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Disclosure: Tanya Granic Allen is the President of Parents as First Educators, and previously ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
A lot of fuss has been made about Doug Ford’s sex-ed curriculum reveal late last month. Frankly, I’m not buying what Doug Ford is selling on the sex-ed file because Doug Ford is peddling a lie.
Doug Ford campaigned to “repeal and replace” the Kathleen Wynne sex-ed. Ford appeared to agree with critics, even using gender identity theory as his foremost example as to what was wrong with the Wynne sex-ed. Ford mocked Wynne’s sex-ed curriculum during an interview in 2018, asking the interviewer: “Do you know how many genders there are?”
That was when Ford was looking for your vote. Things have changed. I have been warning Ontario parents since July 2018 that Ford was backsliding on his promise to repeal the Wynne sex-ed.
The final unveiling of Ford’s sex-ed, on August 21, 2019, confirmed the ominous clues of this past year: Ford wasn’t ever going to deliver on his promise. In the end, Doug Ford repealed exactly nothing. Doug Ford lied.
For once, the media, the Liberals, and I are on the same page: everything from Kathleen Wynne’s sex-ed is still there, including the unscientific gender theory. Nothing has changed.
Well, almost nothing. Ford boasts that there is an opt-out. That’s something new, right?
When you read the fine print, it turns out the opt-out is another Doug Ford bait-and-switch. Another lie.
Under previous governments, parents could always theoretically opt-out children from any class. The challenge facing parents, though, was getting advance notice of when the subject matter would be taught, so they would know when to pull their child out of that particular class. So, while there was a technical opt-out, there was no meaningful opt-out. If the parents had no notice they could not exercise their opt-out that day; it all boiled down to advance notice.
Surely, a reasonable solution to Ontario’s “sex-ed problem” – that is, how to reconcile the divisions that exist in Ontario with differing visions of what should be taught, and at what age, to the students attending our publicly funded schools – would be a meaningful opt-out, an opt-out that actually works.
A meaningful opt-out would be one where “sex-ed” classes would be restricted to a few well-advertised classes, where parents would receive notice and thus retain the ability to exercise their natural rights as parents to remove their children from those classes. It’s like when a teacher plans a field trip. Such trips are scheduled in advance for a specific date, notice is given, and parents can decide whether or not to send their child.
But for almost the entire Liberal era (2003-2018) there were reports of “rogue” teachers imparting their own views and lessons on “sex-ed”, teaching all sorts of inappropriate material throughout the school year and not just on the designated “sex-ed” days.
This occurred not only in health class, but in other classes too including social studies and English, and even math class. Under the Liberals, the Ontario government showed no appetite to rein in these renegade teachers and their ideologically driven, unscientific, and increasingly neo-Marxist agenda.
When running for Ontario PC leader, Doug Ford derisively described all of this as “Liberal ideology”. I agree with Ford on this, at least the February 2018 version of Doug Ford.
As Premier, Ford could have retained a minimalist sex-ed curriculum, mostly free of “liberal ideology”, and restricted its teaching to a few well-publicized days. For parents who were not comfortable with even this minimal sex-ed, the notice provided to them and the right to opt-out would have allowed them to keep their children home that day.
When it comes to sex-ed, this is the only way a meaningful opt-out could possibly work. But through either malice or incompetence, the Ford government set up their “opt-out” to fail.
Last autumn, the Ford government was taken to court by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), and others, who charged that the government’s promise to “repeal” the Wynne sex-ed curriculum had “a chilling effect on teachers’ abilities to teach the curriculum in an equitable, diverse and inclusive way”. The ETFO lawyers argued that the government had denied teachers the ability to teach topics – like gender identity – to children in the classroom.
The government eventually won the court case because their legal strategy employed a full retreat from the spirit of its own “repeal” promise and a total surrender on the principle that the government should determine what is actually taught in Ontario’s classrooms.
Let me explain. The government’s lawyers argued, with the assistance of testimony from the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, Martin Beckett, that Ontario teachers could teach anything they wished, at any grade, in any subject, using any materials they chose.
The only restriction was that teachers couldn’t formally examine children on a specific topic until it appeared in the curriculum as a testable grade expectation. For example, a teacher could teach “gender identity theory” to little children in Grade one, and in any subject area (say, in mathematics and social studies) but the student wouldn’t be tested on the material until the designated grade (say, Grade eight).
So where the Wynne government cheerfully tolerated the rogue teacher and her antics, the Ford government actually gave the rogue teacher – and any teacher for that matter – the explicit “right” to teach whatever they like, throughout the school year, and at any grade. Teachers now have carte blanche to peddle the latest and craziest theory of the month, and with the blessing of the Government of Ontario. All thanks to Doug Ford and his government lawyers.
Want more proof? Ford’s 2019 Ministry of Education “opt-out” memorandum to school boards clearly confirms this: “Exemptions will be granted only for instruction related to all the Human Development and Sexual Health expectations in a student’s grade” (PPM 162). And herein lies the fraud and deceit of the “opt-out”. Parents receive a notice and are afforded an “opt-out” only for the “official” lesson in the designated grade.
There is no across the board opt-out for sex-ed. (For the record, already one school board said they will not comply with the government opt-out anyhow). Consider the example of “gender identity theory”. Out of the approximately 1560 school days between the start of Grade one and the end of Grade eight, we are talking about an “opt-out” for maybe five “official” days in Grades seven and eight. In other words, the parental opt-out applies to less than half of one percent of the elementary school experience.
For the other 99% plus of the time, it is “open season” on your children’s “gender identity”.
So when little 6-year-old Molly announces at the dinner table that she’s non-binary genderqueer, her (or is it their?) parents will know that the Ford opt-out is utterly useless. And who is to blame? Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
And remind me, Doug Ford, exactly how many genders are there? You asked the question last year, but you never did tell us your answer.