Religious educators hit a new low - Macleans.ca
 

Religious educators hit a new low

Teachers at Canada’s Christian universities can prove their open-mindedness by denouncing Ontario’s anti-gay right-wing evangelists.


 

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did an about-face today on Ontario’s new sexual education guidelines. McGuinty called for a “rethink” (apparently English words like “review” or “reconsideration” are too tricky for the Premier) after parents and religious groups objected.

Let’s take parents first. McGuinty’s suggestion that parents should be more “comfortable” with the changes demonstrate precisely what has gone wrong with public education in Canada. It’s paid for by the public; it should be for the public benefit. The customers of the Ontario public education system are not the parents of students, but rather the general population. No wonder educators have become so weak-kneed about holding kids to high standards: like the children they teach, they are cowed by Mom and Dad.

Worse still is that McGuinty seems to have backtracked at least in part because religious leaders denounced the new policy. Some objections were simply foolish, like this one from Muslim education leader Suad Aimad:

We believe basically that sex education may be taught by the parents to their children. It’s not public, it’s a private matter and that’s why I don’t think [sex] should be part of education, especially at such a young age.

No sex ed at a young age and preferably not at all? Absurd. And of course sex is a public matter: did Aimad miss the debates over gay marriage? Or the debates of the age of consent? Or the polygamy debates stirred by the community in Bountiful?

Other religious extremists went beyond nonsense and moved right on to attack. Christian evangelist Charles McVety had this to say about children learning about sexual orientation:

This is so confusing to an eight-year-old … these are children in the strongest sense of the word — they’re innocent, they’re clean, they’re beautiful — and to corrupt them by imparting a question of gender identity is beyond the pale.

No, Dr McVety, what is confusing is growing up feeling one thing and being given the impression that it doesn’t exist, or worse, feeling natural urges that are condemned by men like you.

What is beyond the pale is that McVety, the president of Canada Christian College, has publicly suggested that understanding the diversity of sexual orientation is a corruption of natural innocence. Even learning about what it means to be gay will warp the beautiful little minds of Ontario children? Children must be saved from such unclean knowledge? His remarks are vicious, and they should be condemned as such. Oh, and in case you think his remarks have been taken out of context, you can read a fuller statement, in which McVety calls education on sexual diversity “evil” here.

When I criticized religious education in the past, readers came swarming to tell me that I was presenting a caricatured view of religious educators as narrow-minded. Well, here is a chance for those same readers to prove it. I am calling on all religious educators in Canada to denounce the comments of Dr McVety, to denounce his “Stop Corrupting Children” campaign, and to call for his resignation.


 

Religious educators hit a new low

  1. I feel I should just point out that ‘rethink’ IS a word.
    It’s a very common word, too. Just in case you didn’t notice.

    Oh, but everything else I agree with.

  2. Todd, I keep checking back, hoping that one day you will actually define what “the public good” or “the public benefit” is, in unambiguous, non-circular, rigorously rational terms.

    After all, since it is this “public good” you keep castigating others for violating, shouldn’t you at least be kind enough to let them know what it is?

  3. I disagree; I think that sex is a private matter. Certainly we need definitions of marriage and civil unions for the taxman, etc. as well as criminal law for sexual crimes, however sex remains a personal and private matter which should be taught to children in the first instance by their parents and as a last resort by teachers in school. Graphic instruction manuals and indoctrination into liberal mores are not necessary however, and certainly sex ed in schools needs to be age-appropriate.

  4. Actually, sex ed is a public matter, but I would disagree with Todd’s reasons why.

    Sex ed is a public matter because if your child catches an STD because you didn’t teach them about safe sex, then who pays for that? The taxpayer.

    If your child gets pregnant and has an abortion because nobody taught them about birth control, who pays for that? The taxpayer.

    If your child gets pregnant and gives the child up for adoption, who pays for the pregnancy care? The taxpayer?

    If your child gets pregnant and ends up on welfare raising the kid, who pays for that? The taxpayer.

    If your child contracts HIV because nobody explained to him/her that anal sex is actually MORE dangerous that vaginal sex, who pays for that? That taxpayer…for a really LOOONG time.

    Sorry. I’m not going to sit around hoping that parents grow enough balls to teach their kids sexual information that many of them know nothing about themselves. We’ve tried that method already, and foster homes are full of messed up unwanted kids.

    If parent’s want to do their own teaching of sex ed, parents can bear the full cost and responsibility if their kid does something stupid.

  5. Parents can teach their children as little or as much about sex as they want. However, I hope that the Ontario Government keeps to its plans to ensure children have accurate and useful information when they need it, instead of relying solely on parents, siblings, friends, older students, peers, television, various internet sites, and trial and error, all of which are still available to the child, to learn about basic personal biology and identity.

    The sad thing is, often this information arrives in a child’s consciousness in less than kind and often unchosen ways; through teasing, name calling, sexual explicatives, bullying, peer pressure, peer envy, social advantage gained from being the cool experienced in-the-know kid, and titilating or shocking media such as advertisment, magazines, books, radio, television, film, and video games.

    What parent wouldn’t want sex education taught to their children in a safe, factual, infomative, thorough, and age appropriate manner?

  6. My parents never spoke to me about sex. Sex education didn’t start in my area until Junior High. It was when I started sex ed that I realized that I had been raped as a child by a person in authority, mostly because I didn’t fully understand what was happening, or what sex was. I felt it to be wrong, but I didn’t know WHY. After class, I knew why. But it took me 3 years to figure out how to stop it from happening over and over again.

    I remain firmly convinced that, had I been fully aware of what this man was trying to do to me, I would have run away immediately and told the nearest trustworthy adult (though at the time I thought HE was a trustworthy adult). Instead, my ignorance allowed him to manipulate me into thinking that I was the one who was doing something wrong, and that if I said anything to anyone, I would be the one who got in trouble.

    I can’t be the only kid this has happened to. How many other children out there are left to be abused because their parents are too conservative to tell them about sex? Sure, 8 years old is a young age to be learning about sex, but pedofiles don’t seem to care about that. In this case, knowledge is the best defense you could give them. How are boys supposed to understand what is happening to them when they get abused by male coaches, or priests, or other male authority figures, if they don’t know that sexual molestation can happen between two men as well as between a man and a woman? How is a child just coming into the age of sexual hormones supposed to understand their own urges?

    Sexual education is a PUBLIC MATTER. The safety of children should not be left to the vagaries of their parents’ belief systems. My parents still refuse to talk to me about anything even remotely connected to sex, and to this day still have no idea what exactly happened to me as a child because they don’t want to hear about it.

  7. You have to admit this was a great political move on the part of the Provincial Government.
    How do you cover up the fact you are having sex offenders return to classrooms just after the Graham James Pardon flar up…heck all you do is tell parents you are going to have their six year olds on how to pleasure themselves..
    How low have we gone.
    The Governmnet should start looking for solutions to problems and stop passing political gas to cover up the educational scandale of repeat sex offenders being allowed into classrooms.

  8. @Mature Student:

    You really don’t have to pay for other people’s risky behavior. You can begin the push for privatised healthcare and save your tax dollars but as the pro-choicers often say, the government should not tell me (or my child) what to do with their bodies.

    Sex is my own business. Besides, what is the place of sex education in the academic curriculum when Ontario kids can barely pass the literacy tests. Maybe you should all be spending all that stip pole dancing time to teach your kids how to read and think critically.

    Now I really don’t mind them making the sex ed thing a matter of chocie. I just don’t think its in the government’s place to compel it as there are barely any external costs to “comprehensive” sex ed and seeing as we can’t agree on what that even means, we might as well leave to a market situation of some sort….or is Canada too wuss to consider even that?

  9. @E Aboyeji,
    I’m confused. How does sex ed constitute the government telling you or your child what to do with their bodies?

    And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to advocate the dismantling of public health care just so you can carry on being an irresponsible parent without obligation to the taxpayer.

  10. My memory might be a little off, but with the exception of sexual orientation, much of the new sex ed curriculum in Ontario, particular for grades six and seven is pretty much what I was taught in Manitoba.

  11. Let me see if I understand this correctly…

    So, because of a belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree… Kids shouldn’t learn about sex.

    Right. That makes sense.

  12. It is all well and good to say that sex is a private matter and should be taught by parents but the fact remains that many parents simply don’t provide their children with the required information to be safe when they inevitably become sexually active. The sheer fact that myths such as ‘I can’t get pregnant the first time I have sex’ or ‘oral sex isn’t really sex’ still exist suggests very clearly there is a failure with parents to provide proper sex ed. In many cases the parents are not in any way qualified to teach their children about sex and can’t/won’t answer the multitude of questions their children have.

    We don’t leave the education of children in any other area to be left to the parents initiative. Why is sex ed. different? When there is a failure of parents to provide children with the required information then it very clearly falls to the state to step in and provide the required information. Especially given the fact, as previous commentators have clearly outlined, that a lack of understanding of sexual health costs taxpayers a lot of money. Unless E Aboyeji proposes completely dismantling the entire social safety net, sexual health is always going to have consequences for Canadian taxpayers.

  13. The Ontario government apparently failed to build consensus, went too far (more information to younger children), overstepping their bounds (failed to engage parents adequately in the process), realized it, and pulled back. There was apparently lack of consultation in the “two year consultative process.”

    Todd’s article is once again sub-optimal in laying out the facts fairly.

    A much more coherent and engaging argument is presented by Rossie DeManno in Toronto Star, who argues that more information at a younger age is what made people upset.

    Rossie writes:

    “It’s the age of the thing that elicited gasps of disapproval, and the spoon-fed doses of sexual enlightenment as prescribed by alleged education experts that rankles. Nearly every buttonholing interview of parents conducted by the media over the last three days turned up deep reservations about introducing 6-year-olds to sex, whether in the public or separate school system. These youngsters are still learning their ABCs and suddenly there’s a detour to the idiomatic Ps, corrected for proper terminology? Then, a mere two years later, we’d have those children instructed on “healthy relationships’’ and sexual orientation, subjects so complex that many adults would receive failing grades.

    Sex is not just another subject, like geography or civics, and it is never — despite what the ministry’s professional consultants would have us believe — value-neutral. That would be health education, a far different syllabus than the content promoted by this ambitious curriculum.

    Parents are rightly proprietary about their children and the morals they hope to nurture in them. In such a richly multicultural city, where so many families are immigrants and first-generation Canadians of diverse, often conservative faiths and cultures, it was demanding a great deal for parents to accept invasive sex instruction in the schools at complete variance with ethics taught at home.

    While many of us may disagree with some of those moral paradigms, we can’t compel others to change their personal views, or meekly hand us their very young children so that we can shape theirs.

    In its own way — and one could argue for utterly commendable reasons — the new sex education curriculum, as conceived, is just orthodoxy by other means. It pretends to be values neutral, indeed makes a virtue of this, while promulgating what is essentially an alternative moral code as defined by those who wrote the curriculum. Parents instinctively understood this.

    The proposed curriculum went well beyond instruction on body parts, prevention of disease and pregnancy and exploration of sexuality/orientation. Who, after all, defines a “healthy relationship?” I understand urging boys and girls to respect their own bodies but maybe my idea of a healthy relationship is distinctly at odds with prevalent opinion. Clearly, a lot of parents — although likely coming at it from the opposite end of the spectrum — had similar concerns.

    There is no such thing as sermon-free sex education in the hands of teachers rather than health professionals. This curriculum was simply dogma from a different gospel text.”

    • I find it sad, but not surprising that so far no religious educator has taken up my challenge to denounce the homophobia present in this case. Wes Janzen cites Rossi de Manno who makes the same point that religious zealots made in more genial language, but the point is the same: sex is bad, and gay sex is worse, and we can’t corrupt children with such filth.

      Such a view, is, to my mind, stupid and bigoted. We should not be surprised that it is a view long-supported by numerous religions.

  14. The “social safety net” has cost Ontario over $200 billion with a population of only 11 million. That means each Ontarian is carrying a debt load of $20,000. I don’t know how safe a social net like that is.

    So yes, I am in fact asking that you let families take control of their own lives and end the government’s ill fated foray into the business of private citizens.

  15. Rossi does not say that “sex is bad.”

    One would expect someone who apparently values reasoned and rational scholarship to give her a more careful read, and a more truthful summary.

  16. @E Aboyeji: Ask away, but good luck with that!

    By the way, the entire Ontario debt is 138 billion, not 200 billion, and that includes all spending–including the massive stimulus package–not just social programs. Plus, if scrapping health care is so good for the debt, how come US spending on health care is higher per capita than Canada’s?

    @Wes: Read between the lines, and that’s exactly what Rossi is saying.

    I quote: “Parents are rightly proprietary about their children and the morals they hope to nurture in them.”

    What is the point of this phrase but to imply that sex ed will tarnish children’s morals in some way?

    She also claims sex ed is not value neutral the way other subjects are, yet she offers no objective reasoning to support this claim.

    In fact, sex ed is completely value neutral UNLESS you find sex yucky, immoral or distasteful in some way. If you don’t, then discussing sex is about as uneventful as discussing the reproductive system of a frog.

    As an aside, I love how she describes healthy relationships and homosexuality as “subjects so complex that many adults would receive failing grades.”

    She’s right, of course. Many adults WOULD receive failing grades in these subjects, and that’s precisely why the school system needs to be teaching them and NOT parents.

  17. “Todd, I keep checking back, hoping that one day you will actually define what “the public good” or “the public benefit” is, in unambiguous, non-circular, rigorously rational terms.

    After all, since it is this “public good” you keep castigating others for violating, shouldn’t you at least be kind enough to let them know what it is?” Patrick wrote (above) on April 22

    Patrick, you ask a fair question. Any academic interested in meaningful debate (which appears to be lacking here) should be able to do this.

    MS:

    Is it necessary to read “between the lines” to find out “exactly” what a clear writer (such as Rossi in the Toronto Star) is saying? Her writing is concise and pointed.

    Thankfully, a vast majority of Canadian parents to not agree with MS’s opinion that “the school system needs to be teaching (kids) and NOT parents.”

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