Editorial: Listen to parents on sex ed

  • July 19, 2018

It’s probably a safe bet that Ontario’s new premier has never read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage, parenthood, procreation and contraception. 

So we will regard it as a mere coincidence that, as the Church prepared to mark the 50th anniversary of the seminal Vatican document, Doug Ford was keeping an election promise by officially junking the province’s controversial sex-ed curriculum. He has pledged to replace it with classroom materials built upon broad parental consultation and respect for the fundamental rights of parents as their children’s foremost teachers.

We’ll see where this goes, but hopefully the new government is sincere about involving parents. The previous government barely paid lip service to parental input before launching a new curriculum in 2015. Only after the ink was pretty much dry on changes did the Liberals invite just one parent from each of the province’s 4,000 schools to take a pointless survey that skirted the contentious aspects of the new curriculum.  Some consultation.

Ontario has more than 1,600 Catholic schools serving some 635,000 students. The parents of every one of those children are entitled to weigh in on this difficult topic because, as Pope Paul VI affirmed, parents are the primary and principal educators of their children. This is an important precept and warrants special attention on matters of morality, sexuality, family and the sanctity of life and marriage. 

Comprehensive parental consultation regarding subject matter and age appropriateness must be a cornerstone of any sex-ed curriculum changes. These issues should not be resolved in isolation by government agencies and hand-picked “experts” to justify policies that often seem influenced more by social politics and cultural trends than science and parental rights. That’s what seemed to happen three years ago. It can’t be allowed again.

The politicians need to do a better job, but so too do parents. With a change in government, parents have been given a second chance to assert their rights as primary educators of their children. 

If the province’s sex-ed curriculum is to be amended to reflect the realities of a 21st-century digital world, then Catholic parents must become engaged. Their voices need to rise up as the curriculum is revised to ensure it can be presented in a manner that reflects Catholic values, morals and faith traditions.

Even before Ford mothballed the 2015 curriculum, Catholic teachers had discretion to teach sex-ed according to faith principles. That seems unlikely to change. But now parents and educators have an opportunity to help shape a more fundamentally palatable curriculum. 

They should now press the government to honour its parent-consultation pledge, and then make their voices heard.

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