Teachers for Life’s participation in the recently-held Pro-Life Policy Conference in Toronto brought this new organization into the limelight. The Globe and Mail, in particular, seemed incensed that such a group should exist. The following is how Dr. David Dooley analyzed the Globe’s attitude in a conference seminar.
“Abortion and the media”
The aims of Teachers for Life, as set forth in its brochure, seem straightforward and harmless enough. Its stated premise is that:
“Human life is the foundation of our society. There is no issue of which this issue is not the touchstone.”
That seems only a commonplace, a platitude, a motherhood statement, something to which no one in a democratic society could possibly object. How could it be attacked by any news paper or any parent?
The announcement in the Globe and Mail that Teachers for Life was to participate in a pro-life conference was headed in a very inflammatory way:
“Anti-abortion Drive Aiming at Children.” In the story following, Edward McKeown, Director of Education for Toronto public board, professed to be very worried: “Anything that deals with family life and planning needs to be done in a balanced way,” he said. “Young people need to know what choices are open to them.”
Teachers for Life would undoubtedly agree; in fact, the group was founded to counteract the ignorance about the value of human life which exists in our society, to counteract the Planned Parenthood and Pr-abortion propaganda to which students are constantly being subjected in our society. But by “balance” Mr. McKeown clearly means making sure that the law of the land, which clearly forbids circumstances, is not explained to young people.
Similarly, Ouida Wright, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Programmes for the Toronto Board, said that ministry guidelines do not provide for teaching about abortion at the Grade 6 and 7 levels (which had previously been referred to in the story), that a Grade 6 child would not understand what abortion involves, and that some children find the whole aspect of sexual activity frightening.
Do we have any evidence, however, that either Dr. McKeown or Miss Wright objected when the Toronto Board accepted compulsory teaching of sex education – against which many parents protested vigorously? Or were they perfectly happy with such instruction as long as it reflected orthodox views, those of the Globe and Mail, the Star, and the Sun?
The Globe’s inflammatory story produced the expected inflammatory letters to the editor, which again the paper was able to run with inflammatory captions – “Frightening aspect of teachers’ views” and “The Tentacles spread.” The paper also carried an editorial on July 3 entitled “Blackboard politics” in which it declared that, now that the existence of Teachers of Life has been drawn to the attention of officials, “they should give teachers a pointed reminder tat good pedagogy requires more of a teacher than drilling propaganda into a pupil’s head.” Among other things the editorial said:
“There is no place in the classroom for this crusade. It should go without saying that abortion should not be raised as a subject until the students have reached a stage, in high school, where they are mature enough to consider this troubling moral issue. But even then, the teachers owe the students more than to expect them to parrot a given political line – to accept as gospel the position spelled out on the blackboard.”
Louis Di Rocco replied for Teachers for Life, saying among other things that there was no attempt to introduce the subject of abortion to children in the lower grades. But the point I want to make is somewhat different, and will require a somewhat detailed explanation.
The newspaper editorial is thoroughly slanted, confused and hypocritical. First of all, it degrades teachers by saying that they expect their students to parrot a particular line, instead of learning to develop their own thinking powers.
Second, it is not a political line at all. It is a principle, which Teachers for Life are enunciating, a principle which is at the heart of any democratic society. The whole concept of democracy rests on the rights of the human person, and in any discussion of the nature of our society a teacher is bound to emphasize that man’s right to existence, to personal freedom, and the pursuit of the perfection of moral life is fundamental; it is the starting point for any explanation of the nature of our political system.
If you have succumbed to the Globe and Mail propaganda through the years, however (especially at the time of the passing of the abortion legislation in 1969), then you are a utilitarian, a person who cannot talk about rights at all, since all decisions are contingent on calculations of the likely desirable effects of an action set against the expected undesirable effects.
Next, when the paper asks for balance it knows very well that this has not existed in the past. Whatever Teachers for Life is doing is in response to a massive pressure campaign which has been going on for years, often, as REAL women in the Interim have pointed out, with government funding. Somehow or other the Globe has failed to call attention to such matters as the incident at a Milton High School a few years ago, in which a public health nurse distributed propaganda for the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League which was highly abusive of pro-life groups.
Again in referring to Teachers for Life in such disparaging terms, the paper is only carrying on its campaign of vilification. Somehow or other it has got into the popular mind that the picketers at the Harbord St. clinic (to take one example) are violent and abusive – very dangerous people, likely to cause considerable injury to others unless their numbers are curtailed. The only incident I have heard of involving a fire-arm concerned a shotgun – in the hands of one of Dr. Morgentaler’s supporters. But I do not remember the papers paying very much attention to that incident.
Of course, the Teachers for Life would undoubtedly hope that some of the consequences of their premises would come home to their students. On thing they definitely ought to do is teach their pupils to beware of, and to analyze, clichés and cliché-type thinking.