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Gay Marriage is Legal Everywhere in Canada; Except Ontario's Classrooms.

Have you had the experience where you read the headline of an article and it is horrifying and shocking, but then you read the article and realize it isn’t really all that bad? The absolute opposite is true if you read:

This article has a title that is interesting enough that I read it, but reading it is a surreal and remarkably unpleasant experience. They say ignorance is bliss for a damn good reason. I am now stuck with the knowledge in my brain that the entire grade school population in Ontario is being deprived of an education.

Ok, they are likely still learning to read and write, and there is probably some math, science, social studies and maybe even some art, music and physical education going on, but they are not being taught about their bodies, their rights or how to stay safe.

Doug Ford’s government as we all know, values beer, but they do not value the last 20 years of forward movement that has been made in Canada’s LGBTQ+ community. This provincial government is trying to force teachers to teach a curriculum that was written 6 years before gay marriage became legal in Canada. We have made many positive gains in those years, but even at that time the curriculum was behind the times. In 1996 (two years before the sex ed curriculum that Ontario is using was written) the Canadian Humans Rights Act was ammended to protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimmination. Wait a minute, if the LGBTQ+ population is protected from discimmination, does that not mean that we should be represented within the school community? Is it not discrimmination to tell teachers that they are not allowed to teach sexual orientation or gay marriage? Does Doug Ford’s government think that this will stop the spread of gayness in our schools? Or is it simply designed to keep those kids who identify outside of hetrosexual culture, ashamed and silent? What about the children whose parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents are gay? Ontario is no longer interested in having those children accept or understand their families. Showing up to a parade once a year is not enough. People who identify as LGBTQ+ make a part of the school community every single day of the year.

The LGTBQ+ piece of this step backwards is heart-wrenching as both an educator who has watched students wrestling with their sexuality and also as a member of this community, but it is no less heart-wrenching than the other pieces that are omitted from the curriculum.

Teachers in Ontario are not allowed to teach students about how to keep themselves safe on the Internet. Perhaps in 1998 there wasn’t a lot of danger on the Internet, maybe there wasn’t enough public use of the Internet for luring, sexting or bullying to be a real problem facing the average Ontario student. Does the Ontario government have a magic spell that’ll work with it’s time warp curriculum to somehow keep kids safe from the actual dangers of the Internet in 2019? Why does the government of Canada have a web page about child exploitation on the Internet if this is not something that children need to be taught to guard against.

In all of this insanity, what possibly upsets me the most, is that teachers are not allowed to teach consent. Think about that. Not allowed to teach consent! Sexual assault is defined as sexual contact with another person without that other person's consent, the Canadian Department of Justice has an entire page dedicated to understanding what consent means in the face of sexual assault, , but the students all the way up until grade 12 in Ontario, are not allowed to be taught what it means to give or receive consent. (If you haven’t already read my blog on teaching consent, you can do that here ) At a time where the #MeToo movement has spread from North America to 85 countries world wide, where women are raising their voices to speak out about injustices that have previously gone unseen. Students in Ontario, Canada are being deprieved of information that can help them understand and protect their own rights and their own bodies.

In a move worthy of the McCarthy era, there is even a Snitch Line set up by the Ontario government so that parents can tell on teachers if they think that teachers are trying to move their children beyond 1998. Nothing like creating distrust and tension within the community designed to support our students.

Please, if you do anything this week, let Rob Ford know what you think of trying to force teachers to do a disservice to their students by holding on to a curriculum that is older than any of the students they teach.

Even if you are not from Ontario, common sense knows no borders, don’t let fear and ignorance be the basis of our children’s education.

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