Thursday, September 22, 2016

Is there no room for reasonable accommodation on Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum?

Yesterday I wrote about Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown losing the support of some of his party’s social conservatives over his position on a couple of defining issues. The examples I used were his flip-flop-double-cross on Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum and his decision to support putting a price on carbon.

These issues, at least in part, define who is and who is not a conservative. Not that all conservatives disagree with the new sex-ed curriculum or with some sort of price on carbon whether through a cap-and-trade mechanism or via direct taxation. After all, conservatives like progressives have a wide range of opinions on these subjects, some of which are quite nuanced. I believe it’s safe to say, however, that most conservatives have strong reservations about both issues.

Today, I’ll say a few words about Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum and tomorrow I’ll give my views on pricing carbon.

Regarding the sex-ed curriculum, most small “c” conservatives believe parents are the ones with primary responsibility for deciding the appropriateness of sex and gender identity-related material  taught to their children, and especially to young children. Their greatest concern seems to be centred around the age-appropriateness of the topics covered in the curriculum. And what’s so objectionable about that, especially when the curriculum itself seems to recognize this fact? The Health and Physical Education curriculum states:

Parents are the primary educators of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behaviour, and ethnocultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs and traditions, and they are their children’s first role models.”

Given that statement, why is this controversial curriculum being forced on so many families who fundamentally object to their children being exposed to it? Why not provide the sex-ed portion of the Health and Physical Education curriculum on a volunteer basis to children of parents who feel they need help in communicating this information to their children?

I’ve read the 244-page curriculum—or, at least, scanned the Grade 1–8 document with some care—and neither find it so egregious as many of its opponents do, nor as innocent and appropriate as its proponents.

There are sections that I question, however. Like the insistence of formally introducing six-year-olds to the correct, clinical names for human genitalia. This from a society that routinely refers to one another online as “assholes,” and peppers social media communications with four-letter references to human feces and to the act of sexual intercourse?

Are we so intellectually arrogant and self-righteous we cannot see how this could be considered age-inappropriate by many of our fellow citizens? Six year old girls are still playing with dolls, for God’s sake. Dolls, by the way, that we—mainstream  society—can’t even bring ourselves to produce with intact genitalia.

What about the concept of gender identity being introduced to eight-year-olds. At that age this is as likely, isn’t it, to be gender confusion or gender dysphoria that should be handled by a medical professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist, and not an elementary school teacher.

If a parent were to inform his or her family doctor of an eight-year-old child who seemed to be confused about their gender, to whom is the doctor most likely to recommend the child be referred, a specialist like a psychologist or psychiatrist or the child’s elementary school teacher? I’ll put my money on the former.

I must say also that I can quite see why some of my neighbours would be concerned with the fact teachers are introducing, discussing—at times almost seeming to be encouraging—the concept of romantic dating with nine-year-old children, masturbation with eleven-year-olds, and anal and oral sex with twelve-year-olds. This, along with normalizing homosexual lifestyles, is extremely difficult for many people of faith who adhere to a religious tradition or doctrine that teaches that certain of these practices are immoral.

The curriculum was pushed out to schools on a like-it-or-lump-it basis with minimum consultation, even after being withdrawn in 2010 (?) because it was so controversial.

I find it very hard to reconcile this blatant insensitivity towards what so many consider to be Christian values, practices and beliefs with today’s mainstream society’s sensitivity towards the religious practices of those non-Christians among us.

Christians, it seems, are expected to change in step with the times. Non-Christians, though, are encouraged to cling to old religious traditions and cultural practices—even when they contradict directly the Charter Rights of, for example, equality for women because, apparently, we are so enriched by the diversity of multiculturalism.

Now, I am not religious—not even slightly or nominally so—but I am a conservative and I believe in slow-as-we-go social change and respect for the values and traditions that got Canada to where she is today: a first-rate nation and a wonderful place to live and raise a family. Surly we owe to those who hold fast to our traditional values and beliefs—even those some of us may find outdated—as much sensitivity and reasonable religious accommodation as we extend to newcomers.

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