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British Columbia mandates teaching sexual permissiveness in public schools.

In the Western world's ongoing culture wars, few more important battlegrounds exist than the public education system. This was especially evident in the fall of 2008 in B.C., when two prominent homosexual-rights activists filed a human rights complaint against the Abbotsford school district, after trustees cancelled a controversial "social justice" course--a course whose content many Catholic and Christian parents feared could be used to subvert their traditional values surrounding sexual mores and family formation.

Gay agenda to trump democracy.

While elected trustees are completely within their rights to cancel what has always been described as an optional course, the complaint filed by Murray and Peter Corren suggests that the gay-rights activists believe their radical agenda should trump democratic rights and parental authority. Indeed, even the nature of the agency with which they filed their complaint--the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal--underscores this concern, as it (like other such bodies across Canada) is a pseudo-court that does not adhere to conventional concepts and practices of justice.

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Significantly, it was an earlier human-rights complaint by the Correns that led to the creation of the Social Justice 12 course in the first place. In that long-running corn plaint, the Correns (then "unmarried" and known as Murray Warren and Peter Cook) were looking to force the provincial government to revamp the curriculum to reflect the accomplishments of homosexuals. They demanded that the content include "queer history and historical figures, the presence of positive queer role models--past and present--the contributions made by queers to various epochs, societies and civilizations."

But even before the tribunal's scheduled hearing into the complaint could begin, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal admitted defeat and in April 2006, signed an unprecedented deal with the Correns, giving them exclusive input (but not the final say) into a "gay"-friendly review of all B.C. curriculum and mandating creation of the Social Justice 12 course.

The elective course is designed to explore an exhaustive list of contentious topics, including, but not limited to, sexual orientation, gender identity, animal rights (a subject area described in the course outline as "speciesism"), ableism, ageism, anthropocentrism, consumerism, cultural imperialism, extremism, feminism, fundamentalism, heterosexism, humanism, racism and sexism.

Worried parents

Many parents are concerned that such a course, especially if taught by a radical or progressive teacher, could propagandize their children. Their fears seem to be borne out by the fact that a Ministry of Education outline reveals the course is meant to "raise students" awareness of social injustice, to enable them to analyze From a social justice perspective and to provide them with knowledge, skills and an ethical Framework to advocate For a socially just world."

Given the topics enunciated, it is clear to many critics that such a "socially just world" would be a left-wing utopia.

However, a certain amount of discretion is left to the teacher. While the course would seem to stack the deck in favour of a left-wing outcome, Catholic Insight has learned that a Catholic teacher at one B.C. public high school (who asked not to be identified) is ensuring that the course offers a balanced look at all the issues. He has even gone so far as to invite a Catholic Driest to explain to students the Church's teachings on many of the controversial topics.

Nevertheless, given the explosive course content, it is not surprising that trustees in the conservative community of Abbotsford (which lies in the heart of B.C.'s Protestant "Bible Belt") responded to parental concerns and ordered that the course not be taught (subject to the conclusion of a comprehensive review) at W.J. Mouat Secondary School, where several dozen students had signed up to take the elective during the fall 2008 semester. About 100 students staged a demonstration against the trustees' decision in late September, a demonstration at which one federal Liberal politician illogically likened the trustees' action to "censorship."

The Correns filed their new complaint against the Abbotsford School Board on October 17, arguing that its refusal to offer the course "constitutes discrimination against Abbotsford students and parents and, in particular, against students and parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered." The tribunal has not announced whether it has accepted the complaint or when a hearing might proceed.

The Correns supported their complaint by arguing that, in the notorious Surrey School Board case about the "banning" of three "gay" positive children's books, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2002 that the board had contravened the B.C. School Act by allowing the religious beliefs of some parents to interfere with curriculum offerings. The homosexual couple argues that the same principle is in play in Abbotsford, where the board "has allowed the religious beliefs of some parents to determine what may or what may not be taught in its schools and that this is contrary to the Act."

The Correns' strategy appears consistent with the longstanding practice of homosexual-rights activists who have successfully used the courts to force social changes on society in the face of popular opposition and legislative reluctance.

Ministry promotes sexual permissiveness

Irrespective of whether the Correns are successful this time out, their previous activism is already bearing fruit--fruit that is especially bitter in the mouths of Catholic families. Most notably, in response to the Oppal agreement, the Ministry of Education has issued a resource guide for teachers of all grade levels and courses, suggesting ways in which they can encourage discussion of sexual orientation.

The guide, entitled Making space, giving voice, prompted the Catholic Civil Rights League to issue a scathing analysis of its content. Author Sean Murphy declares that the clear goal of the guide is "to require students to affirm the moral and social acceptability of any and all sexual lifestyles presented to them."

Murphy continues, "This kind of instruction presumes and even requires the suppression of critical thinking, the estrangement of many children from their parents and cultural and religious communities and a continuing exploration of sub-cultures and activities beyond the experience of children and even most adults."

He concludes, "The approach taken by Making space, giving voice is openly authoritarian and includes elements that are characteristic of education in a totalitarian state: isolation of students from parents, destruction of natural marriage and natural family and a methodology calculated to destroy the capacity to form and maintain convictions that are not approved by the state." Murphy's full analysis can be read online at www.ccrl.ca/index.php?id=4932.

Existence of the ministry guide is not widely known, but as the controversy grows over Oppal's deal with the Correns, concern about its impact is growing. That concern may help explain why, at a time when overall school enrolment is declining in B.C., enrolment in independent schools (which are primarily Catholic or Protestant) is climbing; in fact, enrolment for the 2007-08 school year climbed 1.5 per cent to 68,934. In the meantime, enrolment in the secular public system declined 1.2 per cent to about 553,000 over the same period.

Doug Lauson, superintendent of Catholic Independent Schools in the Vancouver Archdiocese, says that none of his schools is offering Social Justice 12 and that all discussion of issues concerning sexuality is conducted in the light of Catholic teaching. However, he believes that "parents of Catholic children who attend public schools do have the right to be concerned about what their children are taught in school and whether these 'teachings' contradict with their own faith beliefs."

(Unlike provinces such as Ontario and Alberta, Catholic schools in B.C. do not receive full funding from the government. They are, however, eligible to receive grants totaling up to 50 per cent of their operating budgets as long as they adopt the basic provincial curriculum.)

Ultimately, Catholics have to be vigilant, says Kate Taschereau, a Catholic parent who ran unsuccessfully in November for a seat on the Surrey School Board. "In the final analysis, it comes back to parents using the authority that they already have," Taschereau says. "They would serve themselves well by making themselves known in their children's schools, forming good relationships with the teachers and otherwise being involved. That not only serves the overall education plan of the child, but also will be apt to put the parent and the teacher onside for the best outcome for that student."

She believes it is impossible to overemphasize the necessity of parents to be committed to their children's education by staying involved. "The schools and the teachers are there to serve an educational need, but they should be considered extensions of the home and immediate community," Taschereau concludes. "They are not meant to replace the parents' role in children's lives. Parents should fiercely protect their rights as first educators of their children. They should direct it in a co-operative manner, giving respect to teachers and earning respect back."

Terry O'Neill is an award-winning editor, writer and communications specialist who marries his journalistic endeavours with community activism. O'Neill and his wife, a high-school principal in Coquitlam, have two grown sons.
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Title Annotation:FEATURE ARTICLE
Author:O'Neill, Terry
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CBRI
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:1506
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