Saturday, 19 September 2015

Sex Ed Can Be a Matter of Life and Death

There has been public outcry recently about the new and updated sex education curriculum in Ontario. Leading opposition are the usual suspects--older conservative types along with fundamentalist religious groups including Christians and Muslims.

There are many places to read more about the curriculum itself, as well as the developmental research behind it, so I doubt that this blog message is likely to reach those who are keen to protest, many of whom have made up their minds firmly with or at least as often, without the facts.

Part I: Today We Have the Naming of Parts

But..this is a blog, and someone needs to hold up the stereotype of navel-gazing diatribes, so this time it will be me.

I have heard lawyers and social service workers complain about court cases involving incest, child predators etc. having to be thrown out because the child cannot explain what happened well enough to convict. Knowing what touches are OK and what ones are not, as well as the proper name for body parts at a young age is vital for child safety. We would be embarrassed if a child couldn't name their nose, and only referred to it as that "thing out there", so why would "down there" be in any way acceptable?

Medical professionals also find it helpful when children can be more descriptive as needed, and this can lead to better and quicker diagnoses of digestive problems, bladder and kidney infections, etc.

Part II: Family Relations

There are many kinds of families and children need to understand that families consist of people who live together, support each other and love and care for one another. In our society, families can include extended family, the nuclear family, two or more adults of any gender, or single parent situations. I myself grew up with a grandmother, mother and much younger uncle as my immediate family. It was difficult only because other children and adults in my life failed to recognize us as a family. Children need to understand this concept because the world contains these arrangements and they are a part of the world. An understanding of the concept of family can help a child as they grow up to feel secure and to eventually create a family of their own.

They also need to understand that people who care for each other have strong feelings, and these can be difficult to deal with, but that within the bond of family, disagreements and arguments can be resolved in a healthy way.

Students also need to learn about what constitutes a healthy relationship, how to be a caring partner, and how to get help if needed. More on this will be covered below under "consent".

Part III: Diversity and Acceptance

When I began teaching many moons ago, "tolerance" was the buzzword when it came to diversity. Along with that came "political correctness". It is with great pleasure that I see these concepts dying out to be replaced with much kinder and healthier concepts of "acceptance" and "understanding".

Tolerance is pretty meaningless as all it means is that you allow someone else their differences without raising a stink about it. We can do better. By striving to listen and understand one another, we can celebrate our similarities, understand and appreciate our differences, and remain free to be true to ourselves. Is there a better lesson we can share with our students? I think not.

Within this area, comes the whole topic of identities: gender identities, and sexual identities. People protest the inclusion of such education on religious grounds, but the reality is that there is room within these religions for acceptance and understanding. Often, religion is used as a crutch to disguise fear, discomfort, and in many cases, outright bigotry.

After WWII, many Germans who had been indoctrinated by Nazi ideology underwent re-education so that they could unlearn the hateful attitudes of that regime. In some ways, we need to do the same thing to protect many of our children. Bigotry and bullying is much more pronounced against LGBTQ students than the general public. In fact, the suicide rates for these populations can range from 3-4 times higher than in the general population, depending upon your sources. Depression, missed school, physical assault and abuse--all of these are much higher for the LGBTQ population than the general population.

Teaching students about these issues can save lives.

Part IV: Everyday Health, Safety, and Consent

When people of my generation hear the words "sex education", we immediately think of STD's and family planning. Those topics are again, very important. Despite many advances in treatment, HIV has not been cured, nor has AIDS. There are many other STD's that can also have long term and even deadly consequences if left untreated.

Breast and testicular self-examination can reveal cancerous growths early on and potentially save lives, as can regular medical checkups. Being familiar and comfortable with your body can also help students understand their sexual preferences and to improve their body image.

Pregnancy and childbirth are generally safe in the western world, but there is still a mortality rate for each, and a moral question of family planning that is important to address with students whose bodies are becoming capable for such things. Students need to understand how to protect themselves and how to plan and space a family, if desired, as desired.

Along with this topic comes the issue of consent. With 50 Shades of Grey, the prevalence of easy-access porn on the Internet, and an overwhelming rise in the amount and degree of violence depicted in the media, this is again, crucial for all young people. We do live in a society in which many embrace a "rape culture". Women are objectified, men are expected to "perform" and "take control" and the concept of consent can be blurred.

Particularly chilling are some of the incidents that have happened over the past few years including filming & distributing on the Internet images and videos of non-consensual nature, some of which have led to suicide and/or murder. We also have the unaddressed issue of thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women in our country.

This is serious stuff.

It is vital that students understand that their bodies are their own, that their clothing does not "ask for" a particular kind of treatment, and that a "no" or equivalent (I'm not sure, slow down, whoa, being unconscious, etc.) all mean it stops immediately regardless of any "agreement" spoken or unspoken beforehand. No one owes anyone else sexual favours, for any reason whatsoever. Including marriage. Including "contracts". Including getting drunk and passing out at a party. And so on. It's the law, and they have a right to know about it.

So, before protesting the loss of innocence of children in learning about their bodies and how they function, their rights, and how our society works, take a moment to consider what the consequences of them NOT learning this can be.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Halloween 2015

Halloween 2015

If you are familiar with this blog, you will know that our family really tends to get into the Halloween season.

I prefer the subtle and mysterious rather than the blood-and-gore approach to Halloween spookiness.

We have moved into a new neighbourhood with many more children, so I plan to set up the Mad Scientist station in the driveway again this year. This is not to be confused with the company of the same name!

In the past, we have had a couple of Jack O'Lanterns set up with dry ice, and had kids mix their own homemade play dough (for younger kids) or silly putty to keep as their Halloween treat in labelled freezer bags.

This year, I plan to add to it by doing  a little more with the dry ice (cabbage water and dish soap, screaming spoons, etc.). I also found this simple physics trick to share with kids (I will call the water "possessed" or haunted). In this trick, you use the properties of refraction and reflection to reverse the direction of an arrow drawn on a card behind a glass of water. 
On a similar theme, I'll have a bicycle pump available to make a cloud in a bottle (aka "Ghost in a Bottle") using rubbing alcohol and a 2 litre plastic bottle.

I'd love to do more in the way of activities, but many kids are in a hurry that night. Sometimes it can be hard to compete with a sugar rush!

For decor, we may make plastic wrap and packing tape ghosts lit with cool-white LED Christmas lights to decorate the lawn and veranda too. Perhaps they will be emerging from graves.

I'd like to make a model owl with glowing eyes to sit in our lonely tree out front and/or a way to make our tree look possessed (eyes, make branches look like hands etc.). I have yet to find an idea that I like for these though.

I have a 20+ year old "spooky music" cassette tape I've been using that I really should update. In researching music for it, I found an easier Halloween music solution. There are many live streaming options available with a quick internet search. All you need to do is choose the one that suits your crowd and function best. Here's one I found, but really, there are many options out there!

While that goes on, we will rotate so that two of us from our family will also be canvassing the neighbourhood for Halloween for Hunger to collect non-perishable items for the local food bank. Be sure to have food items handy for such drives in your area! Click on the superhero image for more information.

More Halloween party ideas from past years:

On the website,, there are many more activities and links to match the season as well.

Hello again, anyone there?

A tiny blog in a tiny corner of cyberspace, untouched for two years...

Well, I'm back!

Lots of "life stuff" caused me to put my blog & website lower on my priority list, but the upheaval is over, and, well, it's time to see if it's worth reviving the blog and website!

The website will be a little later in its updates as there are a few technical challenges that need to be overcome before I can start adding, editing and repairing content. Many kind people  have shared specific broken links with me, and I appreciate all such feedback so that the resources, such as they are, can be helpful to as many people as possible.

I suspect that in getting back, I will post often at first, then go back to my monthly-ish posts as I did before. It's pretty easy to do a search on here though, and many of the posts are either seasonal activities, or educational meanderings, so they don't tend to be time-sensitive.

I'll keep this post short, but I want to thank everyone who may have stuck around despite the radio silence!