Ontario’s new Health & Phys Ed Curriculum needed

This may come as a surprise to many of my regular readers, but I am actually in favour of Ontario’s new health and physical education curriculum (H/T Jack’s Newswatch) and hope that Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak does not come out against it. True, earlier in the spring of 2010, Hudak saw the McGuinty Liberals using the sex education component as a political wedge issue, but any disagreement should just be about at what age the various topics are introduced, not the curriculum itself.

So, yes, I am in favour of the new health and physical education curriculum because the reality is, if the schools don’t teach about such issues as proper eating habits and the dangers of the Internet, drugs, alcohol and gambling, far too many kids simply won’t learn about them. Why? Because not all parents are good parents and not all parents realize they should be talking about those topics. And, no amount of sugar coating that fact is going to change it. Been there and done that and know exactly why such a curriculum is needed.

Of course, most Ontarians also know that the sex education component of this updated curriculum was removed — temporarily — because of the public outcry. Does that mean those topics will never be included? No, it does not. It simply means the government is undertaking community-based consultations this time around, as they should have done to begin with.

However, surprise, surprise, on that topic, I am not against the curriculum either. Learning about the birds and bees from a technical point of view is always better than experimentation or hearing about someone else’s biases. So, when the sex education component was announced, what I was against was the fact that the sex education curriculum was political — not so much about sex education as it was about the political correctness of gender politics. I was also against the fact that some topics were going to be introduced when children were too young.  

However, by all means, let teachers discuss homosexuality as you would heterosexuality. But, not at age six. Rather, teach it at age ten, because by then, kids know more than their parents realize anyway. It should not be a big deal.  However, don’t bring in “transgender” topics until high school. Kids have enough to worry about in elementary school. They don’t need more confusion.  

Now, before readers say that sex education should be the privy of the parents, be honest. How many parents are going to explain the details about all those topics — and perhaps most importantly — do it in a neutral non-judgmental manner? Of course, parents should be doing that. But, some topics are so complicated, even good parents don’t understand how to present them.

So, should the school system just ignore those issues? No, it is far more pragmatic for teachers to cover all the bases and then good parents can reinforce those concepts as they are being taught. And, remember, simply learning about homosexuality will not make someone homosexual or vice versa. It may, however, put some children’s mind at ease if they are leaning in that direction. So, handled with care, such issues are always better discussed in an educational setting.

As a conservative myself (of the red tory variety), I think it is time that we stopped seeing these issues as progressive versus conservative. They are simply human issues that are not going away any time soon. Same sex marriage is now legal and the sky did not fall.  So, no matter what our religious beliefs, for better or worse, our children and grandchildren are better armed with the truth than with old-fashioned biases and stereotypes.

Now, fire away. I know many will disagree with me.

10 thoughts on “Ontario’s new Health & Phys Ed Curriculum needed

  1. Pingback: Jack's Newswatch » Blog Archive » Ontario’s new Health & Phys Ed Curriculum needed

  2. Dr Crux

    I have agreed with you on many of your past blogs but, can not do so now. I am a small c conservative but on social issues I believe myself to be more or less “liberal”.

    The issue is not the topics being covered but that they should be taught by an agent of the government at all. Educators are objecting in ever greater numbers about classroom size. Music and theater and physical education programs are being stripped to bare bones or eliminated all together. So why, at this point in time, or any for that matter, should tax money be employed for such a divisive and intrusive curriculum? Stick to the morally neutral traditional topics. Leave the sex instruction to parents, whether they choose to or not. Expanding sex education into issues that may contradict ones own family values may lead to confusion when they do not coincide with the “accepted” views of the curriculum. These issues can not be taught in the span of a 30 or 50 minutes. These are issues that an individual learns to relate to over the course of one’s lifetime.

    I wish for my children to develop a fair and healthy perspective in these regards. Indoctrination by the state is NOT how I wish this to happen. That some or even few parents choose, due to ignorance, naivete or unwillingness discuss these topics is not, in a pluralistic society, sufficient reason. Perhaps, they wish to discuss these issues based on their own value system. Or is pluralism only a worthwhile concept when ideas and perspectives are homogenous and meet your “accepted” interpretation?


  3. Anon — You are of course entitled to your opinion. But, I don’t see teaching as indocrination.

    The reality is that if we want to reduce the numbers of abortions and very young single parent families ( ie., the numbers of girls getting pregnant in high school), they have to know what it is all about long before they can be sexually active. It would be nice if all parents taught their children what they need to know, but many don’t.

    So, as a society, conservative or progressive, we should make sure the right thing is done. It is over thirty-five years since I started teaching elementary school. I heard your arguments in the early 1970’s. In fact, I distinctly remember parents complain to me about what I was teaching in health (sexually transmitted diseases). Yet, it was not anywhere near what they have to teach now.

    In other words, the updated curriculum is nothing new, just expanded based on what is happening in our society.

    Perhaps it is a case of “there but the grace of God go I.” I have a loved one who is homosexual. Perhaps that has changed my views. He is a wonderful person and I think the world of him. Had he been taught what they want to teach within the sex education theme, his early life and “coming out” would have been much easier.

    But, I knew many would disagree with me. I just wanted to be completely upfront about where I stand on all issues. Some are conservative, some are not. We are all complex individuals based on our life’s experiences.

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Interesting re the balanced school day model. Any teachers out there willing to jump in and comment, even if anonymously? I do know of one school that gives a full period for health and phys ed a couple of times a cycle. But, there is no doubt about it, there are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a week. Six day cycles might work. But, we can’t keep adding curriculum. Something has to give and it should not be phys ed. Choirs and drama have always been traditionally after school or at least part of another course such as music (for choir) or language arts for drama. I guess it all comes down to “where there is the will, there is the way.” That said, language arts and math have to come first.


  5. Most parents have little idea how much the curriculum has grown over the years. Many teachers thought than when the original Ontario curriculum from the late 1990s was being revised from 2005 to the present, there would be a decrease in the amount of content children had to be taught. In fact, more content was added. Informal learning about character education and Daily Physical Education were also added. These additional areas of content were added because people felt that children of today were not being provided with enough character education and fitness opportunities at home. The quest for EQAO success has also pushed everything but language and math into an add-on situation. Why run sports clubs or choirs when teachers can provide extra help after school which will increase results? More parents are concerned first with EQAO results than extra-curricular activities for their children at school.

    The question is who should be developing the curriculum? Teachers have surprisingly little input into the content of the curriculum, but are the ones who teach it. Many people would like teachers to be more vocal about curriculum content, but is this their role? Parents could play a role, but then you would have the majority of parents vs the minority of parents. Between Harris and McGuinty, these governments have both contributed in increasing the provincial government’s role in education.


  6. Thanks Matt. A lot of parents don’t realize that there is little teachers can do to change curriculum. That is basically a political decision. When I was teaching elementary school and high school up to the mid 1980’s, we didn’t have the EQAO to worry about but we did have the CTBS yearly at every grade level — the Canada Test of Basic Skills. It was similar but didn’t have the rankings that followed. So, we used the information to inform what we taught, not as a hammer and popularity tool. It was about how Canadian children and youth were performing in the basic skills in comparison to other provinces and other countries. It was imperfect as well since some of the countries (like Japan) were homogeneous and we were not.
    Anyway, my friends tells me the guidelines now are much more prescriptive and that only day plans (at the elem level) are necessary. We used to have to develop unit plans from the documents, from which our day plans were written. In that way, if we didn’t get through the whole document, it didn’t matter as long as the skills for that year were covered. I recently saw the high school chemistry guidelines and there is not much leeway there for teachers. Reminds me of the old “grey book” from the 1960’s when I was still a student myself. Prescriptive and much smaller in size of course. And, they thought their timetable was full!

    I know you are a high school teacher. But, I am wondering about the elementary/intermediate schools who use the block school day approach, what some call the balanced timetable. Four to six blocks a day with 20-40 minute breaks in between each block. Have you heard from friends and colleagues — does that model interfer with getting everything in?


  7. It certainly causes issues with getting things covered. There is plenty of wasted time moving from break to block and from block to break. It’s also interesting to see board and provincial guidelines about how much time should be devoted to each subject a week. When you add up all the subjects, it’s significantly more than the time children spend in school each week. In the US, many schools have removed afternoon recess to reduce the number of breaks in the day. You include the loss of physical education in order to comply with “No Child Left Behind” and you can see why obesity is such an issue in the US.

    I think the first issue is to reduce the number of things that must be covered. Besides the number of subjects, there are many strands within each subject that must be covered. One reason that teachers pushed for only two report card next year (with a progress report) was that it was difficult to cover all the subjects meaningfully. Subjects like Media Literacy, Drama and Dance, although important to many, takes up time in a term in order to develop enough marks to give an appropriate grade on the report card. Being forced to teach these subject enough to develop a grade for the report card three times a year was too much.


  8. One reason that the Ontario curriculum was established was because people wanted a consistent curriculum throughout the province. Maybe a political party can campaign to return funding and curriculum decisions to the local level. It’s the same issue that exists with full-day Kindergarten. In many areas, people don’t like it. However, imagine if urban centres with more tax dollars had the program and other areas couldn’t afford it? That was why many areas had Junior Kindergarten and others didn’t. One reason why funding was centralized by the province was to provide equal opportunities to all. I remember the political ads on TV with people moving to a new home and the voice talking about how even though there were many changes in the life of this family, it was reassuring to know that their children were receiving the same education that they had in another part of the province.

    In communicating with teachers in the states, we are very fortunate that local communities and schools have some decisions. I find that the “state” has a greater role in education in the US than Ontario. More and more lessons are created by the state and teachers are required to follow it day by day.

    Unfortunately, education in the province cannot please everyone. How many teachers face daily decisions knowing that some parents want it while others are opposed to it? Some parents want more sports, some want less sports and more arts and other want neither as academic success is their first priority. There are even many parents who are probably upset that certain parts of the physical education curriculum were removed. Sandy, this blog is like your classroom – you do your best, but know you can’t please everyone.


  9. Sandy – agree 100% with your post. You’re right about the sex ed portion of the curric. not going away. For some reason some folks seem to think that the temporary hold on this section means that teachers will not be touching on the subject at all.


  10. Appreciate your comment on the new Health and Phys Ed Curriculum. I think the primary difficulty with the implementation, however, is that the McGuinty government are seen as too pro teachers’ union. As a result, a lot of parents are suspicious. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro-union. I would be a hypocrite to be otherwise. However, in recent years, the unions have become far too entitled to their entitlements and it only ticks people off. In any event, as you noted, I agree with the changes but hope that some minor revisions are made in terms of grade level when the various themes are introduced.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.