School boards reject gender studies course

  • February 12, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - Most larger Catholic school boards in Ontario say they’re taking the Ontario bishops’ advice and rejecting a gender studies course being proposed by the Ministry of Education.

The Toronto, Dufferin-Peel, Halton, Ottawa and Windsor Catholic District School Boards will not implement the course which could be introduced as part of the high school curriculum as early as September.

The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario believes the gender studies course is at odds with Catholic teaching on abortion and sexuality. In a Dec. 17 letter to the chairs and directors of education at Catholic school boards across Ontario, the bishops’ assembly said it was urging school boards to reject the course for high school students as it contravenes church teaching on “Catholic anthropology and moral teaching.”

Instead, the bishops recommended some alternative courses, namely “Equity, Diversity & Social Justice” and “Equity & Social Justice Studies: From Theory to Practice,” for Grades 11 and 12 students.

A ministry draft of the proposed Grade 11 gender studies course states that students would learn about “the struggle for women’s rights and historical waves of feminism,” including access to birth control information and reproductive rights. Also, students would be expected to “analyse successes and challenges in the recognition for rights for sexual minorities” including “radical feminist movements and LGBTT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual) rights.”

Angela Gauthier, associate director at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said the board already has courses which teach students about equity, social justice and male-female relationships.

“We are confident that we meet ministry expectations through our established curriculum,” she told The Catholic Register.

The course isn’t in line with Catholic teachings by promoting abortionist Henry Morgentaler as a role model, said Ralph Peter, program co-ordinator for religion and family life at the Toronto board.

Halton board chair Bob Van de Vrande said based on the information from the Ontario bishops, the board has decided not to offer the course because it appears to promote “alternative lifestyles.” There are other courses being offered by the board which covers the material in the new course based upon a Catholic perspective, he said.

In the nation’s capital, Ottawa Catholic board spokesperson Mardi de Kemp said the board isn’t offering the course because the material is currently under review by its educators.

The York Catholic District School Board, though, hasn’t made a decision on the course yet and is “exploring the possibility of offering the course,” spokesperson Gillian Lavery said in an e-mail.

As for the teachers’ union, James Ryan, head of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said its review committee will be looking at the course, though he says it is not ready yet for the classroom.

The Ontario Catholic Schools Trustees’ Association had no comment when contacted.

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