Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Monda Halpern


During the 1960s and 1970s, Ontario educators were concerned that the “sexual revolution” would encourage youths to engage in sexually promiscuous behaviour, become unwed mothers, and contract STIs. As parents were perceived as unreliable sex educators, school administrators and educators felt compelled to teach traditional sexual values, and the importance of the nuclear family through sexual education. This dissertation analyzes the creation and instruction of sexual education in physical and health education courses throughout the 1960s and 1970s in Ontario. This study provides the first comprehensive discussion of sexual education in Ontario during the sixties and seventies through an examination of the Department/Ministry of Education, school boards, and teachers’ efforts to implement sexual instruction.An oral history project was also conducted to explore classroom culture and teacher’s experiences with educating youth about their bodies, reproduction, puberty, and sexual values.

Due to the controversial nature of sexual instruction, the Ministry of Education avoided implementing a mandatory curriculum until 1987, as a result of the AIDS crisis. Many school boards did not have the resources or the motivation to create sexual education lesson plans and materials. The school boards that attempted to form a sexual health program usually had the support of the local medical community and were located in more urbanized areas. Regardless of their school boards’ stance on sexual education, teachers were ultimately responsible for deciding whether sexual instruction would be incorporated into their lesson plans. As can be seen throughout this study, the struggles and resistance to modernize sexual education during social crises have persisted for over half a century; it appears that Ontario sexual instruction is doomed to be outmoded, and ineffectual.