Doreen Beagan
The Interim

Late last year, a new sex-education curriculum for Grades 6-8 was introduced into New Brunswick schools, over many protests.

The Middle School Growth and Development program grew out of an earlier study by a team of University of New Brunswick researchers in co-operation with the new Brunswick government. Sandra Byers, a psychology professor at the Univeristy of New Brunswick and professional sex therapist, was principal researcher on the two-year project. Reporting in 2002, she said the study indicated “an overwhelming demand for more and better sex education, beginning as early as kindergarten.”

For almost four years, former teacher Mary Thurrott, executive director of the Christian Action Federation of New Brunswick, has been leading the opposition.

First, she approached the Department of Education with a brief, a video promoting abstinence curriculums, and an offer to instruct teachers on how to teach abstinence. For all intents and purposes, she was ignored. Other efforts also went nowhere.

In August 2004, the Federation began holding information sessions all over the province. A Parents’ Rights Group and website ( were established. Awareness and concern increased. Pressure stepped up.

CAFNB claims the new program has a false premise, is built on fraudulent research (Kinsey’s), has a dangerously inadequate and misdirected goal, undermines healthy choices, has age-inappropriate content and provides false security through a “safe sex” message that has potential for devastating consequences. The website notes that the “value-free program” actually involves restructuring children’s values and beliefs. Overall, says CAFNB, it destroys parents’ trust in the school system.

Carolyn Barry, physician and mother, points out, “Children are being presented with details of erection, vaginal secretion, ejaculation and concepts of oral sex, mutual masturbation, anal sex, oral-anal sex that absolutely contravene our community standards.”

She especially objects to the directive that teachers should speak to students about their own sexual thoughts and fantasies. “Talking to children about what turns you on? That’s definitely crossing a line.”

Donna Howland exposed the resource book’s internet links (subsequently removed) to pornographic websites. She also reports that in one exercise, children (10-13) must state and defend their personal position on various moral issues. This has elements of privacy invasion, abuse and indoctrination.

Gina Cote says, “It also forces children to construct their own value system in what are truly life-and-death issues”. Yet, Prince Edward Island Crown prosecutor John McMillan says child protection laws exist in part “to protect children because they can make bad decisions.”

“The program claims to stress abstinence, but it isn’t mentioned till Grade 8, the third year of the program,” says Cote.

PhD candidate Roland De Vries said in a National Post article that the basic trajectory of such programs is toward prevention, via “healthy sexual choices” and “safe sex.” “This involves the assumption that it is safe to engage sexually with any number of partners. … The emphasis on ‘safe sex’ is only logical if monogamy is excluded at the outset … and the new pattern of multiple sexual partners and of sexual exploration from a relatively young age is (deemed) appropriate.” He questioned whether provincial health curriculums can ever offer an honest advocacy of abstinence.

The flood of letters, cards, faxes, e-mails and phone calls urging Premier Bernard Lord to scrap the program eventually made an impact. Education Minister Madeleine Dubé finally met with parents, a review committee has been set up and a meeting with the caucus is scheduled.

Promoters of school sex education like Alex McKay tend to have little patience with those trying to live by moral values.

He is research co-ordinator for the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECAN), a Planned Parenthood-connected group based in Toronto.

In a Canadian Press article, he said, “The heavy emphasis these people put on the need to teach abstinence has to be looked at in the context of the ideological beliefs of those trying to push that agenda.”

He claimed, “The wishes of the silent majority are often eclipsed by a noisy minority with an ideological agenda.” Byers also said a vocal minority gives the appearance of strong opposition. In her survey, only one-third of students said parents and teachers were doing a poor job. Yet, this new program was designed to meet the “needs” of this “eclipsed majority.”

“It’s too dangerous a time to be out there with no information,” warns Sue MacLeod, head of family studies at Fredericton High School. But a long-time sex education teacher in P.E.I. urges caution. “Young teens can go out with lots of knowledge and get hurt in many ways,” says Debbie Christie.

Both Byers and McKay insist it is not true that children who learn about sexual practices and possibilities, and are told that “sexual exploration” is perfectly normal, are enticed to engage in premature and inappropriate sexual activity.

Cote counters, “It’s not by knowing the bad that a child becomes good. It’s by knowing the good.”

Byers says the discovery of a child oral sex ring in P.E.I. proves that sex programs have to be more explicit and detailed. In P.E.I., though, many (including teens) actually said it proved a need to teach decency, responsibility and respect for self and others.

Thurrott says God cares so much for children that He speaks sternly about putting stumbling blocks in their paths. But Byers wants teachers to have better training, “because if they aren’t comfortable, they’re going to teach (only) the (reproductive) facts” – precisely the part of the program most parents say they could accept.

In P.E.I., Christie advises, “Parents, instill into your child what is right, what is wrong, what is appropriate, what is inappropriate.” That reinforces Cote’s conviction: “What we really need is an organization to teach them, so they can teach their children.”

“We can never stop working to reclaim our children,” says Thurrott. “We must go forward in faith, believing that God will give us victory.”