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When God Abandons the Public Schools
April 23, 2010
Yesterday morning I was in despair. In the morning paper I had read about a new health curriculum that was to be introduced to the public schools here in Ontario. Beginning next school year, students were to receive a thorough indoctrination in sex education. And as you probably know, my wife and I have chosen to enroll our kids in public schools. We were despairing, wondering how we would deal with this new reality. Would this be the last straw, the situation that would force us to consider alternatives? Would this be a one-day program for which we could easily withdraw our children from school? Or would it be something they would be taught over the course of the entire year? Questions abounded; answers were few.
The current health curriculum in Ontario was put into place twelve years ago, I believe, and to this point (my oldest child is in fourth grade) has proven entirely unremarkable. As Christian parents whose children are in public schools, this is the one area we watch out for more than any other—the one area where we feel most protective of our children. We want our children to know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to sexuality, but we want them to know at a proper time and in a proper way. Currently by fourth grade the most a child will have learned at school is very rudimentary knowledge of what constitutes sexual abuse and how to respond should he or she experience it (i.e. tell your mom and dad).
All that was to change with the new curriculum. Under this new agenda children in third grade were to learn about gender identity (your identity may be different than your physical gender, it seems) and they were to learn that criticizing homosexuality was no different than discriminating against those with physical disabilities. They were to learn that many children have two mommies or two daddies and that they should use inclusive language such as “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife” in order not to exclude anybody. By sixth grade children were to be taught that masturbation is normal and a good way of exploring the body. By seventh grade they would be taught that they need to talk to their sexual partners about good boundaries and they were to learn that abstinence may mean different things to different people—for some it may mean excluding all sexual activity while for others it might exclude vaginal intercourse but include anal intercourse. All this was to be taught to children in seventh grade and younger. As I said, I was in despair.
We love the school our children go to and love the children of that school. We respect the teachers and have seen that they labor to provide the children with a good education. Aileen and I have been thoughtful and prayerful in placing our children in this school and in leaving them there. Every year we evaluate and every year (so far) we’ve had a clear conscience in allowing them to continue. But we did not know if we could say the same with such a program in place.
This new curriculum was silently posted online in January. It was not until a few days ago that a Christian organization found it and introduced it to the media. It really only hit the papers yesterday and the day before. Skeptical Canadian that I am, I expected no government response and certainly no backing down. But, like the government, I underestimated the response. It was not only Christians who were outraged; the Catholic school boards protested, daring the government to force them to teach it; Muslim groups protested, saying that the government has no right to teach such things to their children; even teachers wanted nothing to do with it—their job is difficult enough without having to teach deviant sexual behavior (a friend who is a primary school teacher suggested that most teachers wouldn’t teach it even if it was part of the curriculum).
And just like that, the government backed down. The curriculum has been scrapped, at least for next year, while it undergoes a thorough re-evaluation. The government has learned a harsh lesson—Ontario is perhaps a bit more conservative than they might have guessed. When they next seek to update this curriculum, they will do so without hiding it and with the cooperation of the public.
Aileen and I are rejoicing in this. As I read of this small triumph, I thought of Abraham interceding for the city of Sodom (Genesis 18). For the sake of his people within the city, God relented from the disaster he was going to bring upon them. Certainly Ontario is deserving of this kind of a curriculum, one that will draw hearts farther and farther from the One who created them. This nation, this province, is living on borrowed grace, practically begging God for punishment. And yet here God has extended his mercy, at least for another day and another year. For a day it seemed like God had abandoned the public schools in my province. But that despair has turned to hope and, better still, to praise.