Saturday, January 12, 2019

Ontario, and indeed all decent public school systems, have an obligation to challenge homophobia with an inclusive curriculum

The ongoing legal fight in Ontario over Doug Ford's decision to placate a small group of social conservative extremists hellbent on denying a safe environment for LGBTQ kids in our public schools grabbed our attention this week. 

I'm proud of the parents, activists and groups who are leading this legal charge to return the modernized curriculum to our classrooms. 

This great article by Martin Regg Cohn sums up the situation nicely, putting it in full context. 

It's not enough for these conservative folks fighting the modern curriculum that they have always had the ability to remove their kids from sex education public school lessons (even though in my mind their kids most certainly need to learn them considering the backwards homes they are growing up in.)  I can only think of the lasting damage caused to any unfortunate, lonely LGBTQ kids living in those homes by their parents' actions.

Yes it is important to protect kids from abuse, both in their homes and their schools.  I firmly support the ability of greater society to create inclusive and healthy public school environments for all of us.    

When I was a kid growing up, I was luckily in a family not too conservative.  My family was fairly typical for the time period of the 1980s and 1990s.  Since I came out of the closet to them all, our family situation has been pretty great, glad to say.

But high school was an awful experience, trying to survive amid the hotbed of homophobia that was mainstream back then.  Social isolation was the rule of the day.  Suicide was contemplated on occasion, but somehow I made it through without ever trying.  Perhaps the faint hope of some kind of future as a gay adult kept me alive.  Yet there was, of course, barely any mention of LGBT lives in my classrooms.  Homosexuality came up on occasion.  Most students were hostile to gay folk.  Teachers, on the other hand, never indoctrinated or perpetuated ignorance or discrimination, even in my Catholic school environment.

Yet overall, the environment was hostile with the threat of social isolation constant.  I always knew that our schools and indeed our curriculum urgently needed to take proactive action to challenge rampant homophobia.  A few visits to public schools in decades since, with the frequent casual use of "gay" and "fag" and "dyke" overheard in hallways, reinforced this need.  We know bullying remains a crisis in our schools.  Not to mention the various new issues kids are now facing.  

Finally in 2015, the curriculum was updated and, among other advancements, mentions of LGBTQ people were added.  It was long overdue.

This is why I'm so angry about what Doug Ford and the Ontario PCs have done.  They have bowed to bigotry and ignorance.  By reverting to the old curriculum which erases LGBTQ people from any official mention, then threatening teachers with a snitch website, the message was clear.   It matters not that months later Crown prosecutors are backtracking, claiming teachers still have the right to use the 2015 curriculum as a resource.

Shame on Doug Ford and the conservatives who have empowered him in this awful decision.  If this year's "consultation" simply returns most or all of the 2015 curriculum to our province's classrooms, then this process has been a sham.  But I have no trust in Ford or his colleagues to do the right thing.

Hence, why the court fight is crucial.  I hope the good side prevails.

No comments: