Sex Ed for Kids

HEADLINE:  Ontario government announces return to 1998

sex education curriculum in schools.

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I’m a thirteen-year-old girl, just finishing grade eight.  I like to send pictures of myself to friends, sometimes without clothes on.  My friends say they like them.  But now I think I’m in trouble.

sexting

I’m a fifteen-year-old boy in grade ten.  At night in my room, I look at porn sites I find online.  Sometimes, I pretend I’m one of the guys fooling around with those girls and I do what they’re doing.  Nobody knows and it feels great.

FACT:  The 1998 sex education curriculum is notably silent on such topics as sexting, masturbation, and online pornography.

I’m a thirteen-year-old girl and I have a boyfriend who wants to make out with me.  He says if I don’t wheel with him, he’ll find somebody else, so that’s what we do.  It would suck to be alone.

I’m a fifteen-year-old boy and I wish I was dead.  Everybody hates me.  They call me names and say awful things about me online.

cyberbullying

FACT:  The current sex education curriculum, which is being scrapped, begins to discuss strategies to deal with peer pressure and bullying as early as grade two.

I’m a thirteen-year-old girl and I nearly freaked when I started bleeding down there the first time.  I thought I was dying.  One of my friends told me get used to it, it’s going to be there for the rest of my life.  I can’t believe it!

embarrass

I’m a fifteen-year-old boy with pimples all over my face, and people tell me I stink all the time.  And I don’t have any hair on my legs like my friends do.

FACT:  The 1998 sex education curriculum is notably silent on such topics as menstruation, the physical changes associated with puberty, and the reproductive system.

I’m a thirteen-year-old girl with a friend whose parents let her drink at home.  When they’re not there, we raid their booze and have a party.  My friend adds water to the bottles so nobody knows.

I’m a fifteen-year-old boy and I can’t wait for the weekend when me and my friends get high.  We know a guy who gets weed for us easy-peasy.

toking

FACT:  The current sex education curriculum, which is being scrapped, begins to deal with substance abuse and healthy living as early as grade one.

I’m a thirteen-year-old girl and I don’t like boys.  Some of my girlfriends feel the same way, so kids call us lesbos or dykes.  What’s that about?

friends1

I’m a fifteen-year-old boy and I can’t stand queers.  Me and my friends laugh at them, call them names, post pictures of them online.  It’s hilarious.

FACT:  The 1998 sex education curriculum is notably silent on such topics as gender identity, sexual orientation, stereotypes and assumptions, and understanding of self.

I’m a thirteen-year-old girl and I think I’m in big trouble.  I can’t tell my boyfriend, and for sure not my parents, but I think I have an infection or something in my privates.

I’m a fifteen-year-old boy and all the guys are making fun of me ‘cause I haven’t done it yet with a girl.

shy

FACT:  The current sex education curriculum, which is being scrapped, begins to discuss sexual health, sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancy prevention, and delaying sexual activity in grade seven.

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The 1998 sex education curriculum was developed twenty years ago for a previous generation of students.  It is so outdated that, in all its verbiage, there is but one single mention of the internet.  Its defenders appear to believe that all the information young people will need to grow into well-adjusted, healthy, well-informed adults will be imparted to them by their parents.

birds_and_bees_video

If only every child had parents informed enough and willing to doing so.

The current sex education curriculum, which is being scrapped, may not be perfect, but it is far and away superior to what we had before.  But don’t take my word for it; you can examine an overview of it at this safe link—

https://www.ontario.ca/page/sex-education-ontario#section-2

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Although well beyond the age of having children of my own in our public school system, I am alarmed by what our recently-elected government in Ontario is doing to future generations with this misguided step into the past.

sex ed3

I always thought it was the truth that would make us free.

Top 24!

The men’s barbershop chorus I sing with, Harbourtown Sound, competed recently in Orlando FL, at the 2018 International Convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society.  The BHS boasts more than a thousand active men’s choruses, most of them in North America.

on stage

Member choruses also hail from such faraway places as Australia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.  Barbershop quartets are included in the society, as well, bringing the total number of active singers to more than 80,000 worldwide.

The BHS was formally established in 1938 as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA).  The current name was adopted in 2004.

quartet

Membership in the society is open to everyone—people of every age, background, gender-identity, race, sexual orientation, political opinion, or spiritual belief. Every person who loves to harmonize has a place in the society.  The BHS vision is to bring people together in fellowship to enrich lives through singing.

It has certainly enriched mine.  Raised in a family that loved to gather ‘round the old upright piano for sing-songs at every gathering, I learned the words to so many songs from the 40’s, the ‘30’s, and even earlier before I was ten years old.  For a long time, my favourite singer was Al Jolson, for goodness sake!

For reasons that escape me, however, I never pursued a music education.  Not until I was cajoled a couple of years ago to audition for Harbourtown Sound, did I even sing in a choir.  But I was always a singer, mostly in the shower, sometimes in karaoke, and frequently while alone in my car.  And I always the loved the good old harmonies.

Now I get to sing many of them, and more, with a group of brothers on a weekly basis—and in performance in front of live audiences on frequent occasions throughout the year.  What’s not to like!

final rehearsal

Our chorus—almost a hundred men strong, most of us at or beyond the venerable threescore-and-ten—is not of the calibre of the top choruses in the world.  But of all such groups worldwide, we do rank in the top 24, based on the results of our recent competition.  We’re proud of that.

The 2018 champion is a chorus of more than 150 men from Dallas TX, Vocal Majority, a group that has won the title thirteen times dating back to 1975.  Listening to them is an emotional happening.

But so, too, is listening to us.  And you don’t have to just take my word for it.  Many of our songs—including Bridge Over Troubled Water, Five Foot Two, Hallelujah, That’s Life, Your Cheatin’ Heart, You Belong With Me, and You’ll Never Walk Alone—are available on YouTube.  A performance of one of them may be found right here—

I’m sure you’ll agree with my assessment after giving us a listen.  After all, in the whole wide world of barbershop singing, Harbourtown Sound is near the top.

Top 24, in fact!

 

 

Only Words?

Away back in 1967, the year I was married, an Australian boy band, the Bee Gees, wrote and recorded a song entitled Words.  The chorus of that song became an anthem of sorts for a generation of young people—

words

As an author and blogger, words are my stock and trade.  And the writing of those words can be, of necessity, a lonely endeavour, deliberately shut away from the everyday toil and turmoil that too often consumes us.

Which is why I beg to differ with the sentiment of the Bee Gees’ statement.  Words, in fact, are not all we have.  When music is added to words, the result can provide a tremendous emotional impact for an audience fortunate enough to be part of it.  And when that music is made in the company of others, the loneliness and solitude of the writing process is greatly mitigated.

The men’s chorus to which I belong, Harbourtown Sound, provides teamwork, mutual support, and a sense of purpose to everyone who is a part of it.  And our audiences tell us they experience those same things when they listen to our performances.

See and hear for yourself by listening to a recent rehearsal tape, recorded in the setting in the picture below, punctuated in a couple of places by exhortations from the directors.

HTS Rehearsal

If you aren’t convinced by the blend of words and music here presented, well…..I guess all I can say is that I’m at a loss for words.

 

Social Contract

For a certain demographic in the province where I live, Ontario, the term social contract has a most unpleasant connotation, based as it is upon political events in the early 1990’s.  For my purposes in this piece, however, the reasons for that are not particularly relevant.

What is important is the need for a collective agreement among people in a society as to how we are going to live, which the maligned term might well describe.  But because of its history, and in order to expand upon the theme, I am using a euphemism, collective courtesy, to discuss that agreement.

Social-Contract

Whenever large numbers of people come together in a communal setting—whether village, town, or city—it quickly becomes necessary to establish and abide by certain rules of order.  Many of these are codified under the law and enforced by the legal authorities.

The scofflaws among us—and the outlaws—must be held to account for their actions if the established social order is not to break down.  It is a cornerstone of our society, dating back to the Magna Carta Libertatum in 1215, that no one is above the law.

Collective courtesy, however, is not a concept easily enforced by our legal watchdogs.  Nor, in truth, should it have to be.  Rather, it is a set of intrinsic behaviours on the part of all citizens—built-in, second-nature, automatic, good-hearted—designed to enhance the public good.

Examples of such behaviours abound:  returning a friendly greeting; standing to shake someone’s hand; helping to pick up something another person has dropped; holding open a door for another to pass; saying please and thank-you; turning off cellphones in public assemblies; praising publicly, criticizing privately.

politeness

For some time, I’ve been conducting a scientific survey of the prevalence of collective courtesy in my daily life.  [Ed. note: not a scientific survey, more like an anecdotal scrutiny—but revealing].  The results are convincing me that, at least on a micro-scale, the occurrence of socially-helpful behaviours is diminishing.

Perhaps there are reasons for this.  Sigmund Freud believed it is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.  And in large communal settings there is ever a friction between the social niceties and our more basic instincts.  In times of stress and turmoil, we tend to revert to the latter, and I fear the former may be losing out to it.

One of my primary observation areas is the behaviour of other drivers.  A few years ago, while driving in South Africa—where drivers on two-lane highways are expected to pull over on the paved shoulder to allow faster vehicles to pass—I noticed that almost all drivers do so.  Not only that, the other drivers, once they have safely passed, invariably flash their lights in thanks.

Here, on the other hand, I have detected very little of this sort of adherence to collective courtesy on the highway.  I habitually leave more than a car-length between me and the car ahead of me, and when other vehicles attempt to merge from an on-ramp, I slow enough to widen the gap.  And then I take note of whether I get a friendly wave from the drivers.  It hardly ever happens.  The imprecations I toss in their direction would not be suitable if my grandchildren were in the car, but they make me feel better.

merging2

By the same token, when it is I who is attempting to merge, I am constantly amazed by the number of drivers who speed up to narrow the gap I might well have been able to use, thus requiring me to slow precipitously and hope the next driver will be more understanding.  The imprecations I toss in their direction would not be…..well, you know.

Another area of observation is line-ups, whether at the bank, the fast-food joint, the boarding gate, the box office—and especially, the supermarket.  I have long been bothered by people who attempt to butt into line, sometimes while feigning ignorance (Oh, is there a line?  I’m sorry, I didn’t notice.  But hey, now that I’m here…).  Such people, I believe, should be told in no uncertain terms to back away.  They do not have a sacrosanct set of rules for themselves alone, though many seem to feel they do.

Self-entitlement is a bane on us all.

But where is the harm, I wonder, in allowing someone to go ahead in line when it makes eminent sense?  If you have six items at the checkout desk, for example, and are standing behind me with my forty-six items, would it really alter the course of my life if I permitted you to go first?

Or if you have a hungry, fussy toddler flailing about in your shopping cart?  Or if your aged spouse is obviously fighting fatigue, leaning heavily against the counter?  Or if you have a taxi waiting, meter already running?

1_supermarket_lineups

If my connecting flight is leaving an hour earlier than yours, will it really inconvenience you so badly to allow me through passport control ahead of you?  Do you not see the panicky look in my pleading eyes?

Not to present myself as some sort of latter-day saint, but I have done these things on various occasions.  And most of those who benefited (but not all) have thanked me.

Such collective courtesy is a strong glue, and vital to holding our society together.  It runs counter to the concept of zero-sum, where every action and reaction must net out to zero—for me to win, you must lose; and vice-versa.

The selfish among us appear to have no understanding of another important concept, pay-it-forward, which holds that an act of kindness is its own reward, and may prompt the recipient to do the same for someone else—a potential win/win/win.

win win

Rudyard Kipling, in The Jungle Book, wrote one of my favourite captures of this concept—the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.  It is we, individually, who build a strong society, and it is that same strong society that we depend upon in times of peril.

When we help each other, we all win—the very best kind of social contract.

So why are the results of my scientific survey (sorry, anecdotal scrutiny) so depressing?

 

Father

I came across an arresting picture on the internet recently, one that caused me to give some serious thought to what it takes to be a father.

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At first, I didn’t fully understand the symbolism inherent in the picture.  In fact, my first thought was that the son was systematically dismantling his father in order to complete himself.  Selfish, no?

But after a bit, I came to think the artist’s intent was more likely to show how much fathers give of themselves for their sons, even to the point of depleting their very being.  Selfless, right?

Still, I had difficulty coming to terms with either of those representations of fatherhood.  In the first place, I don’t have a son.  For the past forty-six years I’ve been father to two lovely daughters, so the picture didn’t truly portray me.

More importantly, though, I discovered I had a problem with the notion that fathers must become diminished in order that their children might thrive.  It’s true, of course, that any nurturing father will freely give of himself to help his children—so, in that sense, the picture of the fractured father did make some sense.

But it’s been my experience with my daughters that, the more I gave, the more I got in return.  And it wasn’t even an equal exchange!  What came back to me from the girls was infinitely more than I could possibly have given.

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As they progressed from infancy to girlhood, I used to tell them all the time how much I loved them, and I tried to mirror my words through my behaviours.  But with them, it was the reverse.  The loving attention they lavished on me—their hugs and kisses, their squeals of delight when I’d arrive home—made it unnecessary that they say anything.  They filled my heart every time I held them.

It was after each of them was born that I learned I didn’t have to carve out a chunk from my love for my wife in order to find love for them.  Love builds upon itself, I discovered; it multiplies and is unending.  So, each time I passed along one of those chunks of love, I was not depleted like the father in the picture; rather I was made even more complete.

Through their teenage years and into young womanhood, I came to realize the importance of letting them go bit by bit, even as I continued to hug them close.  And when they would come to me for advice, or even just for a sympathetic ear, our conversations were honest, sincere, and loving.  Even when I pretended to be the sage passing along my accumulated wisdom, I found I learned more from them—about their world, about the challenges and opportunities confronting them, and about the persons they were becoming.  Any chunks of insight I gave were repaid tenfold, and I was not at all diminished.

FullSizeRender

As mothers now, their first priority is to their husbands and children.  I don’t see them as often as once I did, but our get-togethers are all the more enjoyable for that.  I’ve tried to let both girls know that, although they long ago stopped being children, I’ve never stopped being a father.  They understand that and still go out of their way to make me feel valued and loved—supplemented even now, not depleted; relevant, not sidelined.

There’s an old saying that we have to give a little to get a little.  Well, when all is said and done, I gave what I could as a father, and I got so much more in return.  With another Fathers’ Day fast upon us, I give thanks anew for the great privilege I’ve had with such children.

If I had a picture similar to the one of that father and his son, there would be two daughters, complete and whole, and a father—double their size, swollen with the love and honour they’ve lavished on me.

Bursting, in fact.

Obsessive?

A friend of mine has long been a far-reaching, outside-the-box thinker, seemingly knowledgeable on any subject, no matter how esoteric or mundane.  If plotted on a graph, conversations with him would not reflect a normal back-and-forth pattern between us, regular and predictable along the spoken axis; rather, his portion would appear as jagged deviations from the anticipated flow of talk, spiking off in all directions from what might be expected.

the-free-thinker

He never tells a lie, so far as I know.  But his conversational pattern reminds me of what one might see on a lie-detector print-out—the lines ordered and sure while I’m speaking, careering wildly up and down on the page when it’s his turn to talk.  His free-thinking tendencies result in tangential observations I sometimes have difficulty understanding in relation to what we’re supposedly talking about.

My pseudo-psychological label for his thinking process is random-hysteric.

By contrast, I am as predictable as the sun at dawn, and as ponderous in my thinking as he is not—my label, perhaps, fixed-stable.  Although I love my friend dearly, it can irritate me when he strays from our conversational path, rather than continuing along what I perceive as the direct route from A to B.

stable

“What’s that got to do with what we’re talking about?” I often cry after one of his rambling excursions.  “Stick to the point!”

More often than not, he’ll simply shake his head at my apparent obtuseness.  But he doesn’t change his approach.  In his wide-ranging mind, everything he says is related to the topic at hand.

Deep down inside, though, I suspect the problem is mine, not his.  I am a plodder in most things.  It’s amazing how many times, as I journey from here to wherever, I am unaware afterwards of almost everything lying between point of origin and destination.  Stop to smell the flowers is not an adage I have ever rigorously adhered to.

When flying, if I know the expected time it should take to get there, I become impatient with deviations to the flight-path that might delay arrival.  When driving, I hate if we pull in at roadside attractions or scenic lookouts because stopping means we’re not actually getting to where we’re going.  When reading, I constantly check how many pages I’ve read and how many are left yet to read—even when I love the story.

When swimming in our pool, I count each lap faithfully, and get annoyed if I feel I’ve lost count.  It was actually a depressing moment when I first learned that a lap is properly measured as two lengths of the pool, not one; I felt cheated, as if I had lost half the number I had accumulated.  And worse, it got harder to keep accurate count!

swim2

Because I alternate strokes after each lap—freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke—I have my own counting pattern: 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, 3-2, 4-1, 4-2, 5-1, 5-2…until I hit my goal, 20-2.  And then, while showering, I go over it in my head, trying to ensure I didn’t miscount.  Obsessive?

If you look up the word methodical in the dictionary, my picture will be there.

And so it is in conversations with other people.  I absolutely love when they stick to the topic, acknowledge what I’ve said before beginning their reply, listen politely when it’s my turn again, offer their further thoughts when I finish, and (I really must say it again) stick to the topic.

Because I’ve long been aware of this eccentricity of mine, it has occurred to me that it might be one of the reasons why, when I find myself in a social setting with several other people enjoying conversations with each other, I’m often the only one not directly engaged—a gadfly, as it were, flitting from eavesdropping here to overhearing there, nodding and smiling as if I were part of each exchange.

talking3

But never mind.  A plodder I may be in just about everything, but in writing I find my escape.  For some reason, it seems not to disturb me that I can ramble on, hither and yon, from the start of an essay to the end—likely confusing many readers as to my thesis, my conclusions, even my thinking (such as it is).

Granted, there is always a starting point for each piece; but I seldom know at the beginning where the end will be found, or on what grounds I will trespass as I look for it. Most of the time, I just stop writing when it seems best.

There is a lovely peace that steals over me, and a surcease of compulsive demands, when I hie myself off to write.  Perhaps my brain draws respite from its normally-plodding behaviours as I lay down on paper the thoughts jostling each other for escape.

writing3

Once there, however, those thoughts are fixed.  As Omar Khayyam wrote (according to Edward Fitzgerald’s 1859 translation)—

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

And so, here I shall stop for now.

The Child We Were

We cannot know where we are headed, only whence we have come.  It behooves us, then, to help those coming along behind us.

*  *  *  *  *

we’re never so tall

as when we bend down to help

a child who needs us

comfort3

*  *  *  *  *

the child is father

of the man, as wordsworth wrote—

so nurture the child

images

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to free your children,

hug them close, then let them go—

they’ll e’er be with you

hugs

*  *  *  *  *

those wee girls we raised—

grown now, married, mothers both—

never left our hearts

sisters

*  *  *  *  *

grandchildren, our hope

for the future—as we were

once upon a time

grandchildren

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