“What were phones like in 1998?” The question from my teenager could have been viewed as another opportunity for a young person to roll their eyes at ‘Stone Age’ technology from the time before they were born. It could have been, but, in this case the question arose out of a sense of urgency when it was revealed that the new Provincial Government was rolling back the health curriculum twenty years, fulfilling an election promise.
Twenty years may not seem long for some. In reality, there are many twenty year periods during which there was not significant changes that would require updating school curricula. The introduction of a new curriculum in 2015, however, suggests that there were at least some people who felt an update was important. So, what has changed in the last 20 years that might be useful to include in a health curriculum?
The Toronto Star reflected on this in a 2009 article which looks back on the previous decade and identifies 50 significant changes. Other notable changes that embrace the two decades include:
- Google was founded in 1998 and became a recognised verb in dictionaries in 2006 as more and more people used this search engine to discover answers to any question they could ask
- Legalisation of same sex marriage in Ontario on June 10, 2003 and in Canada on July 22, 2005
- Gender identity and gender expression have been protected from discrimination in Ontario since 2012 and in Canada since 2017
- In Sept. 2010 “Bell Let’s Talk” began a new conversation about mental health in Canada in an attempt to raise awareness and funds to support programs that address mental illness.
- Facebook was founded in February 2004, Twitter in March 2006, Instagram in Oct. 2010 and Snapchat in Sept. 2011
- Cyber bullying has increased significantly with 1 in 5 young people reporting they had experienced cyber-bullying as early as 2014.
- The death of Jamie Hubley on Oct. 14, 2011 led to the Ontario Legislature mandating school boards across the province develop tougher anti-bullying programs and offered legal protections for gay-straight alliances in the province’s schools.
- The deaths of Amanda Todd (2012), Rehtaaeh Parsons (2013) and others, highlighted the vulnerability of young people to exploitation and abuse through the Internet.
- Time’s person of the year for 2017 was “The Silence Breakers” the women whose experiences of sexual violence led to a renewed awareness of the need to better understand boundaries and consent through the #metoo movement.
These are only a snap shot of the significant things that have happened in the last 20 years.
Parents will always be an important resource for children especially in regards to determining morals and values. With all that has changed, however, I wonder how many parents feel appropriately equipped to address these changes with our children? How confident do parents feel about talking about health, gender, sexuality, bullying and relationships in an era when there has been such a significant shift in how we communicate and understand who we are? If schools limited the health and sexuality content to a curriculum that was written 20 years ago, are parents prepared to fill in the gaps so that our children have the tools to effectively navigate relationships, community and sexuality today? What do you think?
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