New sex-ed curriculum: a big ‘NO’

The proposed new sexual education curriculum that is scheduled to be implemented in September of this year for all schools in Ontario was released this past week and it is exactly, almost word-for-word what was proposed and strongly rejected by the McGuinty Liberals in 2010.  “The document is called the Ontario Health & Physical Education Curriculum (OHPEC). Since the release of the proposed OHPEC to the public on Monday there has been media coverage that both supports and criticizes the curriculum.  Some media outlets appeared to focus on what is new to what was proposed in 2010, obviously avoiding mentioning any of the controversial components that would raise the ire of parents and Ontarians in general.  Some of those who did mention the controversial, hot button issues linked them with ‘’religious groups”.  Many online media groups posted surveys to see what the public’s response to the proposed OHPEC changes was, and I am delighted to report that in every one of these surveys I’ve seen the NO side to approval of the curriculum ranges from 67% to as high as 89% which means that once again, overall, Ontarians are not accepting of this proposed curriculum. Perhaps the Government assumed it would push through their proposal with indifference among the people of this province, but if they did they have been proven wrong.

Since the release of the breakdown of the proposed curriculum updates many have spoken out about both the Catholic Church’s and Catholic Education’s stance in response to the graphic and age-inappropriate Sex-Ed. Program, including Cardinal Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto, who is representative of the Assembly of Ontario Catholic Bishops, as well as Durham Catholic Education Director, Anne O’Brien.

Statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins re: Ontario Health & Physical Education Curriculum – February 23, 2015

On Monday, February 23, 2015, the Ontario government released its revised Health & Physical Education curriculum. The Ministry of Education has indicated the curriculum will be implemented in schools across the province this September. Below is a statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and President of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario:

“As Catholics, we understand that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that especially in the teaching of family life issues, the parental role is vital. For more than 30 years, Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic schools have provided a family life curriculum consistent with our faith. The goal is to present a Catholic view of human life, sexuality, marriage and family, complementing the efforts of parents to teach their children at home. While Catholic schools have a responsibility to follow the curriculum set out by the Ministry of Education, they have always sought to do so in a way that conveys, respects and models Catholic Christian principles to our students.  They will continue this tradition. A group of Catholic educators will produce resources that support Catholic teachers so that the new curriculum is implemented in a way that is consistent with our Catholic teachings and appropriate within the context of a Catholic classroom.”

Since 1989, the Institute for Catholic Education (ICE) has coordinated the implementation of the family life curriculum in publicly funded Catholic schools. ICE will serve as the point of contact for further media inquiries.

The ‘fighting’ words to me are the ones I have underlined above in the Cardinal’s statement: “They (Catholic Schools) will continue this tradition.”  The Cardinal states also that a collection of Catholic educators will put together “resources” to be used by Catholic teachers for the implementation of the new OHPEC program which will present Catholic teaching, (and I would have to assume here that this means in replacement of and not along-with the graphic sexual content proposed by the OHPEC).  Of course, no one would see it as possible that somehow the Church could compromise Catholic teaching by presenting this same teaching in the areas of marriage, sexuality and gender alongside the OHPEC program.  To do so would be to present two views when the Catholic worldview is the only one Catholic schools should or would want to teach.  To do otherwise would be to have public schools with Risen Christ crosses on the walls.  Catholic schools have to be just that, Catholic.

Mrs. Anne O’Brien, Durham Catholic Education Director, stated in a letter to Catholic parents,

“The vast majority of the revised curriculum is already covered by the Fully Alive program.  Although some of the content has been reassigned, with the expectation that it be delivered in earlier grades, we are confident that we will be able to deliver the revised curriculum within the context of our Family Life program, in a way that is consistent with Church teachings and our faith tradition.
Now that the revised curriculum has been released, the Catholic Education community of Ontario will work together to produce resources that will help our Catholic teachers and ensure that the curriculum delivered in our classrooms is consistent with our Catholic teachings, and appropriate within the context of a Catholic classroom.
I want to assure you that as a Catholic school district we will continue to offer a holistic curriculum that is shaped by a Catholic world view, and is faithful to the tradition and teachings of the Church.”

I personally wonder whether the acceptance of content being reassigned to earlier grades, in other words, teaching in grade three what used to be taught in grades five or six, could be seen as a compromise when so many parents are rightly concerned about the age-inappropriate content of the new curriculum as it stands.
In no way can the Catholic Church or Catholic Education in Ontario be seen to be compromising with the proposed revised curriculum.  I am mindful of something Fr. Dominic Borg, OCD, has just said at our parish’s 3-day Lenten retreat this past week.  He said that “compromise in marriage leads to the death of a marriage.  In marriage there can never be compromise between the couple but instead there must be dialogue.
The one thing that has been so crucially missing with the proposed OHPEC from the Ontario Government has been dialogue.  Premier Kathleen Wynn boasts of the 5,000 parents in Ontario who have been consulted through one parent representative in each school but this was not open to any suggestions of changes the Government might need to make before the implementation of the OHPEC.  It has been made clear both by the Premier and the Education Minister that this is a ‘done deal’ and it will be implemented as-is come September 2015.  My personal hope is that parents all over Ontario will stand up and say NO to this new curriculum, as they are already doing, in a repeat of 2010.

(Fr. Charles)

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