Parents undermined in Ontario curriculum plans
On October 30th, the Ontario government signaled that they will again be introducing controversial changes to the sex-ed curriculum in Ontario. Our readers might remember the furor that arose after a graphic sex ed curriculum was introduced in 2010. Its explicit description of various sex acts and behaviours rightly outraged parents and so the government at that time quickly shelved the curriculum. However, this fall, Premier Wynne (who was Education Minister when the earlier version was introduced) has now stated that elementary schools will begin teaching the proposed sex education curriculum in the fall of 2015.
The education minister, Ms. Liz Sandals, also announced that parents will be consulted in this process. However, on closer inspection, those parents will be 4,000 pre-selected parents, one for each elementary school in the province. Clearly the government does not want to hear from the vast majority of parents, or those who want to exercise their democratic responsibility to interact with the laws and policies of their province.
According to the 2011 census (check out the third chart on the right of the linked article), there are 3,612,205 families in Ontario, of which 63.2% or 2,282,914 are families with children. And the current government is only allowing 4,000 pre-selected parents to give feedback on an online survey about curriculum changes. That is, the government is seeking a survey response from preselected parents representing only 0.175% of the total number of families with children in the province. Calling that “parental consultation” is insulting to say the least.
Even if some of those 4,000 pre-selected parents filling out this survey were cautious about this new curriculum, we expect the survey will include leading questions that do not give respondents room to criticize the explicit sexual content and that questions in the survey will be crafted in such a manner that responses can easily be interpreted to claim that parents were okay with the proposed curriculum.
So, what’s in the curriculum? While it has not yet be revealed (despite many requests of politicians, parents and leaders to see it), CTV reports that
“The re-introduced sex ed curriculum will teach kids about homosexuality and same-sex marriages in Grade 3, encourage discussions about puberty, including masturbation, in Grade 6, and talk about preventing sexually-transmitted diseases in Grade 7, which could include information on oral and anal sex.”
Parents are the primary authorities of their children. (For a Biblical defence of that statement, see God’s directions to Abraham in Gen. 18, God’s instructions to the people of Israel to teach their children his commands in Deut. 6, the generational instruction outlined in Psalm 78, or scan through the book of Proverbs, filled with instructions on how to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22), including as it relates to sexuality, and it’s pretty clear.) Parents then are also responsible for ensuring that their children are properly informed about sexuality. The State may not drive a wedge between parents and their children or use children as pawns to advance a particular worldview in society.
Others opine that this new curriculum is a great move. After all, as this editorial notes,
“In the absence of good education, kids have been left to pick up their information from television shows, sex websites, and in worst case scenarios, pornography.”
This suggests that the State is the one responsible for safe-guarding our children. But nowhere does the editorial suggest that kids can and will also get this information from parents. It’s scary that such a thought didn’t even cross the minds of a major newspaper’s editorial board. As this commentary gets right, the “we know best” attitude of those in the education bureaucracy is frightening. Parents seem to be tolerated at best, ignored or kept in the dark more usually. Whose kids are they anyway?
As Christians, we need to be proactive rather than reactive on this issue. Though we haven’t seen the final edition of the curriculum (and probably won’t for quite a while, if this video is any indication) we can work with what we do know now. At this point we know that the Liberal Government is going to implement a revamped curriculum for Sept 2015 based in large part on the work done for the 2010 curriculum. This short timeline simply does not give enough time to properly consult with parents. Until the curriculum is released, we need to respectfully push the government to slow down and to listen to parents. We also need to urge the provincial government to implement the recommendations made in this excellent report from the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (for a summary of the report, click here).
In particular, this report notes that the main reason for backlash in 2010 was due to concerns over the age appropriateness of the sex-ed materials. The report notes,
“Age appropriateness” is elusive but important. The American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry advises that “[P]arents should respond to the needs and curiosity level of their individual child, offering no more or less information than their child is asking for and is able to understand.” Unfortunately, provincial curriculum has limited flexibility to suit the sensitivity of each child. Readiness differs from child to child, sometimes even within the same family.
In other words, the provincial curriculum is one-size-fits-all, and works with the philosophy of teaching issues before they become issues (i.e. before a child would typically be engaged in these types of behaviours). With this type of an educational philosophy for sex-ed in particular, combined with the one-size-fits-all approach, we can logically conclude that in order to achieve the goal of reaching all kids in a school before any might be faced with questions about these sexual behaviours, activities or issues, the age at which it will be presented will drop to the lowest common denominator. Thus, many other students will needlessly be exposed to these behaviours, activities and issues well before these children would otherwise be, and well before their own parents would think is the right time.
So, here are the ACTION ITEMS you can do to make a difference:
1. Read the IMFC report on this issue for a fuller and deeper analysis. (Available here). Share it with your friends and other parents.
2. Use our Easymail program to send an email to your MPP, copied to the Minister of Education and the Premier. You have four versions to choose from (or feel free to send all four over the next week or two). You can ask your MPP to:
- Easymail 1 – read and consider the IMFC report
- Easymail 2 – protect parental rights
- Easymail 3 – guard children’s rights to be protected from inappropriate and explicit material
- Easymail 4 – defend religious schools and families from the worldview of the State
3. Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local or a national newspaper. Feel free to use the talking points in the sample letters above.
4. Share this article on social media and get your friends to send their Easymail too.
For further reading, we also recommend:
- Q&A tips from the EFC on the sex-ed curriculum (this document references the 2010 curriculum)
- For a perspective on the much bigger and deeper issue at play here, consider this article from April, 2010.
- This article, Understanding Our Educational Freedom, outlines the blessing we have in Canada
- This article, Without Autonomous Families, Freedom Falters, outlines the threat to liberty generally where families are undermined.