Dear Premier McGuinty:
That didn’t take long.
Apparently, the threat of an ultra-right Conservative Christian was enough to have the Ontario Liberal government pull the updated physical and health education curriculum this afternoon.
It’s left you looking like you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth. On the one hand, in this morning’s Metro, you spoke clearly on not letting Catholic schools weasel out of teaching the new curriculum:
If parents are uncomfortable with certain aspects of this new curriculum, they can and they are free to withdraw their children from the classroom.
Hours later, while announcing your sudden change of heart, you said:
For most parents, it came out of nowhere. They are obviously not comfortable with the proposal we put forward.
Make up your mind, Mr. Premier. Either you stand behind your assertion that parents who are challenged by the content are free to excuse their children, or you don’t. The flip-flop move you’ve made has left those parents who SUPPORTED the changes in a situation of grave disappointment.
In their press release, the AIDS Committee of Toronto referred today to a 2003 study in which 2/3 of Grade 7 students and 1/2 of Grade 9 students thought there was a cure for AIDS. The curriculum you shelved would have addressed this dangerous myth accurately and possibly led to a decrease in new infections in Ontario over the next 5-10 years.
The earlier normalization of a spectrum related to sexual orientation and gender identity combined with an effective anti-bullying campaign could have led to a dramatic decrease in risk-taking behaviours (unprotected sex, substance use, suicide attempts/successes) by young people who continue to be marginalized by their communities for their differences, or who have hidden in the deepest parts of the closet out of fear of what would happen if others knew.
You had the opportunity to be a leader, Mr. Premier – your government was poised on the edge of implementing some amazing programming that would have reduced the risks of all kinds of issues related to sexuality: by teaching every first grade child how to accurately name ALL of their body parts, you would have been equipping children with tools that might keep themselves just a little bit safer from sexual predators. You had the opportunity to reassure a third-grade student that her life with her two moms or two dads was visible and acceptable and acknowledged. You would have given that child feelings of legitimacy that she’s not systemically getting right now. You would have given another child the awareness that while uncommon, it’s okay to feel like that child’s insides don’t match the outside, which would reassure that child that s/he isn’t alone in having these feelings.
You could have opened a forum for middle-school-aged children to ask the questions they can’t ask their parents. You could literally have made your province a safer and healthier place.
Instead, Mr. Premier, you chose to fold in the face of controversy. Rather than stand tall and discuss sex education as a provincial public health issue, you fell back on the morality argument. What’s next, Mr. Premier? A re-evaluation of the science curriculum? An analysis of the potentially problematic themes taught in language arts? A return to faith-based instruction (and let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that such instruction would be anything other than some brand of Christian) through all public schools?
I was really angry this afternoon when you changed your mind, Mr. Premier. Now, I’m just disappointed.
With appropriate regard,