By Jonathon Van Maren
Last week Friday, Ontario Minister of Education Lisa Thompson announced some of the much-anticipated changes to the provincial curriculum, and as expected, there is good news and bad news. Minister Thompson specifically addressed many of the concerns voiced by parents about the existing Wynne curriculum, as well as noting changes to the sex-ed portion that had caused so much anger (and even protest.) For starters, Minister Thompson articulated the belief of the Ford government that parents are the primary educators of their children, offered her assurance that the completed curriculum would be provided to parents, and stated that after viewing it they would have the “opt-out” option of pulling their children from any lessons that they deem to be inappropriate.
It is important to take specific note of this, because although there are some disappointments here as well—the inclusion of gender ideology, for example, although the Ford government is pushing that material from grade three to grade eight, which is a definite improvement—the Ford government is also placing the responsibility directly in the hands of parents. The opt-out option and the provision of the curriculum to parents means that no child should be exposed to materials that parents find inappropriate as long as parents take the time to do their research, be vigilant, and ensure that they are in charge of the education their children are receiving. The Ford government has removed any excuse parents have for outsourcing the education of their children on these matters, and with the opt-out option has essentially placed the responsibility in their laps—just as they requested.
Additionally, the new curriculum involves a number of essential components that are very encouraging. There is a focus on safety surrounding social media and the internet, and it appears that sex trafficking, pornography, and protection from “online luring” will also be covered in a productive way (the initial announcement has not given us much in the way of details). In our digital age the dangers children are exposed to have multiplied rapidly, and any curriculum that purports to cover sexual matters without addressing these key points (as Kathleen Wynne’s curriculum did) is an obviously insufficient and ideologically motivated document. Additionally, the Ford government has raised the age the children will be exposed to most sexual matters, reversing the Wynne standard of teaching children many sexual concepts at a very young age. This comes in direct response to parental complaints.
This is what happens when social conservatives get involved in politics. While we are justifiably disappointed that the curriculum did not get the entire makeover it needed, politics is the art of the possible, and it is obvious that if social conservatives had not been an essential part of Doug Ford’s coalition, the curriculum would have been far, far worse. Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff, who was present at the Education Minister’s announcement, was consulted all the way through the revamping process, and his voice undoubtedly resulted in some of the very positive changes we have already seen in this initial announcement. This should encourage every social conservative who has been involved in the political process, and should encourage others to get involved.
While it is obviously important not to take our eyes off the ball, it is also important that we recognize where we have made a difference. If social conservatives refuse to accept concessions as concessions and decline to view any shift in our direction as a victory, we will simply discourage and disenfranchise social conservatives from the political arena. So while we recognize that this curriculum is far from perfect, we also recognize that it is a far cry from the curriculum implemented by Premier Kathleen Wynne—and that none of these changes would have come in under a Premier Patrick Brown (from whom we were thankfully spared.) To tell social conservatives that their hard work in the political arena has come to nothing is counterproductive as well as simply false.
It should also be noted here that it is unrealistic to expect the sex-ed curriculum in a secular, post-Christian system to reflect Christian values. The only reason that so many concessions were achieved in the first place is because many other religious groups—Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims, for example—also hold more traditional views on sexual matters. But if parents truly want their children to receive a Christian education, then they must realize that they will never be able to completely reform the provincial system. Instead, they should simply pull their kids out of the public school and send their kids to a Christian school (or homeschool) while still working hard in the political arena. This route is obviously far more of a sacrifice. But in today’s post-Christian culture, it is a necessary one.
A final comment on the disappointing aspect of the initial announcement of the curriculum. As mentioned earlier, gender ideology will still be taught in Ontario’s public schools. We don’t yet know how the subject will be approached, but this concession is especially unfortunate because it is both dangerous and unnecessary. With rates of “trans kids” spiking in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain (the government is actually investigating when rates soared 4000%), it is obvious that these concepts are spreading like a social contagion, and kids are being permanently harmed as a result. Additionally, public opinion has not yet shifted on the fundamentals of gender ideology—the idea that men can get pregnant, for example, or that women can have penises—like it has on same-sex marriage. Thus, the Ford government’s decision to buckle on this is simply an act of cowardice undertaken to dodge accusations of being “transphobic,” despite the fact that the majority of voters would support a well-articulated decision to leave such material out.
So there’s good news and bad news. Ultimately, however, the Ford government has placed the responsibility for the education of children into the hands of Ontario’s parents. That is precisely what social conservatives asked for, and it is precisely what has been delivered. It is now up to parents to ensure that their children are not exposed to dangerous or inappropriate material, and we can be hopeful that other aspects of the curriculum (such as those regarding Internet safety) will be genuinely helpful.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.