by Sue Hitchman
When the School Board of a small community in the Lower Mainland sent a letter to parents entitled “Langley Celebrates Diversity,” a few sleepy eyes began to squint open. A handful of parents whose children attend Langley Fundamental Middle and Secondary School, and other schools began to meet, to shake each other awake and to ask what was going on. Some were Christians, but it was not restricted to Christians. Concerned individuals from various schools in Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey and Burnaby wanted to know what the Ministry of Education meant. It was something about “SOGI in the classroom” and it was embedded in the Ministry’s ‘New Curriculum.’ It was being presented under the brand of ‘diversity’ and it seemed to be a mere formality to inform parents.
The problem goes back to 2006 when the Ministry of Education granted two individuals, Peter Corren and Murray Corren, an ongoing private agreement to incorporate pro-homosexual curriculum into the public school system. According to Sean Murphy, author of an article for the Catholic Civil Rights League, the agreement:
• promises a curriculum revision to ensure “respect for diversity with respect to sexual orientation,” without defining that term;
• purports to suppress parental authority to withdraw their children from classes that they find morally objectionable or offensive;
• gives the Correns a privileged position as consultants and overseers of curriculum development and public policy;
• guarantees the continuing secrecy of written and verbal communications between Correns and the government in meetings and discussions pertaining to the agreement;
• can be revised with the consent of both parties without public knowledge due to the provision for continuing secrecy .
Social justice and family values advocate Kari Simpson of Culture Guard had been working to protect parental rights in the public school arena since the late 1990s when the Correns had first filed a complaint with BC’s Human Rights Tribunal. By August of 2006, the Canadian Alliance for Social Justice and Family Values (CASJFV) had collected 17,000 signatures on a petition against the agreement. Other groups opposing the agreement at the time included BC Parents and Teachers for Life, Concerned Parents of BC, Christian Coalition of BC, REAL Women, Vancouver Chinese Evangelical Ministerial Fellowship, the Christian Social Concerns Fellowship, Equipping Christians for the Marketplace (ECP), Focus on the Family (Canada), the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church of Canada .
Fast forward to the 2016/2017 school year when the new Sexual Orientation Gender Identity (SOGI)-inclusive curriculum ran trials in Kindergarten to Grade 9 classrooms in many school districts. If any parents knew of the controversial changes to the new curriculum, they were few, or their protests were ignored. The Langley Celebrates Diversity letter sent out last spring to Langley parents made the news public: the Correns’ control of education policy had morphed into widespread curriculum revisions reflecting SOGI perspectives. Under the name of tolerance and inclusion, SOGI ideology would be woven throughout all aspects of curriculum. Five year olds would learn a new definition of ‘family’, inclusive of the broad spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. Terms such as “boy”, “girl”, “father” and “mother” – considered non-inclusive toward gender-questioning students – would be replaced by SOGI-friendly terms such as “students” and “caregivers.” Anyone using pronouns such as “he” or “she” in a manner that might offend a non-binary gender spectrum-oriented student would be required to correct their use of these terms.
Public presentations in May by two Langley parents requested the Langley School Board to delay implementation of the controversial curriculum until further studies could confirm that the content would not actually promote gender dysphoria. Concerned parents were wondering how to balance the Ministry’s claims that this curriculum would bring safety to the classroom, when the most current stance of the American College of Paediatricians claims “Gender Ideology Harms Children.” Board Chair Rob MacFarlane responded to these presenters on behalf of the Superintendent and trustees in complete support of the new curriculum. A new parent-led group calling themselves Langley Parents for Inclusivity has begun to meet to convey their perspective that inclusion of the SOGI ideology is exactly what gender dysphoric children need.
Managing diversity in a pluralistic society is a complex matter. While various parent groups have voiced their concerns over the Ministry’s new curriculum, there has not yet been any in-depth dialogue between all stakeholders inclusive of the Ministry of Education, the local school board, and the various perspective-representing parent groups. If we want schools to be a place where children treat others with respect and kindness, parents and school board trustees must find the place where diverse worldviews find an overlap in the area of safety for all children.
Celebrating diversity is one of the great surprises Christianity has brought to culture. The ‘us against them’ mentality of ethnocentrism is demolished in Christianity. Christ replaces prejudice and hatred with a call to love God first and then love all peoples as we love ourselves. Every Christian knows we are even called to love our enemies. But must we embrace all the values and behaviours pluralistic societies condone? Are we required to surrender our parental prerogative when our children walk into the classroom?