Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sex and kids

Two news items caught our eye this morning. Both have to do with kids.

First there was the story about the dad who's upset that his daughter heard about condoms at school. We'll leave aside for a moment how the complaint of one parent about a pretty standard piece of the health curriculum actually rates as newsworthy in the year 2007.

In the first part of the article, the dad justifies his anger by claiming that his 12-year-old daughter "doesn't even know what a condom is." At the very end of the article, it says that he would prefer that parents, not schools, teach their kids about sex.

Hmmmm ...... If your daughter doesn't know what a condom is by the time she reaches puberty, you've pretty much abdicated your responsibility to teach her about sex.

It's the best of all possible worlds when parents are the ones to talk to their kids about sex. Parents can communicate their values about sexuality and create the kind of trust and openness with their kids that is critical to surviving the stormy years of adolescence.

The problem is that a lot of parents still don't talk about sex with their kids. Teaching about condoms (yes - even the flavoured kind!) and being willing to answer kids' questions without embarrassment is as necessary to protecting their health as telling them to put on sunscreen or eat their vegetables. Unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are too high a price to pay for parental squeamishness.

Secondly - it was not without some satisfaction of the "I told you so" variety that we read about the Harper government's hasty retreat on providing childcare spaces through corporate tax cuts. It turns out the public sector actually is good for something - like taking care of children for families who need the help, for example.

The federal Tories' childcare plan has been an absolute disaster for Canadian families - stalling any progress that was starting to be made by throwing the provinces into uncertainty about future funding. This comes on top of the catastrophic neglect of the former Liberal government - an 11th hour "hail mary" childcare plan doesn't excuse breaking promises for over a decade.

The efficiency of the public sector in providing public services is a lesson that Tory governments never seem to learn. We're reminded of the fight to keep home care in Manitoba from being privatized in the 1990s. Manitoba's home care system has been around since 1974. One of its chief architects - Evelyn Shapiro - is about to be awarded the Order of Canada. But the Tories were willing to sell it down the river to an American company - until they figured out that the company in question couldn't actually deliver those services any more cheaply. It was the organized fight of home care workers, seniors and the NDP that kept the home care system intact.

Kinda makes you wonder what Hugh and the gang would do to Manitoba's childcare system?