Saturday, May 2, 2015

Parents Strike Against Sex Ed

Some parents across Ontario will be keeping their children home from school Monday, May 4th thru Thursday, May 8th in protest of Ontario's Health and Physical Education curriculum, which is set to launch in September of 2015. Parents & Students on strike: one week no school is meant to call attention to the number of parents who oppose the curriculum -- a portent of things to come.

So, it's a boycott of something that hasn't happened yet.

The campaign has spread beyond the GTA. Following, a report from CTV Windsor.

Unlike the suggested letter to school from the website, the Windsor group is requesting assignments be sent home to facilitate home schooling. The Windsor board has officially it won't be sending work home. Nor should they; it's not the job of the taxpayer funded school to facilitate homeschooling. Teachers provide classroom education, not distance education.

School boards commenting thus far have said students will be marked absent and will be responsible for any work they miss.

A rambling editorial in Al Forqan quotes two parents participating in the strike:
Kingston resident Ghada Ismial helped organize the event. She said the curriculum, which will start in Grade 1, will be taught to students too young. “The children can’t understand everything,” said Ismial, who practices Islam. “It’s not something related to religion, or culture, because I have many friends who are Christian, and they disagree.” Ismial believes if students learn about sex early, there is a potential for more teen pregnancies. “Children are very smart, they want to test whatever they study at school,” Ismial said. “You can imagine in Grade 3 they will tell the children you can choose to marry a guy or a girl, this is legal, this is not in our community, you have to respect this, but it’s not for a child who is 7-8 years old. They can’t understand this.”
Many parents who object to the grade three health curriculum are complaining about sexual content that isn't even there, and by some leap of logic, suggesting they will imitate it. By the same logic, children will go home and experiment with having one parent, instead of the two they have. There is no sexual activity being taught here.
Human Development and Sexual Health
C3.3 describe how visible differences (e.g., skin, hair, and eye colour, facial features, body size and shape, physical aids or different physical abilities, clothing, possessions) and invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others [PS, IS]
Teacher prompt: “Sometimes we are different in ways you can see. Sometimes we are different in ways you cannot see – such as how we learn, what we think, and what we are able to do. Give me some examples of things that make each person unique.”
Student: “We all come from different families. Some students live with two parents. Some live with one parent. Some have two mothers or two fathers. Some live with grand- parents or with caregivers. We may come from different cultures. We also have different talents and abilities and different things that we find difficult to do.”
Teacher: “How can you be a role model and show respect for differences in other people?”
Student: “I can include others in what I am doing, invite them to join a group, be willing to be a partner with anyone for an activity, and be willing to learn about others.” 

I'm alway amused when detractors of the curriculum point to teachers of faith, and ask the question: "How is it fair that a Christian or Muslim teacher should have to teach this unit?" They never ask what it might feel like for a queer-identified teacher to be fearful of broaching this topic in the classroom. They never ask what it might be like for parents supporting a questioning child, or same-sex parents for that matter, to know that the mere possibility that this topic might come up is an affront to their neighbours.

More from the editorial:

Moustafa Reyad of Kingston, also an organizer, said the curriculum may contain elements that are against his religion. He’d like the opportunity to remove his three kids from the classroom during sex-ed lessons if those elements are going to be taught. “I, as a Muslim, am not against sex education to my children,” Reyad said. “But I am against the age and the content. Part of what is put under sex education does not coincide with my religious beliefs and, in Canada, I believe it is my right to raise my voice and say I am against this, in a very peaceful way. Alexander Quinn, from Kingston, said Germany sends sex education packages home to parents to teach. As a parent, he’d like Ontario to follow in the European country’s footsteps. That way parents can teach the knowledge at their child’s pace, not the curriculums. [sic]
Mr Reyad has the prerogative to withdraw his children from units of instruction to which he objects, so he's striking for a right he already has. What I underlined above from the Ministry document is a possible student response to an example of a teacher prompt. There is no way of knowing where children may take the discussion. There are no guarantees, in any classroom, that discussion and inquiry may deviate from the norms of the home.

Mr Quinn's suggestion of sending material home is an interesting one. Here's the reality though: Some children may see themselves in ways that their parents' values do not support. A child with questions about gender identity may not be supported in a household that doesn't believe in it.

Here's another reality: Some parents may not be able to read or understand the content. 

School is supposed to make the child's world bigger, not smaller. Publicly funded schools simply cannot be all things to all people. At the end of the day, the best recourse for parents who object to the curriculum is the opt out.

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