By Sabrina Almeida
Strike seems to be the new buzz word. News of striking teachers, teaching assistants and labour unions have become rather common place. Opinions vary based on how each one is impacted by it. Few sympathize with teachers unless related. But here’s a new one, for me at least. Striking students! Supported by their parents… of course. If you are active on Facebook or connected with people who are then you know what I am referring to.
A Facebook group called “Parents & Students on strike: one week no school,” has been begun a campaign against the new sex-ed curriculum which will be implemented in Ontario schools come September. It is inviting students from elementary and high schools to strike against the program by not attending school from May 4 to 11. At the time of writing this column the group had garnered close to 6,000 likes. That is six thousand irresponsible parents (assuming it is not children who would love to stay home), in my books.
Some of the comments on the FB page are interesting to say the least. There is a grade 12 student who has voiced support for the new curriculum and many others have linked lack of sex-education to teen pregnancies and STDs. But what do they know right!
One particular reaction seemed to have it bang on “myopic”. To which I would add “tunnel” and “skewed”. I’d say these protesters were out of touch with reality or worse still with their children.
Most children, no matter how young, already know more than us. As a school lunch supervisor, more than eight years ago, I was shocked at the depth of sexual knowledge children had. I am referring to third graders who didn’t mince words. This was a Catholic school. Just in case you think religious schools are on another dimension.
Sexual information is available everywhere and in various forms. Children discuss it in the classroom, on the playground, on the school bus or on their walk home. I’d hear about some of the conversations on the bus from my kids and tried to hide my embarrassment at that time. My boys however thought nothing of it. It opened my eyes to how much they knew and gladdened my heart and mind to know they took it in the right spirit.
Perhaps we ought to monitor every conversation our children have to prevent them from being tainted. Isn’t that what all the protesters (not just this group) are implying? What are we so afraid of? Also, we are the last province in the country to implement the new curriculum. Is there any indication that children who have been introduced to this curriculum are psychologically scared or gone off the deep end! Worse still, is preventing your children from being informed about certain facts in school going to prevent them from knowing about it or exploring it if they are so inclined.
My initial reaction of surprise and annoyance at the ridiculousness of the action when I received the strike notification via email soon progressed to distress. As “primary educators” what values are we imparting to our children? To strike, stay away from school and bully the authorities to submit to your way of thinking. As for it offending cultural and religious sentiments, I’d urge people to delve into history. The findings might be rather shocking. Gays and lesbians have been part of every culture, religion and geography, hundreds of years ago. Masturbation is a part of sexual development irrespective of whether you are informed about it or not. Online safety is a huge concern for each and every one of us. Sexting is a reality that our children will have to deal with at some point. Are you talking to your kids about these things? Or do you believe that ignorance will protect them from it?
It is ironic that parents who are terribly upset by the impending (or current) teachers’ strike are now using it to further their own ends?
Judging by the emails that have been forwarded to me by friends many are just following what they have been told by a person or group of influence. They have not really thought it out for themselves.
Schools are presenting clinical information and facts, and discussing “safety”. It’s a conversation that many doctors have with your children. Are you going to stop their doctor’s visits, change your healthcare provider perhaps… to one who is more aligned with “your ways”.
As a parent who cares as deeply about her children’s welfare as the protesting groups, and with a deep connection and respect for my religion and cultural background… I want my kids to have the right information, first. Then I will have a conversation with them about our “values” and “culture”. That is my privilege and yours. Nobody is taking that away from you. Strike takes away options. It is a coercive action and there is nothing progressive or democratic about holding anyone to ransom. What about the parents who want their children to be informed in a controlled environment and by their educators. Are they less important than the protesters?