Charlottetown. In September, Island schools will introduce a new family living program at the Grade nine level.
The provincial Home and School objects that the program has not been approved by parents, breaking a promise made when sex education was introduced to Island schools. It wants the unit on sex ed dropped, and is quite adamant that demonstrations and practice sessions on the correct use of condoms are totally inappropriate in the classroom.
Home and School spokesperson Judy Barrett, interviewed on CBC radio, stated clearly the kind of parental concerns already so familiar to Interim readers.
“For the unmarried, there is no such thing as safe sex. Abstinence is the one and only method that is 100% effective. Home and School wants only this taught and promoted,” she summarized.
“But given the increase in pregnancies, STDs, and AIDS, school children need all the information they can get. Aren’t you depriving them, perhaps endangering them?” protested the program host.
“True, they are given lots of information. But they are not given all the information they need to put it into perspective,” responded Barrett.
To put parents’ concerns into perspective, CBC turned to sex therapist Cheryl Canon for an expert opinion.
She stated unequivocally that information on condom use is essential “because the majority of 14-15 year olds are sexually active.”
Asked “Does this instruction say to them that it’s OK to be sexually active?” she replied, “No, of course not.”
“Well then, does it water down the abstinence message?”
“No, of course not,” was her expert reply. No one asked if it would eventually increase her client base.
Next CBC interviewed Lyle Huggan of the Program Development Division. “To remove this instruction waters down the intent of the course,” he stated.
He made it clear that the controversial unit was not dropped because of H & S intervention. “It’s just that it will not be ready in time for this fall,” he said.
To round out the coverage, an interviewer talked to several students, girls aged 13-14 who, amidst many giggles, reported that such instruction wouldn’t bother them one way or another.
One announced that she was not sexually active herself, but her concern for others suggested it might be necessary for them.
Many listeners called CBC’s talk back line to support H 7 S, like the male caller who said, “Abstinence is the ideal. Why teach our youth anything but the ideal?”
Others exhibited the typically muddled thinking that this type of topic seems to generate. One man said, “My son needs this information and the school is the place where he should get it.” A woman said, “Anyone who keeps it out of the school is taking away the God-given rights of parents to see that their children are well informed on these matters.”
It is largely because of the active involvement of well-informed parents in Home and School (Interim June ’91), that PEI students have been somewhat protected from the trend to explicit sex education.
However, since this CBC program, the three Atlantic provinces signed an agreement to work towards a common school curriculum in the core subjects.
Unless many more parents in the whole region build particularly strong Home and School organizations, the education their children receive may soon be much more common than they would like.