Secular, inclusive education
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/09/2012 (3908 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The legal action launched against the provincial government by a Hamilton father who objects to provincial equity and anti-bullying policy goes beyond being distasteful and impractical. It’s downright sinister.
Steve Tourloukis wants the public school board to warn him whenever educators are planning to talk about family, marriage or human sexuality. He is concerned that his children’s exposure to those subjects will conflict with his family’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” He justifies his position by saying: “My children are my own. I own them. They don’t belong to the school board.” (Yes, he actually said he owns his children.)
The group supporting him is called the Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund. It is against gay-straight alliances in public schools and doesn’t want works by gay authors to be included in public curriculum. To be fair, it’s not clear to what extent Tourloukis shares those offensive views. He wants his children to be taught issues of family, marriage and human sexuality “from a Christian perspective.”
He could certainly accomplish that by moving his kids into a Christian school that shares his values. He has dismissed that idea, saying that since he pays his taxes his personal preference should trump provincial education policy. Really? The system should change to meet the desires of a microscopic minority?
For Tourloukis and his supporters, the issue appears limited to gay people and lifestyles. But the province doesn’t have gay equity policy, it has equity policy that promotes acceptance of all types of diversity — physical, ethnic, sexual and spiritual. It’s all contained in Ontario’s new anti-bullying legislation, a progressive if imperfect attempt at making schools a welcoming and secure environment for all children.
In the unlikely event that his court application is successful, Tourloukis might get to have his kids removed from class whenever issues involving sexuality and family come up. What’s next? Someone doesn’t want his kids exposed to learning about different world religions, say Islam? Someone doesn’t want her kids to learn about diverse ethnicity — excused? Another parent doesn’t want his kids learning about Wiccans, or Harry Potter for that matter?
Ontario’s public-school curriculum and programming is designed, as it must be, to err on the side of inclusivity and respectful secularism. And based on public reaction to Tourloukis’s actions, that’s a view widely if not universally embraced.
We already have notable exceptions, such as parents being allowed to have their kids excused from parts of sexual education curriculum, not to mention Catholic school curriculum on subjects such as contraception and abortion. We don’t need impractical, intolerant exceptions to the rule of inclusivity and acceptance. If there is any justice, this legal action will die a timely death.