This week the Vancouver School Board decided all its elementary schools should participate in the BC Teachers Federation “Week Against Homophobia.” Parents were not advised. Word leaked out and enquiring parents were told the lesson outlines were not available to them, but one teacher at one school broke the hidden agenda rule and released the document to a parent.

Here’s a sample from the discussion questions to be rated from “strongly agree to strongly disagree” with the correct answer noted for the teachers’ benefit:

Discrimination is still wrong, even when based in one’s beliefs.

[“Beliefs” have been used as weapons for centuries and have harmed many. In Canada your beliefs do not allow you to hurt or discriminate.]

For some reason, “beliefs” are regularly identified as religious (as opposed to the concept that beliefs in the LGBT lifestyle might be used as a weapon to hurt and discriminate) and end up being tied back to an alleged “hidden agenda” of Christians, Evangelical Christians in particular, to cause harm. We engage in public policy debate – there must be a hidden agenda. We stand for certain initiatives – hidden agenda. We stand against certain initiatives – hidden agenda. While others claim to be “revealing” this hidden agenda, we go about our business without hiding what we’re doing!

Somehow, those with a long track record of doing good – think of the Evangelical William Wilberforce and the crusade to end the slave trade or his establishment of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; or, think of Evangelical Charles Loring Brace who founded the Children’s Aid Society; or, consider Evangelical William Booth who founded The Salvation Army with its shelters, hospitals, “homes for unwed mothers,” food banks, etc; or … I think you get the point – are alleged to be sinister and hiding something when we take a stand for good that is contrary to the stand of some of the very vocal among us.

But when it comes to agendas, I find myself joining a long list of those who find something amiss about instruction on “homophobia” (is anyone really phobic about homosexuals?), “gays,” and “lesbians” being promoted by teachers and school boards in the elementary school grades.

I believe all people should be treated with respect because there are no exceptions to being made in God’s image. Equal respect is a good concept to teach in the elementary grades.

I disagree strongly with instruction in the elementary schools that advocates for discrimination against an identifiable community.

I also disagree strongly with instruction of minors in government funded schools when that instruction might be considered controversial and about which parents have intentionally not been informed, i.e. the subject matter is known to be contrary to instruction certain parents wish their children to receive.

Teaching elementary school children what it means to feel same-sex attraction is considered by many not to be healthy. For boys in the elementary school grades, their best friends are boys (… and, by the way, in case you were unaware girls have “coodies”). For girls in the elementary school grades, their best friends are girls. On a dare, they might kiss a boy on the cheek but their interests are generally in other girls. Puberty is when opposite sex attraction begins to surface with a force – or with modern media’s continuing blitzing of the sex message, some at a pre-pubescent age. And, one might add, puberty is a somewhat confusing period in life as interest in a boy’s best friend is replaced by a crush on a girl. For some, equally confusing is a same-sex attraction that might emerge with similar force in these years (about 1.5% of the Canadian population self-identified as gay or lesbian in 2004 according to Statistics Canada).

Informing young children whose best friends are usually of the same sex that same-sex attraction is “felt” as a child is both mistaken and misleading.

Telling them that their “beliefs,” and by inference their parents beliefs (including religious beliefs), are wrong is, well, wrong!

The result of the “Week Against Homophobia” is that several parents have felt compelled to remove their children from school for the week.

The Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that in a multicultural and pluralist society, all students should feel welcome in the classroom. Yes, that includes gay students. It also includes students with religious beliefs.

In this case, the instruction guidelines note:

With “free” speech also comes a responsibility to be respectful and to keep everyone feeling safe. Always assume you have LGBT or questioning kids in the room.

And for questions one is directed to contact the Vancouver School Board email address pride@vsb.bc.ca.

I have been unable to locate a similar initiative for religious students at the VSB. Is there one? I know the BC Teachers Federation opposed the accreditation of graduates from Trinity Western University’s school of education (unsuccessfully). Would the BCTF stand against a gay teacher in the classroom? Would the VSB appoint a gay activist to develop and circulate curriculum? It seems the agenda is in plain sight. Let’s not pretend it’s hidden. Instead, let’s find the way to respect one another and teach our children to be respectful as well.

Every child should feel welcome in the classroom.

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