Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sex Ed Curriculum -- The Thin Edge of the Wedge

Peel District School Board Chair Janet McDougald just became one of my heroes.

For being forthright about the efforts of a handful of hardline religionists to hijack the discussion of Ontario Health & Physical Education Curriculum.

Speaking to the Toronto Star's Louise Brown, she says:

“A small fraction are intentionally misleading people (about the curriculum),” she said, “but the vast majority are confused and upset about what they’re reading and we need the (education) minister to work more aggressively at providing parents the answers they need to feel comfortable about it going forward.”

Right on both counts. The "small fraction" consists of representatives of a number of organizations: The Institute for Canadian Values, Campaign Life Coalition, The Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund (PRIEDF), and Public Education Advocates for Christian Equity (PEACE). There's a couple of new kids on the block: Parents Alliance of Ontario; HOWA CRP, led by school council activist Jotvinder Sodhi; and My Child My Choice, led by former TDSB Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos. Defeated school trustee candidate Farina Siddiqui has also been running information sessions of her own on the curriculum.

A cynical observer might conclude that some folks are building up their image for future election 
campaigns.

As for confusion, yeah, there's plenty of that, too. I've posted quite extensively in recent weeks about the disinformation on the curriculum. It's not helping that many of groups and individuals I mentioned above are staging their own information events and posting content to their websites and Facebook pages. The tone is downright conspiratorial.

Louise Brown shares the contents of a flier containing what I will politely call erroneous information published in Arabic:

  • “In Grade 1 they will learn to reveal their private parts (not just name), they will see posters and flash cards of private parts, they will learn to touch the private area and identify it on themselves and others.” (Not true, said Nilani Logeswaran, spokesperson for Education Minister Liz Sandals.)
  • “Grade 6 is about the promotion of self-discovery through masturbation. Our 12-year-old daughter or son, who is not even a teenager yet, will be asked in class to explore his or her own body by touching their private parts, masturbating and pleasuring their body.” (Not true, said Logeswaran.)


Ms Brown also writes:
The Peel school board letter also will ask Sandals to counter accusations that the new curriculum violates the Criminal Code of Canada by referring to anal sex, even though it is presented largely in the context of warning students that anal and oral sex can be high-risk activities that can spread sexually transmitted infections, noted Logeswaran.
While the Criminal Code used to forbid anal intercourse under the age of 18 — which some warned could apply to school discussions of anal sex — that section was declared unconstitutional in 1995, said Logeswaran.
Besides misleading leaders and vulnerable parents, there's another piece that we need to address honestly. Ms Brown quotes a parent:
Peel mother Firani Siddiqui will keep her two younger children home to protest the curriculum she said breaches her right to decide when her children learn sensitive sexual information.
“I don’t want teachers to tell my children that masturbation is a healthy thing — it’s a no no; maybe I don’t want her to think it’s a healthy practice.” 
The article refers to a Facebook group, Parents & Students on strike: one week no school, which has garnered 5,000 "Likes." The "strike," set for May 4th to 11th, 2015, is intended to show how many parents are opposed to a curriculum, which they can opt out of anyway next fall and beyond. The message: It's not just that they don't want their kids to learn it; they don't want anyone's kids to learn it. 

But back to Mrs Siddiqui's opinions on masturbation. I'm sure other parents -- particularly parents of deep faith -- agree with her. And they are entitled to that belief as a matter of faith. Here's the problem: In and of itself, masturbation is not unhealthy. In my dad's days, it was rumoured to affect hearing and cause hair to grow on the palms. In my days, it was said to undermine athletic performance. The new, hardcore-conservative spin is that it's a gateway to porn addiction. 

Nonsense. 

Realistically, it's a normal, healthy expression of sexuality. The curriculum simply cannot be massaged sufficiently to accommodate individual faith-based beliefs on this and other subjects. So the option for parents who object to it is to withdraw their children when classes are being held, next fall and beyond.

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