Actively involving parents in education matters is praiseworthy. As Pope Paul VI said, parents have primary and inalienable rights as educators of their children. So it’s essential that their views are embraced. How much of that will happen through this online survey, however, is muddy.
Four years ago the government of Dalton McGuinty shelved an updated sex-ed curriculum amid protests from religious and parent groups which objected to the explicit nature of instruction proposed for young children. It was too much for children too young, said many, including Ontario’s assembly of bishops, which was relieved when the curriculum was mothballed.
But with a fresh majority under new leader Kathleen Wynne the government is determined to try again. Fair enough. The curriculum in all subjects should be regularly reviewed and updated as required. That holds as true for classes in sexual health as it does in mathematics or history. No reasonable person should object to that.
Where the objections begin, in terms of sex-ed, is the age at which topics are introduced to children and the moral context in which they’re taught. That’s where parents have legitimate concerns and deserve the final say.
Unfortunately, the government’s survey, which will go to about 1,400 parents of children in Catholic schools, fails to address those key issues. It offers up a range of broad questions in 12 sections, few of which seek explicit input on the details of the curriculum. Nowhere does the survey even explain what the new curriculum proposes. Reading through the questions, it’s difficult to escape a concern the survey was cleverly crafted by polling experts to elicit a desired result, rather than gather genuine insight to help craft new teaching tools.
To cite one example, the section titled “Age- Appropriateness” asks five questions. None even comes close to addressing the key issue: at what age do parents want their children exposed to various aspects of sexuality?
One question asks parents to agree or disagree with this statement: “I believe that it’s important for my child to learn about sexual health concepts before they face a situation where they may need the information.” Of course, reasonable people will agree with that general premise, but the issue is how much before and in how much detail? The survey, regrettably, never asks.
But the survey does include space for parents to submit comments. Hopefully, they’ll speak out — and be heard.