Skip to main content

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals presents the revised Health and Physical Education curriculum at a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto, Monday, February 23, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Galit RodanGalit Rodan/The Canadian Press

This fall, Ontario's students will sit through an updated, age-appropriate version of what used to be known as The Talk.

On the whole, the idea of updating the sex-education curriculum is a good thing. As with most matters, better information typically makes for better decisions. What's problematic is the way the province is going about overhauling the lesson plan, and the arguments they muster in favour of it.

Five years ago, the province proposed a similar reform before making a swift volte-face in the teeth of an outcry from social conservatives, among others.

In a democracy, there's no shame in treading lightly on policies that are not embraced by large swaths of the population. Move forward, but set aside time for conversation, feedback and persuasion. Imposing the new teaching guidelines without further discussion is probably not the wisest idea. On Monday, Education Minister Liz Sandals promised that her proposed curriculum would soon become the actual one, full stop. "This will be the curriculum that is taught in Ontario schools in September, 2015." No questions please, class dismissed.

The government's central argument is that the current curriculum, last revised in 1998, must be updated to account for the Internet age. There's something a tad archaic about this idea. Has no one at Queen's Park ever needed a kid to show them how to use their phone or computer?

The government would be better off defending the curriculum as a more complete and honest reflection of Canada and its laws – which have changed considerably in the past decade and a half.

It's time, for example, that same-sex unions (not yet legalized in 1998) were discussed in a grown-up fashion in Ontario schools.

As for the other planned changes to sex ed., they will doubtless make teachers and legislators feel better about themselves for dispensing honest advice and chipping away at a taboo. And students will surely do what they've always done: roll their eyes.