Ontario’s most extensive consultation on education is ongoing and Ford’s repeated campaign promise on education reform has left the province divided, polarizing constituents on topics ranging from a new “age-appropriate” Health and Physical Education Curriculum to the first ever Parents’ Bill of Rights.
As of September 2018, 72,000 people were engaged through online surveys, telephone town halls, and open submission forms. The initial reactions proved to be mixed and across the board.
With the consultation’s wide scope downplayed—to the detriment of giving it a fair hearing—allegations that the first 1,600 engagements were hijacked by proponents of the modern sex-ed curriculum have done little to assuage concerns regarding the consultation.
Despite the Ford Administration’s call to remove gender identity from the sex-ed curriculum, its inclusion remains less contested than the former is letting on, given the majority of respondents advocate on its behalf.
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According to Andrea Horwath, Leader of Ontario’s Official Opposition, the PC’s rewriting of the said curriculum manifested to “appease a vocal minority of radical social conservatives.”
According to the National Observer, Tanya Granic Allen was vital in securing Ford the PC leadership nomination over Christine Elliott, the now deputy premier and health minister, begging the question—was the curriculum rollback done to repay social conservatives for their backing of Ford in the PC leadership race?
Was it included merely to manufacture a crisis, or, to raise awareness on the problems with expanding rights of educators in the Teachers’ Union?
Maybe, maybe not.
By instituting what some have called an anonymous “snitch line” for concerned parents, Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, believes “manufacturing a crisis” at the expense of prioritizing issues like budget cuts to education is “counter-productive.” By extension, his denouncement of Ford’s “intimidation tactics” spells disaster for the already strained relations between the union and the government.
Moreover, the inclusion of topics like gender identity—premised on the notion of placating to feelings rather than biological realities—serves as a means for educators to “sow divisions for their own political ends, which the likes of Alberta’s Education Minister, David Eggen, have openly criticized Ford for doing.
Whether we agree with the theory of gender identity or not is a separate issue altogether.
What lies at the crux of this debate is a matter of who we can trust to remain accountable to Ontario families, in protecting the most vulnerable parts of the population—our children. Depending on the ideology one subscribes to, the answer to that may vary.
Do we promote the sovereignty of the individual or that of the family unit?
I say why not both?
To social conservatives, Ford upheld his campaign slogan in “Promises made, promises kept,” while progressives were quick to point out Ford’s supposed marginalization of sexual minorities and families fostering LGBT individuals. Said groups have since come out, stating the changes prove “devastating…for a child’s mental and physical health [in being] denied information, empowerment and a safe space.”
However, to conflate greater accountability with abuse of any sort is “counter-productive” to say the least. No one is opposed to children holding the right to a safe learning environment, and if they are—shame on them. Instead, the administration is calling for parents to maintain a more significant presence in their child’s education, for the benefit of the child. And to progressives, I ask you this—what threat does the average Canadian family pose to their children?
Lumping the average family with that of the extremes (i.e., physically abusive families)—and no, social conservatism is not a synonym for right-wing extremism or a euphemism for the physically abusive—it does a disservice to those with valid concerns that ultimately fall on deaf ears.
For the record, I am not a social conservative; however, there are ideological overlaps. One such overlap between myself—an avid Burkean conservative—and that of social conservatism is that our self-interests lie in bettering society through uplifting the family unit.
We seek to remind our children’s educators they are not their providers. Instead, they are mere purveyors of knowledge—not ideology. Sometimes, the two overlap; however, what often differentiates between the two in our hyperpolarized environment is the intent.
While knowledge has the power to educate, inspire, and shape our understanding of the world around us, ideology has the self-destructive capacity to misguide, blind, and attempt to pass opinion for the truth.
Unfortunately, we live in a time where the offensiveness of objective fact sometimes prevents us from uttering said fact. Thus, our desire to pass on certain knowledge dwindles as we cater to feelings, rather than shaping the minds of tomorrow.
As such, there is a case to be made for a Parents’ Bill of Rights, where its proposed Public Interest Committee seeks to hold educators accountable while reaching out to parents as to the contents of said Bill.
However, little has been done to convince Hammond of its viability, as he believes it stands to undermine accountability measures already in place.
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