It was a hot and sunny day, perhaps too hot and sunny to spend an hour standing on the scorching sidewalk outside your local Member of Provincial Parliament's office, but that was the scene in Downtown Guelph today as several concerned parents once again tried to lodge their displeasure with Ontario's revamped sex education curriculum.
Here in Guelph, in front of the local office of Education Minister Liz Sandals, about 45 people joined the province-wide day of action to protest the new guidelines governing sex ed in Ontario. The update of the 1998 curriculum has been the most controversial piece of lesson planning in the history of provincial schools, but as the new school year dawns, local parents against the new curriculum wanted to make sure they were being heard.
Jakki Jeffs, President of Guelph & Area Right to Life was the point person for the protest and the one designated to speak to the press on behalf of the group. According to Jeffs, parents were told that they would have input on any introduction of new sex education material into curriculum after a similar document was released in 2010.
"We were promised consultation and we didn't get it," she said. "In another era in the history of the world another government tried to indoctrinate children," she added saying that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights allows parents could instill children "with their own understanding of morality."
Another reporter present asked Jeffs for clarification on "another government" and she admitted that she was referring to Nazi Germany. "This government is trying to do that again, only they're not telling everybody that's what they're doing," Jeffs said.
Apparently, Sandals was invited by the group to a meeting they held at the Evergreen Seniors Centre on June 26, but Sandals told them that she had her plate full with the contract negotiations with the various teachers unions. Jeffs said that was just an excuse because her group's been trying to get a meeting with Sandals since February, and Jeffs is under the impression that the education minister was just blowing them off.
I decided to ask if Jeffs thought the old curriculum was satisfactory. "I didn't read all of it," she replied. She said her kids went through the Catholic Board and thus she thought the complete curriculum was not taught. She then added that she thought that the new curriculum gave students, "A little bit of a desensitization. [...] There are a whole host of parents that believe this is interfering in their right to decide at what times their children will be discussing these issues."
Specifically, Jeffs was referring to lesson plans in the curriculum such as teaching Grade 1 students the proper names for body parts, and Grade 3 lessons about different types of families and couples. "What they're saying to our children is that gender is fluid, but scientifically that's not correct," Jeffs explained. "It's a message to these young people that they can be anything you want, you are not actually a boy if you're born a boy, or girl if you're born a girl."
Jeffs also said that she had seen a book meant to be a teaching aid, and that it included drawings of men and women having sex. She also said that she doesn't see how children being able to identify their genitalia by name is going to help them describe sexual abuse since the more general "private parts" has been a perfectly acceptable term in the past.
I asked Jeffs if she or anyone in her group had thought about skipping the politicians and taking their concerns directly to teachers or the local school board. "Maybe the other groups will do that," she said, but she believes that the teachers will just do as their told without much debate or struggle.
Jeffs was then asked if the parents were considering pulling their kids out of school in protest. "I don't believe government has a right to say they shouldn't," she said. "I would love to see all the parent that disagree with this to keep their kids out of school for a couple of days, and let this government know who's in charge."
There was a concession though that taking kids out of school for any length of time was not ideal since students might begin the school year on a backfooting. Instead, Jeffs cites part 264.1(c) of the Education Act of Ontario for being a sufficient enough reason for the government to pull the plug on the new curriculum:
[T]o inculcate by precept and example respect for religion and the principles of Judaeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues
Jeffs also pointed out that while kids learn about anal sex in middle school, the age of consent for anal sex is 18. "So why are we pushing this on kids?" she said. "We're making cookie cutter kids that all think the way Ms. Wynne and this current government does and that's unacceptable."
I asked Jeffs if she had read the entire curriculum document, the Grade 1 to 8 portion of which is over 230 pages long, and very little of it actually deals with the sex education lesson plan. "I've read parts of it, I haven't read all of it," she said. Instead, Jeffs said she relies on colleagues Dr. Miriam Grossman, who's basically the Ross McKitrick of sex education.
And speaking of missing the point, Jeffs also laments that there's no context for sex education, including no mention that HIV/AIDS is a death sentence, and more importantly, "There's no talk about love," she said. "There's no talk about marriage, and what worries me most as a pro-life person, is that we promote chastity, but there's nothing about fetal development here either."
It's worth noting that the Grade 5 lesson plan includes lesson about pregnancy, but Jeffs and her people were not deterred. "I think its most unfair that the government is putting out ads right now because its using our [tax] dollars."