By Susan Zuidema, author “My Child, My Chance”
“What if, en mass, we just kept teaching the new health curriculum? They can’t discipline us all, can they?” – Ontario teacher
This in-between time is dangerous. I’m referring to the time between the repeal of the 2015 Ontario sex education curriculum and the introduction of a replacement.
Everyone can agree that the 1998 curriculum is woefully out of date. But opinions around what should “obviously” continue to be covered in the 2018-2019 school year (curriculum or no) varies based on individual convictions and beliefs.
As a group, Ontario’s teachers support the complete 2015 curriculum. Sam Hammond, representing Ontario’s public school teachers as president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) listed “Sexting, online bullying, and information about consent” as key topics. He points the finger at “a minority group of socially conservative parents (who) oppose the current curriculum, some without having seen it” suggesting that some of their concern “stems from homophobia.”
Hammond asserted that “the current curriculum addresses lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a meaningful and age-appropriate way.”
Many parents disagree that the curriculum handles certain sensitive topics included in its sex education in an age-appropriate manner. Some of these are mentioned by Hammond but there are a vast array of others.
Who is to decide in the 2018-2019 school year what will be actually taught? Unless Conservatives deliver a clear directive, it is going to be up to those on the front lines: the teachers. Here’s what they have to say about it.
One suggested that teachers can teach whatever they want because no one ever checks on what they are doing in their classroom.
Clearly, there remains a call to vigilance for parents with children in the public system – perhaps now more than ever. Until there is a clear directive and a replacement, teachers can use their “professional judgment” in what they teach (see also “Understanding Your Professional Judgment“, a flyer by ETFO). This includes not only topics related to sex and equity but any other topic they deem relevant. As evidenced by the discussion above, many teachers feel it is their professional obligation to teach gender theory and sexual equity and plan to continue to do so.
As a public school teacher, I used my professional judgment to regularly include a series of lessons on internet safety well before the 2015 curriculum came out. I wanted to be sure that expectations around internet use were clearly established and I felt confident that parents would agree in my decision. I notified parents we were discussing the topic and sent supporting materials home to help them carry on the discussion. My professional judgment allowed me to cover an important area I felt the curriculum was missing.
This same professional judgment is used by teachers everyday when they teach extracurricular material. In the years leading up to 2015, this already included topics of social justice and equity. Yet, it’s not limited to topics in sex ed. In My Child, My Chance, I list several examples of how sexual and gender diversity were taught prior to the 2015 curriculum, often within the language, social studies, and even math curriculum!
Another example might involve eastern meditation. In the 2017-2018 school year, my own school introduced Kundalini yoga, a school of yoga that is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. The school rebranded the activities as “mindfulness and wellness” following my expression of concern about the religious elements.
It is not an uncommon thing these days to see the LGBT pride flag flown for a day or even a full week in schools across the country. Schools in BC flew the pride flag in April 2017, Alberta flew it in October 2016, and it flew above schools in Newfoundland in May of this year too. But for the first time, a Canadian province – Ontario – will be flying it over their schools for an entire month. During the 30 days of June, the pride flag will fly over almost all public elementary and secondary schools in Ontario. This is to promote “a safe, caring, inclusive, equitable and welcoming learning and working environment” and to visibly demonstrate its existence within the building.
As Christians, we believe that all people have value and that no one should be bullied. Yet seeing the pride flag flying above our child’s place of education feels wrong. Especially since it is very exceptional (likely unprecedented) for a flag representing a cause to fly alongside the Canadian flag in our schools, and certainly never for a month. Why the Pride flag? And how should we respond?
Start by agreeing that no student should ever be victimized, not for their sexual orientation or gender identity or for any other reason.
Be FOR all people and AGAINST hatred, discrimination, and violence toward others. Be known for your love and your caring involvement.
The Ontario Human Rights Code reminds us that everyone deserves to have their dignity and worth recognized, to have “equal rights and opportunities without discrimination,” and to enjoy a “climate of understanding and mutual respect.” Few would argue against the school’s responsibility to stop discrimination and abusive behaviour between students. No student should ever be victimized, not for their sexual orientation or gender identity or for any other reason.
Since all forms of harassment are wrong, then all should be banned without distinction. Harassment, violence, and discrimination are simply wrong. Period.
For those who follow the teachings of the Bible, it gives many reasons to be against bullying:
- It affirms the dignity and worth of every person over and over again (John 3:16, Matthew 7:12, Philippians 2:3).
- It speaks against the evils of discrimination and showing favouritism (James 2:1-5,7-8).
- It addresses harassment, agreeing that it should be dealt with by the courts (Matthew 5:22).
- It teaches that everyone is on an even platform and that Jesus established his Church on the foundation of equality (Galatians 3:26,28).
Simply being a human being gives people value. This is in agreement with the Human Rights Code which stresses that all people have dignity and worth. (There is more on the Human Rights Code in My Child, My Chance, chapter 5).
It is a reasonable position to hold that children can be instructed in the core principles of the Ontario Human Rights Code – that each person has innate dignity and worth and deserves access to equal rights and opportunities – without being forced to accept practices or lifestyles which contradict their religious beliefs.
Have a voice. Talk about your concerns. Talk about equity.
Earlier, I described the Pride flag flying above our schools as “feeling wrong.” I believe a good reason for this, aside from the fact that it represents practices and identities that Christians believe to be harmful on both a physical and spiritual level, is that it is not equitable. I believe that it is on these grounds that we will have the most success making a case for our position.
The Government of Canada has compiled a list of “Important and Commemorative Days” and published it on their website. Other marginalized groups, worthy of the special honour and respect conferred by their recognition in this list, are not receiving equal visible support in our schools. Selections from the government’s list are provided on the table that follows. Note that Pride Month in June has not been granted official status by the Government of Canada but June is, in fact, “Aboriginal History Month.” I am sure that Ontario’s school boards would be the first to agree that our First Nations’ citizens are equally worthy of being ascribed dignity and worth by its schools. And why aren’t schools celebrating students who overcome incredible physical odds to come to school and strive for success during National AccessAbility week (May 28-June 3)? Surely they deserve recognition as well?
Important & Commemorative Days in Canadaas designated by the Government of Canada in the link above
|February||Black History Month|
|May||Asian Heritage Month|
|May 28-June 3||National AccessAbility Week|
|June||June: National Aboriginal History Month|
|June 27||Canadian multiculturalism day|
|July 1-7||Canada History Week|
|October||Women’s History Month|
|November 5-11||Veteran’s Week|
The Ontario Human Rights Code lists 17 different grounds against which a person in Ontario may not discriminate. Elevating a few of those grounds leads to a sort of “reverse-discrimination”… preferential treatment of a segment of society, which is what the Code is specifically against. The Code puts everyone on a level playing field.
In another point of comparison, it is understood in the public classroom that as a teacher, it is inequitable to give preference to a certain holiday over another regardless of the teacher’s personal religious or cultural practices. If one is to be covered, all (or many others) must be.
Singling out LGBT community by flying the Pride flag for the entire month of June, at the expense of First Nations and students with physical disabilities — groups recognized by the government as deserving of special recognition in the month of June — feels wrong because it is wrong. In the sample letter to school board trustees that follows, a subset of Canada’s important and commemorative days is included.
You might consider emailing a letter such as this one to your school board trustees (to find out who your trustees are, Google your board and the word “Trustees”, e.g. “TDSB Trustees”):
Dear Sir or Madam,
Knowing our shared concern for equity, a reduction in bullying, and the creation of a safe learning environment for all, I would like to make you aware of an oversight.
Are you aware that June has been officially granted status as National Aboriginal History Month, and that the week of May 28-June 3rd is National AccessAbility Week? I am concerned that our focus on one marginalized group for the entire month of June comes at the cost of other marginalized groups – namely our First Nations and our students with physical exceptionalities, both deserving of equal recognition and support for their bravery in the face of adversity. In addition, please see the following list of nationally recognized “Important and Commemorative Days” that should also be considered for representation on our school’s flag pole:
– February: Black History Month
– May: Asian Heritage Month
– May 28th-June 3: National AccessAbility Week
– June: National Aboriginal History Month [interestingly, LGBT Pride Month is not listed in the Government of Canada’s important and commemorative days]
– June 27th: Canadian multiculturalism day
– July 1-7: Canada History Week
– October: Women’s History Month
– November 5-11th: Veteran’s Week
If you are not going to correct this oversight by providing equally visible support for other marginalized groups, I would ask that you take down the Pride flag currently flying over my child’s school. Thank you for your consideration and correction of this unfortunate oversight.
You may, of course, express your concerns in your own words or your own way, but please keep in mind Jesus’ admonition to his disciples when he sent them out into their first opportunity to minister to others,
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.
Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
– Matthew 10:16 –
You will find more helpful information on this topic, and on the themes of the Ontario Sex Education Curriculum in our book, My Child, My Chance, available through Amazon.ca. We appreciate your support by spreading the word.
My Child, My Chance is here to help. Contact us at any time.