Rev. Dominic Tse
Since the release of the Ontario 2015 revised Sex Ed Curriculum late February, a grass root movement of opposition has been gathering steam. Since March, members of this movement organized protests at various Government-led info sessions, at community events where Premier Kathleen Wynn attended, and staged a major rally at Queen’s Park on April 14, where thousands (different media outlets’ estimates ranged from 2000 to 5000 people) of parents, grandparents protested the implementation of the 2015 revised Sex Ed curriculum this coming September.
Moreover, representatives of this movement attended numerous forums, media interviews and debates, to express their opposition to the 2015 revised Sex Ed Curriculum. Their voice was loud and clear. However, the government has so far failed to adequately engage these parents, but instead branded the movement as driven by people who were ill-informed, backward-thinking, anger-driven, unreasonable, fuelled and coached by Conservatives. It was this condescending attitude on the part of the government that has stalled any dialogue and engagement with the movement.
Myth1: They were ill-informed.
Fact 1: In a recent Forum held in York Region, the first speaker was given the task to present the Sex Ed Curriculum and could have used a more fact-based approach by simply presenting the data, namely, the actual contents of the controversial parts that the opposing parents abhorred. However, the speaker chose to adopt a condescending attitude by asking for a show of hands from those who have actually read the curriculum, not some interpretations. An overwhelming majority of parents raised their hands, showing that these parents were not ill-informed. Most of them were not born in Canada and spoke English with an accent. However, thanks to immigration policy adopted by the Federal government, which placed education as a high priority, these new Canadians are elites in their Country of origin and possessed a high level of skills in research and critical thinking. They spent hours going through the entire curriculum, researched the relevant criminal codes, and conducted extensive research on comprehensive sex education in other provinces and US jurisdictions. Their presentation was highly informative, reasonable, supported by data and research materials. To call them as ill-informed and misled is simply an insult.
Myth 2: They are against Sex Ed and against updating Sex Ed.
Fact 2: In the Forum, many speakers who spoke in support of the government’s curriculum spend a great deal of time, either from personal experience as educator, as sexual health nurse, or as researcher, to support the notion that Sex Ed is necessary and critical to our youth’s well-being. Their assumption is that parents are all reluctant to talk to their children about sex and that the school must step in to fill in the void. This assumption underpinned much of comprehensive sex education for decades. However, the parents who were present in the forum presented a fundamental challenge to this long-held assumption. Most of these parents were born in the 70s, 80s, even early 90s, children who basically grew up in the front of the computer, internet, and were the first adaptors of communication technologies. They expressed again and again that they were ready to talk to children about sex, according to their own religion, values and worldviews. They were not against sex education or updating the Sex Ed curriculum. Their objection was against the value system and the materials presented in the 2015 revision.
Myth 3: The movement was orchestrated by the Conservatives
Fact 3: Numerous news organizations branded the April 14 protest as orchestrated by the Conservatives or Conservative organizations. While it was true that several Progressive Conservative MPPs spoke at the rally on April 14, and some of the people in the movement may be members of the Conservative Party, provincial or Federal, it is totally untrue to call the protest movement a Conservatives-orchestrated movement. The movement was born shortly after the 2015 revised Sex Ed curriculum was released in late February. Many members of the organizing committee were previously not involved in politics. They were motivated by real concerns for their children after studying the curriculum in details. Seeing some members of the Conservatives present in the movement and then drawing the conclusion that it is a Conservative-orchestrated movement is a clear sign of a logical fallacy.
Myth 4: The movement is irrational and filled with anger
Fact 4: Yes, there is anger, but not from irrational fears or manipulations. The movement studied the curriculum carefully and decided to oppose. It was a very rational process. They were angry because they felt betrayed, ridiculed, and ignored by the government. In 2010, when then Premier Dalton McGinty pulled the 2010 revision, he promised to do a better job in consulting the parents. In November 2014, instead of doing a thorough consultation process, the government announced that only 4000 parents would participate in a survey, without even releasing the contents of the curriculum. In late February, 2015, the government released the 2015 revised curriculum and announced that it will be implemented in September, without bothering to release the result of the so-called survey of 4000. This is definitely not consultation, and the parents have a right to be angry about the process. Their anger was further fuelled by the condescending tone in the government’s presentation of the new curriculum.
Myth 5: It is impossible to let every parent be part of the consultation process
Fact 5: In this day and age, it is definitely possible to allow all parents to participate in a province wide consultation process on this curriculum. Taking a cue from the Toronto Casino consultation, the provincial government should develop a website that allows all parents to comment on specifics of the curriculum. Numerous town hall meetings in major cities throughout the province can be held to solicit inputs from parents. A panel chaired by a respected individual, e.g. a retired judge, would then compile the inputs and then release a report. Parents or representatives of parent organization should be given seats in this panel. Then the Ministry of Education should finalize the curriculum based on the report. There is no reason why this process cannot be completed within a year.
The government should stop evading the issue, which will not go away, simply because it is education, a day-to-day concerns parents must deal with. The government cannot continue to ignore the concerns, which are very real, and should start engage the parents as partners.