Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Why pretend?

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A motion before the Manitoba Teachers' Society at its coming general meeting would ask the provincial government to review curricular policies to ensure they permit teachers and lessons to reflect a society in which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have always lived and contributed. That may lead to permissive or directive policy, and either would be controversial in some school districts.

But confining such discussions to family life -- from which parents can exempt their children -- purposely bleaches this piece of life out of the wider learning that goes on in school. MTS president Paul Olson notes that every music course that speaks of J.S. Bach mentions he fathered 20 children, but none on Tchaikovsky mentions he was gay. Some teachers have the latitude to talk about the contributions of gay writers to the literary world, others wouldn't touch it for fear of retribution.

The world is not uniformly heterosexual; teachers forced to pretend otherwise are falling short of the duty to encourage students to think critically. Few adults would discuss Oscar Wilde's life without reflecting on his homosexuality. Why would we accept less for children?

Injecting references to sexuality into lessons by fiat messes with good instruction and incites controversy for no good reason. Teachers should discuss sexual orientation where it is relevant, meaningful and adds depth to learning.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2013 A8

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