what their kids should and should not learn.

The fact of the matter is that kids learn about sex before they even hit the school system. They have already heard a lot about body parts and oral sex and who's gay and who's queer. This is not new to them, even in grade three. The point is to take the opportunity at school to give them accurate, more objective information so they can better understand what these things actually mean. And they can make choices based on all the information that's coming at them, not just what they get from the net or from their friends.

People say that it's not the business of the schools to teach sex ed. That parents should teach their children about it. But what do parents know about sex? Many of them don't know a damn thing and that's because they never learned it in school either. And a lot of parents are just too embarrassed, to unsure, or perhaps just too disinterested to teach their children about sex. Should the kids miss out on vital information because of that? If you want to keep sex education in your home, that's fine, do that. Keep your kids out of the classes and teach them at home. Or better yet, let them go to the class and then discuss it with them at home. But don't deprive other kids from learning information that could very well save their lives.

Shame on you McGuinty. I wish you had the balls to stand up to these groups. I only hope that in the end, you will give them only lip service (pun intended) and put the curriculum back in place.