By KIRK MOSS
Re: Toronto Star article “Feeling ‘hopeless’, parents weigh other school options” by Noor Javed and Kristin Rushowy (September 3, 2015).
There is an amplified voice of annoyance swirling around Ontario’s education system, and it’s not a teachers’ union leader screaming insults at education minister Liz Sandals from directly across the bargaining table. The yelling, screaming and complaining comes from parents and closed-minded think-tanks who feel ‘hopeless’ their children will finally be enlightened by a new health curriculum in the age of tinder, Snap-Chat, Ashley Madison and Instagram.
The spewing of confusion and deliberate misinformation by REAL Women of Canada and other such groups is merely a campaign of fear and ignorance under the pretense of ‘protecting the innocence of our children’ or as one protest sign outside the Premier’s office read “Say No to Sex-ed, Let Kids Be Kids”.
Unfortunately, ‘kids’ become the casualties and collateral damage in this equation of “parents know best” which often turns out to be quite the contrary. What makes sex education or our new health curriculum seem terrorizing to these adults? Why would anyone not favour students learning the facts of our biological functions and overall anatomy?
In countless cultures, adults were socialized in households where sex was seen as a dirty word, a nasty act and the worst thing a person could do, outside of wedlock. Quite commonly, our domestic invisible/unspoken curriculum, laced with religiosity, teaches us to view sexuality as despicable, disgusting and sinful. We’ve lived for centuries with the notion and under the guise of religious values, and even our laws attest to these fundamental principles, cornerstones of nations and societies across the world. Religion continues to will its way into various aspects of our lives, and it’s important to underscore its role in giving us a sense of hope, ethics and purpose, even offering meaning to life after death through faith and belief, which motivates us to be good, meek and diligent towards our fellow humans. However, when religion preaches, influences and shapes our adult minds to believe that “not knowing is best” especially when it comes to issues of a sexual nature, our bodies or sexual identity, then we must restrain its passion and curb its enthusiasm.
Skeptical think-tanks like Campaign for Life or My Child My Choice, which declare their opposition to the new progressive health curriculum, continue to fuel a brewing homophobic and anti-gay conspiratorial conversation that began ever since Kathleen Wynne, our first female and lesbian Premier, turned the keys and occupied the safe space of her new office. This conservative and regressive rhetoric emerges from a belief system and fiery culture of exclusion and ethno-centricism. According to these closed-minded opinions, gays, lesbians and queers alike have an ‘agenda’ to ram homosexuality down our throats at any cost.
Blasphemously, gays of all stripes will soon take over the world, converting our innocent and pure children into thinking Adam and Steve is as natural as Adam and Eve. Such poisonous propaganda, which is at the heart of the sex-ed oppositional movement, serves to drag our society back into the Darken Stone Ages.
The story of Adam and Eve deserves some unpacking since most popular and powerful religions understand and adhere to its claims. One must question why nakedness is the punishment bestowed upon them for the act of eating the fruit? Thus, we are taught through such stories that we must be terrified of our bodies, especially our so-called private parts. Instead of feeling alive and invigorated for the wonderful nature of our body parts, anatomy and biological functions and embrace them in their natural state with feelings of pride, compassion and self-acceptance, we’re schooled to believe nakedness is a chastising predicament. No wonder so many of us, especially women, become overly self-conscious and filled with anxiety by the mere thought of entering even a private swimming pool, a gym or home-shower or simply soaking up some necessary Vitamin D on a beach. From an early age, we are taught to feel ashamed, unsatisfied and awful about our body. This explains why we obsessively ask our mirror reflections, our selfies or those around us: ‘how do I look’?
Supermodel Cameron Russell not only reminds us, in her famous Ted-Talks presentation, that “image is powerful and… superficial” but also, that “53 per cent of 13 year-old girls” hate their bodies, and this number skyrockets to almost 80 per cent by the time they reach 17. Youth develop numerous eating disorders, self-obsessions, digestive issues and emotional trauma from this stressful psychological weight.
Moreover, Adam and Eve’s singular and dominant notion of heterosexuality seeps into our psyches as a result of indoctrinating kids that it is only normal to be heterosexual and thus, any other forms of sexual identity is an abomination to be wiped clean from existing in the social and political realms of our society, and not to be seen as human beings deserving of affection, consideration and dignified treatment. For too long, normalized hetero-sexism has ruined countless lives and inflicted inhumane punishment on those deemed different, unnatural, and ‘un-straightened’.
Most religions breed a fear of the other, the unknown, the ignored and the misunderstood. Rather than courageous conversations to unearth new understandings, dogma stands to stifle and silence learning. Religious ideology is determined to crush insightful-thinking especially in our youth, permitting them to learn only through limited, inflexible and one-dimensional educational fanaticism.
The same innocent story of the Garden of Eden teaches us that girls make ‘bad’ choices, are inferior to boys, and must be treated as second class humans for tempting Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Our notion of sexism is shaped from these powerful, penetrating stories, which have, regrettably, withstood the waves of social change.
As educators, active citizens and societal stakeholders, we cannot afford to idle and gaze passively at another generation of kids being silenced by theological fundamentalism. Educational stakeholders must provide students the critical thinking and analytical tools necessary to question and interrogate religious doctrines and dogma, and assertively challenge these stale paradigms. Youth must begin charting a new course of ‘life studies’ in developing healthy understandings of their sexuality, speaking freely and openly of their body parts, and learning to fully embrace their personal sense of identity, feeling liberated from the shackles of narrow-mindedness. Schools must instruct young minds to speak appropriately about sex, learn to value sexuality and be caring of their sexual identities, comfortable and secure in knowing confidently that healthy sexuality, sexual identity and sexual relationships are cornerstones of living prosperous and fulfilling lives.
Through rational and logical thinking, and effective teaching strategies, it is imperative for our students to feel empowered, not threatened, by sexual diversity, and find self-assurance in nurturing their own bodies, minds and emotional states, removing any residue of shame, guilt or discomfort from their path towards true self-actualization and engaged-citizenship, for our democracy to flourish abundantly.
Kirk Moss is an educator, mentor, coach, curriculum writer and freelance journalist who works extensively in the field of equity, diversity and anti-oppressive social and educational practices holding a B.Ed, B.A and M.Ed.