An Open Letter to the ICV

There’s been something going around the internet over the last few days that alarms me. A lot.

It’s this. Click to embiggen.

It ran in the National Post a few days back, posted by the Institute for Canadian Values (apparently, Canadian values are homophobic, transphobic, pro-Israeli, and anti-prostitution) and it’s been bouncing around the internet since. I get why. From my perspective, it’s pretty heinous. Misinformation. Bigotry. Etc. So I’ve done something I haven’t done often. That is: write back directly. I think it’s opened a can of worms. It took more time out of my afternoon than I wanted, but I feel better, personally, and I hope my approach is received by the ICV folks who have run this ad.

So here is my open letter to the “ICV.” I encourage everyone who reads it to also write to the ICV (full contact info at the bottom of the post). Call them. Email them. Send physical letters. But rise above whatever gut reaction you’re having and for the love of God be civil.


Ekron Malcom
Executive Director
ekron@canadianvalues.ca
Tel: 416.391.5000 EXT 344

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Re: “Please! Don’t Confuse Me!” ad, National Post.

Mr. Malcom,

I must preface this letter, in fairness and full disclosure, that this will also be published as an open letter to the Institute of Canadian Values at spillway(brain). The full posting can be found at http://spillwaybrain.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/an-open-letter-to-the-icv/.

As a recent graduate from a teacher education program and a volunteer with high-risk youth, I am deeply offended by your “Please! Don’t Confuse Me!” advertisement.

In my work, I frequently encounter youth and young adults who have not had sufficient education to understand their own sexualities, gender identities, or spirituality. When special-interest groups push for the reduction of what children are exposed to in controlled, responsible educational environments, we are effectively reducing their ability to understand and cope with their peers and themselves. Education on a topic is not the same as enforcing an agenda. Teaching a child about Communism and Stalin is patently different from indoctrinating them with a manifesto or justifying genocide. Similarly, educating children about alternative sexualities, family structures, and gender identities has not been proven to encourage their adoption nor has there been significant evidence that education on these topics confuses or distresses children more than learning about normative or normalized behaviours. By actively normalizing these sexualities and identities, it actually reduces the potential for confusion, hostility, and distress later on when confronted with them later in life.

I would like to point out as well that discrimination based on sexuality is expressly forbidden under Canadian law, and an attempt to make invisible these demographics is akin to silencing the voice of any other demographic.

Given my earlier point regarding the pedagogical and psychological nature of this kind of educational practise and the further point about discrimination by exclusion, I have to conclude that the effort on the part of the ICV is not based on genuine concern for student welfare, nor is it grounded in Canadian values. It must, then, be motivated by sheer bigotry.

Mr. Malcom, I find your use of the modifier “Canadian” to be an egregious liberty taken on the part of you and your organization. Bigotry and prejudice is simply not a Canadian value by any passable definition. You have appropriated an entire nationality for your means, and I as a Canadian citizen object. Your Institute is not reflective of Canadian values, but the values of a subset of the radicalized political right. I suggest modifying your organization’s name or posting a disclaimer in the banner at the top of your site.

Further, you claim to operate your Institution under Judeo-Christian values. If, sir, you read your Bible, there is a simple message preached by the Son of your God Jesus Christ. That message is love, Mr. Malcom. Love, charity, community, understanding, and the spreading thereof. Don’t forget that. And don’t forget, too, Mr. Malcom, that Christ also preached redemption. It’s not too late for you to be redeemed for the blatant appropriation, ignorance-mongering, and hate-speech you have indulged in.

I encourage you to retract your ads, cancel any upcoming placements of said advertisements, and discontinue the stopcorruptingchildren.ca campaign. Further, in the interest of fairness, I applaud your efforts in some camps–fighting human trafficking and ending the spread of child pornography are laudable objectives. Please do not sully these legitimate efforts with the hateful, underinformed rhetoric found in the aforementioned campaign.

If you would like to discuss this letter further, I encourage you to write to me at the email provided. I will be encouraging as many as will listen to contact you as well and to approach you in a measured, articulate fashion. After all, everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, gender identity, or family structure, deserves respect, Mr. Malcom.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to any response you have.

Yours,

Trevor LaForce
[personal email redacted]


ICV Contact info
Ekron Malcom
Executive Director
ekron@canadianvalues.ca
Tel: 416.391.5000 EXT 344
Fax: 416-391-3969

Charles@word.ca
Canada Christian College
50 Gervais Drive
Toronto, ON M3C 1Z3

31 Comments
  1. Trevor,

    Thank you for making time to write this letter to Ekron Malcolm. You raised many excellent points and showed a great example of how to respond to such a sad show of bigotry and hate. I will send a response as well.

    I am grateful that there are men like you working with our kids and standing up to speak out when things are just plain wrong.

    You speak for me here, and I thank you for the voice.

    • Kathryn,

      Thank you for reading. It’s important to come at this from a civil if not dispassionate place. It’s hard to convince people their position is wrong when you approach it from a place of hysteria.. I had to put this aside for about six hours before I was ready to write the letter. I hope you’ll join me in addressing them both directly and indirectly.

  2. And the best part? Speaking up actually did something about it, at least at the level of the newspaper. According to an email from the editor this afternoon, the Post will not allow the ad to run again, and they’ve sent an apology for their mistake in allowing it to run in the first place (which I hope will actually be published in the next edition). At the very least, it’s a start!

  3. Trevor,
    Thank you for posting your letter. As a 22 year old student who immigrated to this country 10 years ago, I find it very important to properly handle such issues in a bold and efficient manner (as you have). I used to value the teachings preached in this ad, used to be a person that appreciated uniformity and in a way, ignorance. However, moving to Canada certainly opened my eyes and mind.
    I personally thank you for the actions that you have taken.

    Reina.

    • Reina,

      It’s powerful to understand that people often come from a place of intolerance to tolerance. It reminds us that nobody’s beyond learning how to accept and be open to equality and respect.

      I, like you, used to be closed to the idea that nonconformity wasn’t really okay. I think a lot of that had to do with being told that my own non-adherence to the status quo was unwelcome.. still, I was at least a little homophobic, and didn’t understand trans issues, and it took a long time to get over that and become educated and active–and I grew up here, in a suburb, in a public school that had a GSA and a number of trans youth.

      I applaud your personal journey and I hope you share it with others. Thank you for sharing it with us.

      Yours,

      Trevor

  4. Trevor

    I sent Ekron Malcom this email

    Dear Ekron Malcom

    I was directed to the Stop Corrupting Children page on the Institute for Canadian Values’ website: http://www.canadianvalues.ca/index.html.

    I won’t be signing your petition; however, I will be contacting Ontario political campaign offices to say this

    Mr. McGuinty, Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath:

    The TDSB sex education curriculum is age appropriate and a necessary component of a child’s education. I hope you will continue to commit to this curriculum. Furthermore, I strongly request that you ignore the pressure from Christian, and especially Catholic groups, who want you to remove or modify this curriculum and to cease and desist gender-identity teaching in our schools. Please make it clear to Ontario’s Catholic schools that they must comply with Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy, and its “safe schools” program, or they will lose their funding.

    The Oxford Dictionary defines the word values as principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life. Your values/the values of the institute and mine are radically different. Canadian values are not static or written in stone.

    Veronica

  5. Dear Mr. LaForce,
    I just finished reading your letter, finding it posted on my daughter’s facebook page. I am one of those Christian types that you appear to be so alarmed about–and Catholic to boot. Yikes! (As an aside, I notice that you did not comment on the posting above by Veronica, who singled us out as particularly worthy of censure. Sounds a bit ‘Catholophobic,’ wouldn’t you say? Does the fact that she is ready to dislike me because of my religious identity qualify as a form of “bigotry”? Just wondering.)
    I want to say a couple of things up front. First, I am impressed with your writing. As a teacher who fights a daily battle with students who are becoming weaker and weaker at processed thought, it was a pleasure to read a young man who has a firm grip on self expression. Second, as a Religion/Philosophy teacher I have been defending the inherent honor and dignity of LGBTQ’s for about twenty years now–and in a Catholic school, no less. I am on your side when it comes to condemning sexual bigotry. Always have been. We both want the same thing.
    Where we differ, and differ significantly, is in the method we use to achieve what we want. Your method, in the end, tries to achieve the equity you long for by destroying the very thing that makes the equity possible.
    The charge in that ad that you ‘corrupt children’ is hyperbolic, unfair, and inaccurate. But what you do corrupt–what is being completely corrupted in that new Toronto curriculum–is an idea.
    If you wish, and if I have the time, I would be happy to engage in a dialogue with you, so that I might explain what I mean.
    I must say that I had to spend some time wondering why I should bother. As a Catholic in an increasingly secular and subtly anti-Christian country, I have been for a long time somewhat resolved to the fact that my opinions are dismissed because of what I am–or more accurately, because of what people like Veronica think I am.
    So part of the reason that I’d like to pursue this is to see if you’ve put me in a closet too. The other reason, of course, is that I love the truth. It’s the only thing I really give a shit about, frankly.
    Sincerely, Jim Zdril

  6. Jim,

    I’m flattered and honoured by the time you took to engage with me on this level, and I appreciate your position as a member of what is (as you rightly observe) increasingly becoming a marginalized minority in this province.

    And to get something out in the open in advance: Christians don’t alarm me. The New Testament is one of the single most fantastically progressive, radical, and universally inclusive pieces of literature there is. What alarms me is fundamentalism, reducing available rights, attempts to withdraw human rights from persons who have had them awarded, and blocking attempts to improve the situation of the disadvantaged. Groups like the ICV are radical fundamentalists who ignore a lot of positive, inclusive, revisionist scripture in favour of the fire-and-brimstone of the Old Testament. I hold them in the same contempt in which I hold theocracies who practise stoning and genital mutilation, if not quite to the same degree. It’s archaic thinking; antisocial at best and savage at worst. And worse still, people think that the kind of extremist thought generated by the ICV is de rigeur for all Christians of all denominations.

    Admittedly, my sympathy for the institutions of the Catholic School Boards is often minimal. There is a very significant clause in Ministry legislation that demands that education in Ontario not contribute to the primacy of any one religion, and I find that the exorbitant funding excesses the Catholic system enjoys is often viewed as a right and not an aberration. At this point, it does seem like the system is operating on borrowed time, and whether this is a good or a bad thing is open to debate. But to return to the point I wanted to make: I do need to work at being more sensitive to what is effectively a minority issue. Given how long Catholicism has been on top, as it were, it’s an easy thing to forget how marginalized religion can be in a secular world.

    I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with Catholic schools in the province in a variety of positions, both volunteer and otherwise, and the programming they offer is undeniably excellent. What is not all right is that some of the rules seem not to apply there, and I find that unsettling. Why would a board, for example, provide excellent support for all sorts of students but LGBT youth other than that they were being singled out?

    As a teacher especially interested in student success, particularly the success of at- or high-risk youth, I believe that building resiliency and offering fair footing is a key element in student success. I applaud you for your efforts in offering yourself as a resource and a champion of inclusivity and fairness.

    I’m a little unsure as to what specifically you’re referring to when you say I am/the TDSB curriculum is working for the destruction of an idea. Of religious schooling? Of publicly-funded religious schooling, perhaps. I certainly think it’s unfair that 33% of students in Ontario are getting nearly 49% of the funding, and that equalization needs to happen at the very least. Of Catholicism? Certainly not, although I think that the prejudices often attached to it are unnecessary addenda to the dogma. Of childhood innocence or childhood asexuality? Gender identity, sexuality, and prejudices all begin to form early on. What idea exactly is being destroyed that makes equality possible?

    I don’t, by any stretch, see it as a good thing that Christians have become the de facto whipping-boys for secular and nonreligious Western culture. I do think that fundamentalists like the ICV that actively spread disinformation and bigotry could dissolve away and that Canada would be better for it. I think that fundamentalist and evangelicals have a tendency to give all other Christians an undeservedly bad name.

    Honestly, I wish more people like you would come out of the closet and be vocal as you’ve been here. Dialogue has to happen for thought to happen, and you’ve given me some food for thought–as I hope this kind of bloated response indicates. If I may: This is why you bother speaking for yourself in the world you describe. People do listen.

    I certainly hope you have the time to continue to chat. And I hope that you consider this a safe space for self-expression. You’re working to create it in your schools, so the least I can do is the same here.

    Yours,
    Trevor

    P.S.: I realize after the fact that I didn’t address one of your questions. Is anti-Catholic discrimination a form of bigotry? I think the answer would be complicated. If you denounce the organization on the basis of institutionalized discrimination (against women, against LGBTQ individuals) or inaction to the point of counteraction in the face of overwhelming social pressure and evidence of harm (unwilling to budge on condoms/birth control in spite of AIDS epidemic/teen pregnancy back on the rise), this isn’t bigotry, IMO. It’s like criticizing Israel for their unwillingness to engage in legitimate dialogue with Palestine, without any rancour of any kind towards Jews. The problem is when “Catholic” becomes a catch-all for ills stemming from religion, as it so often does. That is a type of bigotry, of prejudice. As to whether Veronica’s discussion is indicative of bigotry, I don’t see specific malice in it, although I see where you would perceive it. Like what the ICV has done, much to my dismay, many socially right-wing organizations try to hide under the moniker of “family” or “Catholic” groups. So while nonspecific (perhaps to the detriment of the sentiment), I believe I understand the implication of it. As to what the intent was, I can only speak to what I read.

    Sorry I missed that the first time around.

  7. Hey Trevor,
    I only have a few minutes, but I want to say a couple of things for now. I’ll try to get more down later.
    First, I am against the ‘enforced’ funding of Catholic schools due to an historical necessity brought about by the desire to include Quebec as a domain of Canada. Ancient history, and there is no longer a basis for such exclusivity in the Charter. I think we Catholics need to support our own schools. (Having said that, I think the answer is to have the education dollars follow the child. That way, any group of parents would be able to form the kind of school that they want–all religions, all ideologies.)
    Second, I appreciate your comments on the difference between Christian fundamentalism and Christianity as a whole.
    More on the “idea” I was talking about later, and more in general.
    Peace, Jim

  8. Hey Trevor, it’s Jim Zdril. I just got back from spending some time in front of an abortion clinic here in Edmonton. I spent most of the time sitting in a lawn chair across the street, with pictures of my grand kids on a table next to me. That’s all I did: sit.
    Quite the experience. I got yelled at; had my picture taken by an abortuary employee; got called a “fuckin’ freak” by one young man who exited the building and roared off in a very nice mustang convertible. And just had a wonderful time watching the young ladies (I counted 14 in the time I was there) going in. The building seemed to swallow them up. In the three hours or so I was there, I never saw any come back out.
    I had one young lady, long blonde hair, stop at the door for a second. She looked across the street at me. I followed her eyes as she looked at the pictures beside me. She hesitated.
    And then she went in.
    That one’s going to haunt me for awhile.

    I mention this little vignette for a reason. It has to do with that “idea” which I spoke of, the one that is being corrupted–the one that the Toronto school board is corrupting with their new curriculum. And I want to come at it a little bit ‘sideways’ with you, because (write this down, you young teacher you!) teachiing isn’t telling.
    I’m going to attempt a little Socratic dialogue. And I’m not trying to be clever, or sly. I’m trying, like Socrates, to keep it simple by asking simple questions.
    If I seem to be wandering a bit off course, bear with me. I’ll get to the idea of gender as soon as I can.
    Here’s the question:

    Are there things that you, me, Veronica, the members of the ICV, the young man in the mustang, and that young blonde lady, have in common?
    Or put more generally, what do human beings have in common?
    Or, if you want to be really general (this is the more difficult level of question), What is a human being anyway?

    • Jim,

      Been out of internet range for a couple of days, but I was pleased to come back to this.

      I’m going to avoid the more abstracted, esoteric question you posed. “What is a human being?” is maybe not a trap question, but I don’t especially enjoy exploring that territory. I get the feeling we may need to eventually, but I’m frankly exhausted and struggling for words a bit right now. Lots of work outside at the family cottage and grandparents’ farm over Thanksgiving. Hope yours was happy.

      So, to simplify, and I think drill towards what you’re getting at. What do you and the others in your vignette have in common? A position on the subject. Opinions. Self-actualization, and the ability and right to self-express. The inalienable human rights that we take for granted in North American society. Life. They were born, they live, they will eventually die. Strengths, weaknesses. The ability to make a choice.

      I’m a little concerned at the treatment that you got. It’s one thing to ignore someone. It’s another to disparage them. And it’s another still to sully a Mustang like that. As if the American auto industry needs the bad press. (Kidding, of course.) In all seriousness, there’s no need to be so rude to someone being so unobtrusive. And while I don’t necessarily support protests at abortion clinics (part of me is all about free speech, another part wants to applaud your creative approach, and part of me thinks that the stress and heartache of the decision those women make should be conflict enough) I support ill-mannered people considerably less.

      Last: I think you didn’t see anyone exit because there is a long, disgusting history of women being harassed and assaulted when leaving clinics by people who are protesting them, or by men who prey on the emotionally and physically vulnerable. It’s my understanding, and I could be wrong on this but it seems logical, that there are usually more discrete exit points away from the main entrance so that people can make their way out of the clinic unmolested.

      Trevor

  9. Hey Trevor, it’s Jim. I’m babysitting my 3 month old grandson, and between the feedings, the making of the mandatory grampa noises and the hanging out, I’ll try to get some stuff down.
    If you are uncomfortable with going too far into “esoteric” philosophical territory, I can cut to the chase and tell simply tell you what idea is being corrupted by those who support that Toronto curriculum which purports to deal with “heterosexism” (it took me awhile to figure out what that is) and homophobia. But it is very likely that you will not understand the conclusion I’ve reached if you don’t first understnad the premises upon which it is built.
    Look, Trevor, you are a teacher. Every day you are going to have a room full of human beings. And I think it is necessary to have a solid idea of what they are as human beings. How can you do what you want to do for them if you don’t know what they are–which obviously includes knowing what they need? If you wanted to be a cattle rancher, wouldn’t it be a good idea to know what cows are? Or a monkey trainer to know what a monkey is? If someone threw me on a farm tomorrow and said ‘go at it, kid,’ those farm animals would be in a lot of trouble.
    But we throw beginning teachers into a classroom without them having much of an idea at all about what human beings are.
    And one of my points is simply this: that whoever wrote that curriculum doesn’t know much about human beings. And what they think they know is not only wrong, but disastrously so.
    So I’m not trying to trap you with an esoteric question. I’m asking you one that you should at least have a beginning of an answer to.
    What is a human being? What is their nature? Is there such a thing as a human nature? If so, what are its basic components–and if there isn’t a universal human nature how is it that we can call them all “human beings”? If we can validly use the term “humanity”, doesn’t that imply that they have certain traits, certain characteristics, a certain inner life, that unites them?
    I obviously think that there is; what I wonder is if you think the same.
    Once you have some sense of the answer to that question, then we can move on to the idea of gender, and what role that plays in this idea of human nature.
    But again, |I can just tell you, if you like. But I’m not sure if it will make any sense to you. You will, in all likelihood, pass it off as irrelevant, because you won’t have grasped the thinking that lies behind it.
    Those people who put that ad in the paper likely have not thought too much about what lies behind their concern, their fear, either. But it’s not all homophobia or heterosexism. They are trying to protect something that I think desperately needs protecting.
    Gotta go, the grandson is fussing. Take care,
    Jim Zdril

  10. I had a feeling that you would likely give up. It’s not the first time I’ve tried to engage in a dialogue that tries to strike out past the shallow waters of easy thought, only to find myself swimming out there by myself.
    So I’ll at least finish what I promised. I will tell you why your method which aims at achieving a kind of sexual equality is doomed to failure because it is based upon a fallacy which is at once juvenile and hypocritical.
    Your fundamental mistake is to think that you can eliminate homophobia, heterosexism, and prejudice against non-heterosexuals by erasing the difference between genders, or at least rendering as irrelevant whatever differences there may be.
    In order to achieve that, you must also get people to think that human nature is something malleable and changeable. You must be willing to accept that there really is no solid female or male gender. The line must be blurred until it disappears.
    Gender is irrelevant to human nature. That, whether you see it or not, is the heart of your method. And as a necessary corollary, human nature itself must be changeable, plastic, malleable.
    But what if it isn’t?
    If it isn’t, then you are engaged in trying to create something that could be as ugly and foreign and grotesque as Frankenstein’s monster. It would be like trying to graft on an extra arm, or a third eyeball.
    If there really is a female nature and a male nature that is part of the essence of who we are, then to try and force children to think otherwise is to try and twist within them the very essence of what they are–without once thinking about the possible negative consequences.
    The real instinct that lies behind that ad that you so object to is simply this: that once you begin to think of a human being as a shifting and alterable thing, then it becomes easy for the strong and crafty–for those with the power–to twist that human being into whatever new shapes they wish, however unnatural it may be.
    And this definition of human nature–that there is no human nature–is the basis for every ugly, racist, eugenic, and even genocidal, program devised by man.
    Get rid of the idea of a universal solid human nature (which includes gender) and you open the door to defining what a human being is by whichever criteria we find convenient, or useful, or…efficient.
    And ugly things begin to crawl out.
    If you think I exaggerate, let me give you just one quick example, and then I will leave you alone.
    There is a lesbian couple in Berkeley, Ca. They adopted a boy (a cognitively delayed boy, interestingly) when he was two. He is now eleven, and they have decided that he wants to be a girl.
    So they are giving him hormone blockers and getting him ready for surgery.
    They are taking a boy and making him a girl, because they want to.
    Thirty years ago they would be considered monsters.
    Today they are merely the end product of what you are working towards.
    Your hidden hypocrisy lies in this: you demand that all people, of whatever sexaul orientation, be treated as equal–and then you knock down the one thing, the one reality, that makes them equal in the first place.
    Sincerely, Jim Zdril

    • Jim,

      I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. It’s been a bit of a busy time, and I’ve been avoiding the debate until I could get my thoughts together properly, to be totally honest. But I have been giving what you’ve said some thought and I think what we’re coming to may a philosophic impasse in how we define “humanity.” I don’t know that the end result differs very much, but

      We’ve been dealing with “ifs,” and I think these “ifs” (you know, if there is a basic human truth, or if there is inherent male and female tendency, or if etc.) are indicative of a fundamental schism in our perceptions of humanity.

      The idea that you put forth–that people eschew the idea of inherent humanity and that allows for abuses to take place–is fair enough. Yes, the absence of recognition of human rights has resulted (and continues to result) in egregious acts. But that’s not because there’s a lack of recognition of an inherent humanity, just a lack of recognition of humanity, period.

      Here’s the thing. I don’t believe that we can prescribe humanity. Capital H Humanity itself does not come with definitions, monikers, classification, or predisposition. We do not know what is meant to be for humanity; to assert otherwise is hubris (to wit: God, in whatever form He takes, knows what is meant for mankind, but not we cruder beings). All we have to understand humanity is a studious, descriptive process. We often can’t assign direction of causality to what we find, in spite of evolutionary psychology and natural studies; nothing is obviously inherent, nothing obviously sacred: just what is, warts and all.

      This doesn’t, however, require that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Humanity, that wonderful place circumscribed by our presence and actions, has in place protections for its residents that are slowly becoming appropriately adopted. The Universal Declaration, Charters of rights, movements, oversight boards, yeomen and ombudsmen, courts and democratic organization. Jim, humanity is humanity whether it is a prescriptive or descriptive term, and either way, it deserves protecting, because we are all we have.

      My issue with the ad is not that it is inherently homophobic and transphobic, although that is part of my reaction to it. My issue is the promotion of the idea that more knowledge is a bad thing. The curriculum does not aim to mould kids one way or another. The curriculum aims to educate kids on the reality of humanity in the 21st century: that identity is what you make of it, and that one’s identity is no invitation for harassment, for bullying, for abuse. More information is enabling, not destructive, and as an educator I find the insinuation to the contrary morally reprehensible.

      Jim, the “end product of what [I] am working towards” is not the abuse that you described with the couple in Berkeley and the decision they are forcing on their child, and, frankly, I hope you have the courtesy to apologize for that assertion. What I work for as an educator are respect and individual rights, critical thinking and self-realization. What the couple in Berkeley are doing, under the parameters you have provided, constitute an appalling violation of (what is, in my opinion) that child’s right to self-determination. Worse, it is (again, under the exact parameters you provided) a violation inflicted on someone who cannot speak for themselves. In the case you present, they would not simply be monsters thirty years ago: they are still heinous. We agree on that. We just have different ways of getting there.

      I have to say, I understand you being frustrated that I wasn’t responding quickly, but I’m a little offended by the assumptions and assertions you made.You put words in my mouth and thoughts in my head that weren’t there. I’ve never thought that homogeneity is the answer to eliminating prejudice. I think education is. I think information is. The more informed we can make people about themselves and their peers, the more exposure people have to different types of people, to different shades of humanity, the less prejudice will exist. It’s about individuation and knowledge and experience, Jim, not about effacement, not about assuming sameness.

      That’s why I was taking the approach that I did–not making assumptions about you based on your faith or the side you seemed to be taking in this discussion. You, however, appear to have made several assumptions about me, and I hope that you have respect enough for me to acknowledge that at least some of them were misguided.

      If you decide to respond, I will certainly be more vigilant and timely with my answers to your posts. If not, I’m sorry this won’t have ended at some sort of resolution. But I do hope you’ve read this, and hopefully I’ve demonstrated a third way, a middle ground, for what is so often a polarizing topic.

      Thanks for the interest you demonstrated and your continued posting,

      Trevor
      -paddle your own canoe-

  11. Hey Trevor, glad to have you back! I do apologize for thinking that you had given up–as I said, it’s happened to me a number of times before. I admire your willingness to continue to pursue what is an interesting and complex subject, and I want to thank you for giving me the chance to challenge myself to dig deeper and really try to explain what I’m getting at. I too am educating myself in this process, and am excited by it. I hope you are too!
    Reading over what we’ve both said thus far, I see signs that we are already doing what I call ‘entering the labyrinth.’ Under the surface, there are so many subjects popping out that we can easily get lost in them: humanity and human rights; education and knowledge; curriculum and what it is for; even God has subtly entered into the mix.
    Lest we do get lost, I want to review.
    I wrote to you because I insist that the people who wrote that ad are not the misguided and homophobic people that you may think they are. I think that, for the most part at at least, they are, however unconsciously, trying to defend something that desperately needs defending. They have, at the very least, an instinct that something is dreadfully wrong with that Toronto Curriculum, and I think that they are right.
    I want to stick with that original line of thought, and continue to go from there. If you can, try to ignore my last entry. It says far too much that you (and me too!) are not ready for. I jumped over a number of other things that we need to discuss first.
    In order to sharpen the importance of why I think a working definition of what it means to be human is essential to a critique of that Toronto curriculum, let’s take a look at some of the things it says–and particularly assumes–about what human nature is like.
    But before we begin, I can’t help but say at least one thing about something in your last entry. It is so central to what we are going to talk about that it must be addressed if we hope to go any further. You say at one point that “The [Toronto] curriculum does not aim to mould kids one way or another.”
    Trevor, if that were true, and known to be true, why on earth would you develop any curricula at all? That Toronto Curriculum (TC) absolutely wants to mold kids–it wants to mold them in such a way that they treat LGBTQ’s better than they do–with respect and equity. And it is a laudable desire–remember that it is the METHOD that I object to, not the desire itself.
    All curricula intends to mold kids, Trevor. We want to ‘produce’ (I hate that expression, actually) a certain kind of citizen; and education is one of the primary tools by which we accomplish our goal. There’s nothing really wrong with that–as long as our goal is honorable and right.
    And–this already brings in the idea of humanity– it is our definition of what a human being is, or should be, that, consciously or not, will guide our decisions regarding what we shall teach.
    All curricula should be designed to make our children more complete, not less complete, human beings. That might be the distillation of what I am saying by way of introduction to the specifics in the TC. How’s that?

    Now let’s look at at least one part of it–I’m already going on too long!

    The TC says in more than one place that we must always be ready to challenge our assumptions. Fair enough. Are you ready to challenge some of theirs?

    In the earlier grades, students are taught that all the different kinds of family types are equally good. Having them read the book “Who’s in a Family?” portrays that idea quite strongly, for example. This is an assumption without any quantifiable basis in reality, and in fact all the sociological and statistical evidence thus far points to the opposite conclusion. Statistically, children raised in regular two-parent families do much better as a whole in all areas of social development than do children raised by single moms and single dads (especially if they are divorced). Plus, there is no sufficient evidence as yet to indicate that children reared by same-sex couples fare no better or worse than those in regular families–although first indications from current studies are not very promising. I trust that you can research the validity of what I’m saying on your own, Trevor–but I can give you a wealth of anecdotal evidence from my own teaching experience. As a Special Ed teacher I can tell you that the vast majority of my most troubled behaviour kids come from one form of broken home or another. Very, very few ever come from a stable, 2-parent ‘traditional’ (I hate that loaded term too!) family.

    So how, or why, does the TC make the rather huge assumption that all types of family units are equally good at ‘producing’ healthier, more humanly complete, children?
    I think it’s because they WANT to believe it, despite substantial evidence to the contrary. (That, by the way, is what we call “blind faith.”)
    Why do you think they make the assumption?
    Enough already! I’ve already taken up too much of your time. Can’t wait to hear from you, sincerely Jim.

  12. Hey Trevor,
    I just listened to a very nice young person who is a “facilitator” at the OWS protest in New York describe herself, when asked who she was, as a “female-bodied person.”
    Tuck that in beside the lesbian couple I described who are turning a boy into a girl.
    That, my friend (and I mean that), is where that Toronto curriculum is leading students incrementally: to treat their very own gender as mostly irrelevant. Just parts.
    How’s the canoe going?
    Jim

    • Hi Jim,

      I haven’t had a chance to bring the canoe back from the ‘Frew yet, but I think I’m closer to finding out what model it is, which will make it easier to restore. It’ll give me some measurements to work off of if I can get my hands on proper documentation. Thanks for asking. 🙂

      Back to the discussion at hand:

      Ultimately, I think you’re overstating what the TDSB curriculum is trying to do vis a vis gender, and what the facilitator from OWS was saying (by any chance, was that from the Colbert segment earlier this week? 😉 Been enjoying his take on OWS a lot.)

      There is no shortage of historical evidence and scholarly work saying that the link between sex and gender representation are more socially-generated and gradiated than our everyday gender binary would have us believe. I have no problem with being cisgendered.. I am male, and I also define myself as a man. It’s convenient, I am comfortable in my identity, I cultivate it along those lines, and more important than that, I *like* it. I am also comfortable in defining my masculinity fairly close to the postwar masculine standard: I want to provide for those I love, be self-actualizing, be responsible. There are some more post

      The individual who defined herself as “female-bodied” may not define her gender under traditional norms, and this I’m okay with. Even if she defined herself as a man (hypothetically), being female-bodied still carries with it certain biological realities. It’s worth recognizing that there are stigma levied against both gender and sex, *independently* of one another.

      She’s not in the same camp *at all* as the couple in California who have taken it upon themselves to change their child’s sex. One is a person who is realizing her own identity. I applaud her ability to self-actualize in the way she wants, and ultimately to think critically about the relationship between her sex and gender. The couple in California are not engaging in self-actualization: they are removing someone else’s ability to self-actualize.

      Similarly, the TDSB are not trying to remove definitions of gender, only to remove the restrictions that are associated with building a sex and gender binary.

      I can’t find the image, but I was linked to a school reader from the late 1950s that showed the differences between boys and girls. “Boys make money – girls spend money” was one example. This was a construction of that era, and are part of no “natural” sex-gender relationship.

      Now, imagine a kid, a young male, who doesn’t feel like a boy. He can’t really express what’s wrong, but he knows that what he’s told you’re “supposed” to be as a boy and what he is below the waist don’t match.

      Then he’s given that book to read. In school.

      Jim, if the TDSB are removing barriers for that kid, I’m all for it. If they’re reducing the likelihood that that kid is going to get bullied, then so be it.

      They’re not teaching all kids to be neuters (this is what I was referring to specifically when I said they’re not trying to mould the students–sorry that wasn’t clear). Just to not be bound by stereotypes and stigma.

      They’re not teaching kids that gender is just parts. They’re teaching them that *sex* is just parts–and that gender is what you want it to be, doesn’t have to be linked to sex, and that’s okay.

      Ultimately, I don’t think the method is what you think it is–they’re not abandoning gender, just opening it to allow the kids to self-actualize as opposed to being dictated to. I think that being able to fully realize one’s own identity does in fact make a more complete person, does it not?

      Now, on to the next point.

      I have to agree with *both* you and “Who’s in the Family?” on this one, and to do this, I’m going to define a term that you use, I believe, incorrectly.

      “Broken home” refers to a family unit that is dysfunctional, where there is inadequate authority on the part of the parent(s), where the living situation is unstable or bad, where nutrition may be poor, where alcoholism and other substance abuse adversely affects familial relations.. ultimately, where risk factors have been introduced.

      Having a single-parent or same-sex-parent households are not inherently, I believe, better or worse. They are not “broken homes” by default, in my opinion. You can draw a correlative but not causative link between single-parent households and these broken homes–incidences of poor nutrition, unstable housing, detached parents, substance abuse, etc. are higher in this population. Risk factors are introduced ancillary to the marital status. But that’s a parenting thing, a poverty thing, a mental wellness thing, a social assistance thing, not related to gender or sexuality at all.

      As for same-sex parents and lower incidences of student success, I honestly don’t have any position on that. I haven’t done the reading to support any kind of claim, but I will refer you to my definition of “broken home” above. And I will also postulate that children of same-sex parents are immediately made targets of derision and bullying from the baser element.

      I think that all these definitions of gender, of the family, of what is and isn’t right to teach are all fairly recent developments, honestly, almost all certainly stemming from the postwar period. The early 1900s saw men fascinated with fashion and women fascinated with joining the working world. The 1800s were about everyone being employed in the industrial boom, and multi-generational households. The 1700s saw a boom in the middle class, the rise of the labourer, and a certain degree of softness and (what we now consider) femininity to everyone in the upper European classes. A century and a half before that, marriage wasn’t even a sacrament yet, and shortly after, the Catholic Church saw the complete sexual fulfilment of both partners as a duty in marriage. Many early Christians in Rome joined Jesus and Mary in celibacy and looked down on any union like marriage, even for the production of offspring.

      I guess my ultimate point is that we are smarter now than we were a thousand or a hundred or even fifty years ago when the nuclear family unit and what we now see as “traditional” gender roles were created. More study has been done, the foundations laid during the social revolutions have been masterfully built upon. We simply know more. And our students are changing, becoming more diverse, more individuated from one another. Shouldn’t the curriculum keep pace?

      Thanks for the continued interest, Jim. I’m enjoying our back-and-forth.

      Yours,

      Trevor

    • Hi Jim,

      Also, here’s the latest on the couple you were referring to previously.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2043345/The-California-boy-11-undergoing-hormone-blocking-treatment.html

      Seems like it was less a product of the parents wanting a girl and more a case of the child legitimately suffering from a misapplied gender identity. Further, the kid will have the option to discontinue hormone therapy at a later date and go through puberty with an inherently male development.There is no genital reassignment surgery being done.

      Were the details of the story as you relayed them initially totally accurate (i,e, the parents decided they wanted a girl and were engaging in genital reassignment surgery irrespective of the child’s wishes) I would certainly think the case a monstrous one. It does not, however, seem like the child’s ability to self-actualize or realize her identity is being stifled in any appreciable way. The physical changes of puberty are being

      Anyway, while only ancillary to our discussion, I thought you’d be interested to read more.

      Cheers,

      Trevor

      Trevor

  13. Hey Trevor, how’s it going?
    You know, this is a little oddly coincidental, you rebuilding a canoe. Thirty years ago, when I was a young buck looking for something to do for a summer (my first summer holiday as a teacher), I built a cedar strip canoe in our garage, out in a little town named Barrhead. It (the canoe, not the town) has survived a lot of abuse over the years since, and is now up on blocks in my shop out at the lake. I’m planning to refinish it this winter. The fibreglass is rubbed off in a number of places and needs re-doing, and the seats and gunwales need replacing, as well as some of the ribs.
    An old goat from the conservative West (I won’t say God’s country–I’ll just think it) and a young liberal buck from the far East (missionary territory)actually having a conversation–and they’re both working on a canoe.
    Hmph. Coincidence or Providence?
    Anyhow, back to the battle.
    I want to say again that I applaud the goal of the TC. I want every child to know that they are equally valued and even precious, whatever their sexual orientation. And I’ll say it again, that it’s their methodology that is faulty, and based on a number of assumptions that do not match up with reality.
    That’s why I wanted you to question the assumption that all pairings, or unions, or marriages, or civil unions, or whatever the latest term might be, are equally good in terms of their ability to raise more complete human beings. They aren’t, and it’s common knowledge to anyone working in those fields of endeavour that involve working with kids.
    The TC assumption is false. Period.
    And rather than try to demonstrate this with stats and studies, I am going to simply refer to some people I’ve worked with in those fields.
    When I taught in Barrhead, my closest friend was a grade one teacher–a big moose of a guy named Denis, who could have had a shot at playing in the NHL but decided that teaching was what he loved more. He told me once that after about one or two weeks of school at the beginning of the year, he could tell with about 90% accuracy which of his kids came from broken homes, ie either divorced parents or single moms. That difference he saw still exists today.
    Then there was the four years I taught in an adolescent psychiatric ward in Edmonton. Saw lots of really, really sick high school students. Suicidal depression; OCD; sociopathic; severe oppositional-defiant; psychotic–you name it.
    It was a tough four years, but one of the things that kept me going was the adolescent psychiatrist. His name was Dr. Parsons, and he loved those kids, and he was good with them. Some of the things I learned from working there?
    –2-parent traditional families were virtually never a source from which our patients came
    –adolescent pschiatric wards were unheard of until about the mid-80’s or so. Suddenly they were popping up everywhere, with longer and longer waiting lists. Dr. Parson’s explanation was succinct: families were breaking down. Sick kids come from sick families, and ‘suddenly’ they were everywhere. (He was a skeptical agnostic, by the way. He was not pushing traditional families from any religious ‘bias.’)
    –when homosexuality was removed from the DSM (“Diagnostic Statistical Manual”) as a psychiatric disorder, it was for political, not sound psychiatric, reasons. At the time, well over half of psychiatrists surveyed throughout North America stated that they still maintained that homosexuaity (and all gender-related issues that radically departed from the norm) is a disorder–according to the psychiatric definition of what constitutes a disorder in the first place. They were coerced by political correctness to remove it as a disorder–even though the effects which placed it as a disorder were still as prevalent as ever. Dr. Parsons believed that the homosexual community would suffer as a result, long-term.

    That’s just the start of a number of experiences from my own life that convince me, beyond any statistics or studies, that we are one fucked-up society today. We are not smarter than we were fifty years ago. If we were, kids in general would be better than they were fifty years ago, and they’re not. We took a seriously wrong turn somewhere. We are growing a lot of serioulsy ill kids today. More than I ever saw when I was a kid.
    But more in my next letter.
    To be continued!
    (And let me know if you have any general questions about canoe restoration!)

  14. Hey Trevor, long time no hear! How’s the canoe going? Mine is still up on the blocks in the yard at the cabin, and is now covered by about a foot of snow. Sigh. Gotta get at it–maybe over Christmas break.
    I was just wondering what you thought of Michael Erickson’s recent foray into the Toronto sex ed curriculum contorversey regarding ads placed on the Sun Media network. They sound similar to the ad placed in the newspaper awhile ago, which prompted our discussion.
    He demands, among other things, the following:
    –“disciplinary action” taken against those who apoproved the running of the ads (what action? I would ask)
    –2 hours of free ad time for a gay activist group which he would approve of beforehand
    –an apology for having placed the ad, the the proceeds from it be given to a gay activist group
    –a “re-education camp” sensitivity training session for all those involved at Sun Media
    –a complete ban on buying ads on any topic whatsoever to be levied against the group that bought the ad time
    What do you think, Trevor? Agree or disagree?
    Yor frend (and Merry Christmas!),
    Jim

    • Hi Jim,

      Just wanted to shoot you a quick reply before I step out, I’ll give you a more involved answer later. My surface-level thoughts, without going back and reading all sides of the story (have only read Sun’s, funnily enough) are as such.

      Sun Media has in the past wilfully published advertising that spreads disinformation about the TDSB sex ed curriculum. I think they should be accountable for that. It’s damaging to both the Board and to public discourse. That, they should stop.

      Education critics on both sides of the debate, especially regarding the Accepting Schools Act, are writing without an understanding of what is actually being done. The ICV head honcho recently babbled about the TDSB teaching kids about six genders, and it being made law in the Act. That is shocking. And nobody’s calling him on it.

      The level of discourse on both sides is embarassing. Suggesting reeducation is not the answer. The answer is demanding journalistic integrity, some degree of fact-checking, and, further, more widespread understanding what is and is not hate speech and
      where freedom of expression ends.

      More topic-specific commentary shortly.

      Yours, and Merry Christmas to you,

      Trevor

Leave a Reply