McGuinty reversal ignores the realities of today’s families
Today, one of the province's biggest groups for queer parents — the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) Parenting Network — added its voice to the growing list of groups who support the 2010 Ontario sexual health curriculum.
On April 22, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty caved to two days of pressure from Charles McVety and other members of the Christian right who opposed the new curriculum, which would have rolled out in September. It spelled out more thoroughly teachers' obligations to teach sexual health (in upper grades) and diversity (in lower grades).
"The families that felt included in the new curriculum are not the families being listened to," says Rachel Epstein, the group's coordinator.
The LGBTQ Parenting Network, which is run through the Sherbourne Health Centre, conducted interviews with children and youth about their experiences in school. She says that many reported feeling more social pressure during elementary school than in upper grades. Those findings highlight the need for age-appropriate discussions of differing families “from the earliest stages."
"What I would have liked to have seen is different families and sexualities and gender identities embedded in all curriculum — and in daily practices," she says.
Yesterday, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario and the AIDS Committee of Toronto both endorsed the 2010 curriculum update.
The 2010 update was quite mild, as The Globe and Mail pointed out. Here is the full text of the impugned Grade 3 curriculum about "human development and sexual health":
C3.3 describe how physical differences (eg skin, hair and eye colour, facial features, body size and shape, physical aids or different physical abilities, clothing, possessions) and invisible differences (eg learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others.
Teacher prompt: "Sometimes we are different in ways you can see. Sometimes we are different in ways you cannot see — such as how we learn, what we think, and what we are able to do. Give me some examples of things that make each person unique."
Student: "We all come from different families. Some students live with two parents. Some live with one parent. Some have two mothers or two fathers. Some live with grandparents or caregivers. We may come from different cultures. We also have different talents and abilities and different things we find difficult to do."
Teacher: "How can you be a role model and show respect for differences in other people?"