Religious and family values groups are condemning the secretive process used by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to foist her government’s sex ed changes on the province’s schools.
While the new curriculum has not been released, opponents fear it will be similar to the age inappropriate material in the Liberal government’s abandoned 2010 sex ed changes. Then-premier Dalton McGuinty and education minister Kathleen Wynne proposed a curriculum with age inappropriate material such as teaching about gender identity in Grade 3, encouraging self-discovery through masturbation in Grade 6, and instruction about oral and anal sex in Grade 7.
Not only has Wynne’s government not released the curriculum, it has limited input to a select few parents. Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex), a PC leadership hopeful, condemned the government in November for its lack of transparency in reforming sex-ed.
Citizens for Good Education, a grassroots network representing more than 200 multi-faith, multi-ethnic, and community groups, held a press conference Dec. 12., calling for greater transparency and broader parental consultation before changes are made to the sexual education component of the Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum. Among the groups were Campaign Life Coalition, the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Chinese Canadian Civic Alliance, the Hispanic Pastoral Network, Public Education Advocates for Christian Equality, REAL Women, the Toronto Chinese Catholic Task-Force, the Toronto Chinese Evangelical Ministerial Fellowship, and the York Parents Association.
Most groups expressed concern that the province’s consultations were limited to one parent per school, meaning that about 4000 parents would answer a survey on behalf of millions of Ontario families. REAL Women said, “the failure to consult appropriately with parents on this contentious curriculum is deeply offensive and unacceptable.” Public Education Advocates for Christian Equality (PEACE) condemned the “rubber-stamp survey” with “questions so general the government could justify any lesson content.” In its general statement, Citizens for Good Education asked how parents could “comment on a curriculum they never saw?” The Catholic Civil Rights League said, “there has been little debate due to the fact that the Liberal government has not given the citizens of Ontario an opportunity to view the proposed changes.”
The CCRL also insisted that under section 93 of the Constitution, only “we as Catholics (should) determine what is taught and how programs are delivered in our Catholic schools.” It said that if the government persists in promoting a radical sex ed curriculum at odds with Catholic moral teaching, Catholic school trustees should refuse to implement it.
Some organizations focused on the rights of parents as first educators of their children.
PEACE noted that child psychiatric experts say children’s readiness for learning about sexual topics varies greatly, and wondered “how can a universal provincial curriculum provide flexibility to suit the sensitivity and needs of each child?”
REAL Women said that “the family, not the state, has primary responsibility for the children in regard to education on sexuality.” The women’s group said families are much better positioned to teach children on sexual matters than “the so-called ‘experts’ who impose their own values and standards.”
At the press conference Campaign Life Coalition spokesman Jack Fonseca highlighted the involvement of former deputy education minister Benjamin Levin, who is charged with seven counts of child exploitation, including charges of possessing and accessing child pornography. Levin was Wynne’s deputy minister when the 2010 sex ed changes were proposed. Fonseca said, “Levin’s hand in an explicit program that seems to sexualize kids has only heightened concerns, including my own, as the father of a kindergartner.”
Citizens for Good Education called for the government to scrap its plan to implement the new curriculum in the fall of 2015, saying the “artificial deadline” is an impediment to “the necessary consultation process” with parents. CGE also urged the Ontario government to post the draft curriculum online and make printed copies available at all schools, so parents could access the material in the form they are most comfortable with and at a pace they can comprehend. CGE suggested that printed versions provide space within the text for feedback.
The coalition also called on the government to set up a detailed online survey accessible by all Ontario parents, so the consultation process could be broadened. To that end, it also called for the curriculum be made available in the ten most commonly spoken languages in Ontario besides England and French, including Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Polish.
CGE is not the only critic of Wynne’s approach to changing the sex ed curriculum. Toronto Sun columnist Christina Blizzard has charged Wynne with not “revamping an out-of-date curriculum” so much as “imposing (her) values on the school system.”
Blizzard also called for the curriculum to be posted on a website so “all parents (can) take a look and comment on it.”
Doretta Wilson of the Society for Quality Education, has condemned the consultation process, noting that school council chairs, who are often the parents chosen by principals to complete the government’s survey, “are not necessarily representative of the whole school population.”