Musings —12.22.2011 11:08 AM—
Yesterday, Brian Lilley’s producer asked me to be on their show. I asked what the subject matter was. She indicated it was about a poll they’d had done, and a column I wrote on the weekend about sexual education in Ontario schools. I hadn’t written a column about sexual education in Ontario schools, but whatever. Send me the poll, I said. So she did.
The poll is seen here. All of the loaded questions it poses are grossly misleading. One, at page five, is factually incorrect. It states: “The teacher’s guide currently in use in Ontario instructs teachers to not alert parents when sensitive material may be raised in the classroom.”
That’s false. That’s more than false, actually: it’s a lie. I checked with the Ministry of Education. Here’s what the guide actually says, at page ten: “Sending a school newsletter home at the beginning of each term is a best practice for keeping parents/guardians/caregivers informed of all upcoming equity topics in the classroom without having to single out one topic over the other.”
So, when I tried to address that on Brian Lilley’s show, here’s what happened:
You can decide for yourself whether Brian, who says he is a free speech advocate, acted in a very free-speechy way. I don’t think he did.
Brian, however, isn’t the issue. The issue is that the questions in the poll are highly misleading or, in the one example cited above, unadulterated bullshit. There’s nothing in the Ontario curriculum that says not to notify parents when sensitive subjects come up. The reverse is true. And, what they are referring to (I think) is a Toronto District School Board guidebook. And that guidebook actually says it is the “best practice” to notify parents at the beginning of every term about all of the topics that are going to come up.
The other questions in the Abacus survey about sex ed are also based on misinformation, or worse: that’s because there is no such “proposal” on the table, full stop. The proposed changes came out 2 years ago, and were sent back to the drawing board by the Premier himself. There is no current proposal to change the curriculum, so it’s status quo from the 1998 curriculum – a curriculum developed, by the by, under the government of Mike Harris and Tim Hudak. If anything, the Abacus polling perhaps shows that Dalton McGuinty understood and was in sync with the public mood two years ago when he sent the proposal back.
Let’s say that again, without my mic being cut off this time: the sex ed curriculum being taught in our schools is the same one put in place by the Harris government in 1998. The point of the curriculum is to make sure kids can identify the parts of their own body (i.e. so if someone is molested they can identify to their teacher or police where they were touched), to have a healthy self image, and to understand in later grades that while abstinence is best, there are very real consequences to unsafe and unprotected sex. It would be irresponsible not to talk to students about this stuff. It would be insane.
But what is really going here? Let’s put it all on the table. What the McGuinty government (and every government, irrespective of partisan stripe) is targeting is bullying. As parents and leaders, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to make all of our schools accepting places. That means accepting of everyone – gay kids included.
Now, as soon as you say that, you get the Far Right SoCon kooks up in arms, as has recently happened in Ontario. They’ll always try to push whatever button they can to scare people. We saw that in the Ontario election campaign, when Hudak – despicably, falsely – tried to scare people about cross dressing six year olds. It’s a lie.
Personally, I think Ontarians can be proud that their government, and their Premier, is saying enough is enough. We’re not putting up with it anymore. Our kids are not putting up with it anymore. And we’re not going to let anyone – Brian Lilley included – make them feel like they deserve any less than any other kid.
Now, go ahead and cut my mic off. I’ve said what I wanted to say.
UPDATE: Longtime TV broadcaster (and former Conservative staffer and candidate) Jordi Morgan weighs in: