Standing up to sex-ed special interests

Feeling ‘hopeless, ‘ parents weigh other school options, Sept. 3

Tony Pontes, the director of the Peel School Board, is my new hero. For a politician to stand up to a vocal special interest group and express open opposition, publicly, is rare to the point of unprecedented.

In this case, the special interest group is made up of the intolerant, the naïve, (some) new Canadians and the culturally and religiously backward whose core values do not coincide with the intrinsic Canadian values, which we hold so dear — the culture of tolerance, inclusion and a welcoming openness to everyone who does or would like to share them.

“We cannot — we will not — by action or inaction endorse discrimination,” said Mr. Pontes. He also tells parents that if they cannot or will not allow their children to participate in the new sex-ed curriculum, then perhaps the “public school” system is not for them.

Public means “everybody.” There is no room for antiquated religious and cultural morality in this time of sexting, Internet porn, online predators and bullies, changing universal acceptance of alternate lifestyles, same sex marriage, Gay Pride and the sexual curiosity that is and has always been inherent in pubescent teens.

We must equip our children with the best and most current information, with which to protect themselves and make good decisions. Religious and cultural intolerance is not the way. There was probably no one more qualified to lead the discussion and implementation of the new curriculum than Premier Kathleen Wynne and she had a full mandate to do so.

Full credit to Tony Pontes for meeting the opposition to the new curriculum, head on, in Peel. We could certainly use more people like him to seek higher office. Perhaps if we had more people in Ottawa spend less time keeping their jobs and more time doing it, things could improve.

Rob Cowan, Toronto

Hooray for Tony Pontes. We are all for diversity and the rights of people from all around the world. Pontes insists that we include the rights of gays, transgendered, etc., and that all Peel students must learn about them. This is not about Canadian values but about human values which Canada has recognized and embraced. Those who insist on equality for themselves and their beliefs must be willing to provide the same to others. To respect the rights of “others” they must know who these “others” are.

Pontes says that those who don’t want to learn about a particular group of others might want to go elsewhere for their education. I disagree. It is time for us to realize that public education is our most powerful tool in integrating people from around the world into Canadian society. For the human values that we acknowledge and treasure here in Canada to continue to be our societal foundation, all children must be educated in them.

I am a Catholic. My children went to Catholic schools but it is time for us to stop supporting religiously based schools. In fact, it is time to insist that all students receive their education in public schools. To fail to do so is to risk the continuation and growth of values from various groups that are directly at odds with the human values Canadian society is built on.

Jacques Soucie, Newmarket

It is disheartening to read of parents who wish to deny their children the opportunity of learning age-appropriate information about human sexuality.

Some of these adults apparently believe that being homosexual or transgender is a choice. Perhaps if they understood that sexual orientation and gender identity are congenital and that up to 10 per cent of their own children are struggling with these issues, they would want to provide them with knowledge, support and understanding.

There is a high suicide rate among LGBT youth due to lack of knowledge and parental support. Children are aware from a very young age that they are different and the new curriculum could save lives and prevent bullying.

At an appropriate age, young people need to learn to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, sexting, etc. Keeping one’s children ignorant is abusive and dangerous.

Anne Morris-Dadson, Richmond Hill

Congratulations to Tony Pontes for having the courage to stand up to these religious nuts. Many of these people left their home countries because they are backward Third World countries with no public education system to speak of. They didn’t come here because they love Western culture they came here because their homelands are disasters. Young girls are shot for trying to get educated or have acid thrown in their faces.

Yet these people have the nerve to come here and tell our educators how to teach so as not to offend their religion. This being the same religion that has left their homelands uninhabitable.

Let’s not forget that any religion is based on the belief that there is some deity floating around in the cosmos and this is their basis for telling our kids what they should learn in school. I stopped believing in the tooth fairy a long time ago.

I taught for six years in the Peel School District and met many immigrant parents who couldn’t believe how great our schools are and were so thankful that their children finally had a chance for a real education for free.

If religious freaks want to pull their kids out, I say goodbye. Go pay thousands of dollars to have your kids educated in a religious school. Keep them separated from other kids who may have a different religion. That will really help you integrate yourselves into our society.

If you want to dress in a black hat with a cute curl or want to wear a knife and turban, or dress in orange robes chanting hari krishna because God tells you to, go ahead look foolish, it is your choice. Just don’t force your idiotic beliefs on the rest of us. Or they can pack up their bags and head back to the disasters they call home but don’t come to Canada and tell us how to be Canadian.

We don’t want our country to be like your homelands and I would think you would have the common sense not to want Canada to be like that either.

Stephen Woof, Haliburton

I have the sense that those opposed to a revised sex-ed curriculum will never have the frank discussions with their kids that will make them better rounded human beings. Perhaps we should post this new curriculum on YouTube in a video format so kids with questions their overly pious parents are to afraid to answer could be addressed. We need to stem this tide of ignorance once and for all. Ignorance is bliss is not an option in the 21st Century.

Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough

While I’m glad we live in a country where people can protest. That doesn’t mean the protesters are right. Just because you shout it loudly doesn’t make it true.

Let’s not forget, the vast majority of parents will send their children to school on Tuesday. They trust their child’s teacher to sensitively teach their child about life. They recognize the next generation of children deserve to know how their body functions and more importantly understand their sexual rights. Your sensational report would have been more balanced with their views expressed as well.

If the new sex-ed is delivered fully it is possible for this next generation to live without shame and fear and possibly less abuse. I’m afraid for the children who won’t receive the benefits of scientific, fact-based, shame-less information. I’m afraid, it will be the children who are left “feeling hopeless.”

Kendra Grant, Toronto

If parents who pull their children from public school because of the new sex-ed curriculum wish to base their children’s 21st century education on religious tracts that were written almost 2000 years ago then, surely, they must extend it to other areas of their education, too.

How about science lessons in which they are told the earth is flat? Or biology lessons in which they are told that whatever physically ails them is as a result of an imbalance of the four humours? Or have them told in math classes that the concept of zero or negative numbers do not exist?

Intentional ignorance of the facts, bigotry and intolerance are par for the course when it comes to “faith based” organizations’ approach to this subject. Failure to provide their children with the necessary knowledge to cope in our modern society will inevitably lead to a generation with a split identity trying to live a 21st century life with a 1st century education. That maybe okay for the parents but for first generation Canadians it’s no life at all.

If these parents cared for their children at all they would cease their futile efforts and, perhaps, attend the sex-ed classes themselves to get a proper education.

Steven Reeve, Thornhill

Would someone please educate the parents who are planning to send their children to private school or who are thinking of home schooling because they disagree with the new sex-education programme‎. The law allows them to withdraw from that class; it is not mandatory. Why in the world would they pull them from everything?

Gail Bennett, Toronto

Thanks to Tony Pontes for being willing to stand up to the religious right who appear to be using newcomers to refute provincial sex-ed classes. I live in multi-ethnic eastside downtown and find newcomers interesting and honest people but when they hear I am gay they become horrified. I am frightened the conservatives will get an unfair voting boost as newcomers tend to come from the countries where gays are usually run out of town.

The evangelicals use these people, a little unsophisticated, to bash gays. They are also used to stand on Gerrard Street with graphic pictures of abortions. I invite those who will refuse to send their children to Peel Board or TDSB to apply to the same private school where Stephen Harper sends his children.

Bryan Charlebois, Toronto

I have read through the new Health Education Curriculum Peel board has adopted and here are my thoughts about it.

In our current environment our kids will receive a lot of information whether they are ready or not. It is fitting that they receive this info in a structured environment. They will also be taught to be open and broad minded in the truest sense and accept differences they see in others with respect and compassion. In the case of kids who end up belonging to other minority groups of gender identity and sexual orientation they will learn to have the strength to discover and face their own identity and will have the support they need to live with it in a minority social group.

While we are more and more broadminded than before and are more accepting of differences and giving them a place in our society, we definitely are a little way away from accepting that differences specially the ones based on gender identity and sexual orientation are “normal-biological-psychological-physiological” faces of human form. Even if they have been regarded as non-traditional they have been around since history can take us back. No majority group should have a right to decide based on social/religious/cultural norms what normal or abnormal is and where to draw the line of inclusion and exclusion for acceptance.

As for the technicalities of the curriculum, I do believe most of our kids will be ready to receive the material. Those who are ready will receive the right information from the right source. Those who are not ready are the ones who are the most vulnerable and it’s even more important that they receive this information from the right source instead of a hand down version from their ‘ready’ peers who will talk about it and might articulate it to them in an immature way. The curriculum is not advocating/glorifying any one sexual orientation over the other. It is simply stating facts.

And I don’t believe parents can be the right source for their kids on this front. Some of us might be simply embarrassed to talk about it. And the depth and width of the information we might provide may not be good. Cause just because we know it does not mean we can teach it well. For most cultural pockets this teaching might not be bare facts but simply too opinionated.

This is the only subject where the school will have to catch the first bloom (the ones who are ready/mature/already know) instead of the late bloomers (innocent/ignorant ones). The school or the parents cannot keep their child in a bubble, so I don’t believe parents are going to be in a position to decide when and how much their child gets to know from them. This is because external factors like peer knowhow and the media will play a bigger role and expose children at an age earlier than the parents would expect.

I started receiving bits and pieces of this information in grade 6-7-8. The information I received was at best incomplete. We had no one to go to for guidance. The gaps filled in gradually over several years after that. If in our generation kids had started talking, getting curious and figuring out things at that age, our kids are definitely in a much more advanced and mature society. If they are left to talk to peers or simply google things up they could be seriously misinformed and walk the wrong path.