Presentation to Take Back Our Schools Seminar

Take Back Our SchoolsOn Saturday, November 8th, a small group gathered in Surrey, BC for a “Take Back Our Schools” seminar hosted by BC Parents and Teachers for Life. Speakers highlighted both the extent of the Corren Agreement and how we can respond. It is important that ARPA Canada readers from BC realize that a common sentiment expressed at the conference was that independent schools will likely be challenged to abide by the Corren Agreement, despite empty assurances from the BC education minister. One of the speakers recounted a visit he had with the Attourney General who told him that independent schools will be exempt…. “for now.”

The director of ARPA Canada gave a presentation about parental responsibilities in regards to education. The text of the speech follows:

Good morning to each of you. My name is Mark Penninga. I am the Director of ARPA Canada, the Association for Reformed Political Action. For more information about who we are, I encourage you to check out our website,  

I have been asked to speak on the topic on parental rights in regard to education and I am grateful to do so. I will apply this specifically to the Corren Agreement, the legal agreement made in April 2006 between the BC government and a homosexual activist couple that has resulted in profound changes to the education of all students in this province, especially in the public school system. Why do I care about this? From a more theoretical perspective, this topic is of interest to me because it relates to my graduate studies at the University of Lethbridge on human dignity and human rights. But it matters to me more because I myself am a parent. My wife and I have a 10 month old daughter and we hope to have more children as well. Suddenly legal agreements and politics hit a lot closer to home when we consider the effects it will have on our children. The Corren Agreement is but one example of the ongoing battle in the public square. At the heart of it are the hearts and minds of the future generations.

I will begin by highlighting a few aspects by which the Corren Agreement subverts parents and children in the public education system.

1) The agreement was made strictly between two citizens and the BC government. Parents weren’t even consulted about it. And when the public was informed, the government ignored the many voices of protest.

2) The Correns, along with their self-chosen group of “experts” get to provide their own guidelines for each of the IRP’s when they come up for review. The purpose of these changes is to promote acceptance and celebration of alternative lifestyles. It doesn’t matter that parents will object to these lifestyles and ideologies. The provincial government has sided with the Correns and has forced this on the students in the entire public education system. The same thing applies to the new Social Justice course. If a school board questions its inclusion, they are punished with another human rights complaint. The thoughts of the parents doesn’t matter in the eyes of the Correns, the HRC’s, and the provincial government.

3) Parents don’t have a choice about whether their students will be able to not take part in a class and receive an alternative delivery of the issues being addressed. Students must take part, the only exceptions being for Health and Career Education K-9 and Planning 10.

How do we respond? Do we raise the banner of parental rights? What do we mean when we talk about parental rights? Our society has a fascination with rights. That is a big reason for what got us into the mess of the Corren agreement to begin with. Two people with an ideological agenda decided that they had a right to have an incredible influence in the public school system. We can establish that parents have a right to educate their children all we want, but the reality is that the right would conflict with other rights that are being raised in our society and we all know who will win out.

So let’s pause and consider how we should advance the cause of parents when it comes to our children’s education. To begin, let’s look a little deeper into human rights theory. A right is an entitlement. Rights are given to us by someone who has the authority to designate them to us. Rights mean absolutely nothing if they are fabricated. If there is no moral foundation grounding a right, it is not a right but a preference. It doesn’t matter if that preference is recognized by a judge, or a human rights tribunal, or by a majority in society. If it lacks an objective moral foundation, a rights-giver, it is not a right. When everything becomes our “right” (when in fact they should just be preferences), then the genuine rights lose their worth and end up having to duke it out for a place alongside all of the other rights. That is the game we are in in BC and Canada. We can talk till we are blue in the face about parental rights but it won’t change a thing as long as this underlying problem exists.

We need to shift the discussion to something more meaningful. We must escape the political game of rights talk and work towards establishing a foundation that is missing in this whole discussion. I am speaking of responsibilities. Rights can only function if there are corresponding responsibilities. How can I demand a right to life, for example, if I do not uphold the inherent worth of other humans? Who in our society is upholding the responsibilities that are essential to maintaining genuine rights?

So the question we have to consider first is what are parental responsibilities when it comes to the education of children? Who is responsible to raise a child? No doubt the state is encroaching on this task, but the unanimous answer remains that it is the parents’ responsibility to raise their children. This is both a norm and a given. As Christians, ARPA Canada ultimately bases this on the Bible, especially the fifth commandment that requires that children honour their parents. But non-Christians also recognize this truth and believe that parental responsibility should only cease if the parents are unable to raise their children. Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

One of the primary elements of raising a child is education. It is a life-long journey that manifests itself on the playground as much as in the classroom. But the classroom is a major component, at least until their late teens. A child will end up spending almost as much time with their teachers as with their parents. As such, a school will have a major influence on a child’s upbringing. Parents therefore have a responsibility to entrust their children to the education that is truly for the good of their child. Yes, this means that there really is such a thing as good and bad, right and wrong and our choices have to reflect this. Parents have to choose whether to send their children to a public school, an independent school, or home-based education. The reasons for each of these will differ based on the circumstances and values of the family. The state should make all of these options open and available to parents, without imposing undue restrictions.

Responsibility does not end with choosing which form of school or education to send your child to. It also includes being a part of the education. Parents have a responsibility to get to know their child’s teacher, principal and even the school board. They need to know what their child is being taught. And they need to be a part of making sure that the education is being done in line with their values.

In a public and secular school system, this requires extra effort. Parents have to keep in mind that other parents and children may have very different values and different expectations for education. This will mean that a parent will have to take more time at home to teach things that won’t be brought up in the classroom. But it also means that they may have to pull their child from objectionable classes. This is not a right but a responsibility. Parents should consider making use of a parental directive such as the one made available on the Take Back Our Schools website or one similar to it.

On the other hand, the state has to keep in mind that it is not the one to decide which ideologies to impose on all parents and children. A secular system does not mean that religion is pushed out the door and that humanism becomes the new standard. Humanism is in many ways as much a religion as the traditional religions are. A secular school system should understand that there will always be a competition of ideologies. The schools system is entrusted with students. It has to respect the parents who put the children in their care for so many hours per week. This means that it has a responsibility to not push a single ideology down the throats of all parents and students, especially if that ideology conflicts with the beliefs of the parents and students. The irony of the Corren agreement is that in the name of tolerance, tolerance is being thrown out of the window. The goal is not respect but rather celebration of a lifestyle that many believe is sinful. For a sad example of this, have a look at the Xtrawest article posted on the BCPTL website.

So what exactly does this all mean? Parents have to remind their schools and education officials that the school and the state exist to support parents in their role of education, not to replace them. When the school or state undermines this, the parents must react firmly, for the sake of their children. Homosexuality is not the issue. The same thing applies when any other ideology or lifestyle is being pushed and when parents are told to shut up and accept it. The Correns may have the strong arm of the Human Rights Tribunal backing them up, but parents have to stand up for their children and not give in to the tactics of the renegades, who love to mould our children.

The Corren Agreement is but a symptom of a much bigger issue. The problem is that parents are forfeiting their responsibilities as the primary caregivers of their children. Others are all too happy to take over and influence children according to their own agendas. The issue isn’t about parents having a right to raise our own children as much as it is about parents exercising our responsibility to raise our children. A culture of individualism that puts our own lives first may give us a high standard of living, but what is it doing to our children? Are we letting our children’s child care workers, teachers, ballet instructors, and hockey coaches raise them because we are too busy? Or are we fulfilling our own responsibility as parents so that there is less temptation for the state and ideological zealots to take over. Let’s fulfill our responsibilities before we talk about our rights.

I’m not saying that we should be silent and not stand up for genuine rights. Far from it. We must be politically and socially engaged and must be a voice for parents and children. But we have to be careful that the message we are bringing is not just one more protest voice in our rights-saturated world. Rather, we should be advancing a genuine solution, one that reminds the institutions of the family and the state about their roles and responsibilities. We do so by being an example in our personal lives, but also through political and social action, as we are pursuing today.

What am I proposing? We all need to get involved in taking back our schools. We are well aware that the Corren Agreement itself is a legal decision that is binding. We can’t just be reactive to decisions that are already done and then be disappointed with the lack of results. We have to be proactive and take back our schools. We need to first exercise our own responsibilities in raising our children but we also have to carry this message of responsibilities before rights to the entire province. Being proactive means being part of a movement that encourages and equips parents to exercise their privileged responsibility of educating their children according to the principles that they believe in. Get involved with TBOS and make some positive proactive change.