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Teacher’s Open Letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce
My written statement in regards to Bill 98 (with a few minor edits since submission).
Re: Bill 98, An Act to amend various Acts relating to education and child care. Attn: Standing Committee on Social Policy.
Dear Mr. Lecce,
Not so long ago it seemed we were all on board with the idea that a teacher’s role should be to teach kids the facts, and give them the tools they need to effectively resolve problems and discover what is true. Teachers understood that wearing their political beliefs on their sleeve in any way was a bad look — a sign that they were failing at their job.
These days, teachers who view their role as described above must risk reputation and career to say so. I know this from firsthand experience: in 2021, I posted the comments below in a private facebook group. What followed was a month-long investigation by my school board, and then a week-long suspension without pay.
Since then, I’ve been in touch with hundreds of teachers and parents who share my concerns. Teachers are feeling stuck and unable to speak their minds, even to voice polite disagreement on pedagogical practices and school policies. Parents, too, feel helpless, even disrespected, as their concerns are often ignored and overlooked by the school boards.
Dr David Haskell, esteemed professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, discusses the sorry state of our education system in his recent National Post article. He points out:
Now, in the province of Ontario, we literally have school boards running racially segregated events — dances, career days, workshops — that White students are not invited to attend. We have drag queens being hired by board administrators to give pep talks to the student body. We have teachers telling six-year olds that boys and girls don’t exist in reality. We have principals suspending students because they won’t renounce their moral conviction that biological males should not use female washrooms. We have biological male woodshop instructors, in a mockery of decency and femininity, wearing massive prosthetic breasts in their classroom. We have educational “thought leaders” encouraging their teaching colleagues to stop showing tolerance to students who don’t hold progressive values. Those cases were in the news in just the last 12 months and that’s just a partial list of what we might start “leaving out.” (The National Post, April 18th, 2023)
These are some of the more outrageous manifestations of wokism in education. Perhaps even more troublingly, we have teachers who use their status of authority to present a certain biased perspective on topics relating to race, gender, identity and more, every day in classrooms across the province, and nothing is being done about it.
Below is one version of the frequently used “wheel of privilege and power,” which was presented at a recent professional development (PD) session at Caledon Central Public School (PDSB). Variations of this wheel have been presented at multiple PD sessions across Ontario, and have been taught to students too.
Why are we allowing our teachers – and students – to be taught to accept that being black in our society makes you marginalized or oppressed and that being white makes you privileged, powerful or oppressive? Or that being heterosexual gives you more power and privilege than being a gay man, and that gay men have more power and privilege than lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals and asexuals? According to who, exactly, and by what metric?
The “wheel” analysis is based on intersectional theory, not fact, and it is an absurdity that it is taught as truth.
Besides, dividing people into groups based on select immutable traits is likely to cause more resentment and hate, not less. Have we thought about that at all?
The need to remove ideology from our schools and restore quality education cannot be overstated. While I am pleased to see this issue acknowledged with the introduction of Bill 98, I unfortunately fail to see how the bill would effectively tackle the issue at hand.
How does the Ministry of Education plan to deal with biased political teachings in classrooms? Will the Ministry strengthen a teacher’s right to voice dissenting opinions on political ideologies being imposed on them? Will the Ministry make sure that diversity, equity and inclusion staff and consultants are held accountable when they promote ideology over fact, which they almost always do?
Beyond my concerns with the limited scope of the bill, I worry about its vagueness. For example, the bill states multiple times that “the Minister may make regulations” about X, Y or Z, but does not provide detail as to what the regulations might look like. I would like to see more precision in these areas, in order that the regulations themselves are compatible with the stated aim of the bill, and have limitations that have been agreed upon.
Regulating codes of conduct
Section 218.2 (2), namely, says the Minister may “make regulations governing codes of conduct that apply to board members, including, (a) prescribing codes of conduct or parts of codes of conduct; (b) prescribing matters to be addressed by codes of conduct.”
In a time where trustees are being censured and bullied on multiple school boards simply for having dissenting opinions on the prevailing ideology (see: Linda Stone in the DDSB, Mike Ramsay in the WRDSB, Linda Qin at the GECDSB, etc.), it is certainly important that school boards revise the codes of conduct in place to ensure that they are fair, in line with our democratic principles, and consistently applied. I believe direction from the Ministry might be useful to deal with this problem.
An improvement to the bill might be to specify, however, that new regulations governing codes of conduct shall explicitly protect a trustee’s right to voice their political views – on social media and as part of their work as an elected official — even, and perhaps especially, when they conflict with current board policies. Trustees should always be allowed to question and criticize current policies without reprimand.
Mental health guidelines
Moreover, the bill suggests “establish[ing] policies and guidelines respecting student mental health, including respecting the use of learning materials relating to student mental health, and requir[ing] boards to comply with the policies and guidelines.”
This would presumably be done by increasing funding to organizations such as Kids Help Phone and School Mental Health Ontario (SMHO), who have already partnered with the Ministry of Education, and implementing more of the learning materials they create in our schools.
The Kids Help Phone website informs young girls confused about their gender that “packing” is a practice that might “involve stuffing [their] underwear [to] help [them] feel like [they] have a penis and testes.” It goes on to explain to kids that they “can make [their] own at home (with a sock, for example).” Or that if they’ve “reached the age of majority in [their] province / territory, [they] can also explore buying a packer online or at an adult sex shop (stores that sell products related to sex and sexuality), particularly one that is geared toward the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
During the pandemic, Kids Help Phone had an interactive workshop titled “Supporting Racialized Non-Citizen LGBTQ2S+ Youth During the Panny,” which presented scenarios such as “Shamina is Gujarati immigrant youth AFAB [assigned female at birth] who is 18-years-old non-binary. They live at home with single mum who works as grocery clerk. Shamina’s mum says they must get married before they can leave home. Shamina wants their birth certificate to change their id but their mum won’t let them have it. They attempted to kill themself in the last 5 months. Very active on IG and an avid visual artist.”
SMHO publishes articles that mostly revolve around woke activism, not mental health. To illustrate, one of their recent articles is titled: “Centring Black, Indigenous and Marginalized Perspectives in Mental Health Promotion at School: Examining and Decentring whiteness” (notice whiteness is the only word not capitalized). They claim “Black” has to be capitalized, but capitalizing white “risks lending legitimacy to white supremacist ideology and other stereotypes.” The article explains that “decentring whiteness is a process of moving whiteness from the centre of society [while] at the same time re-centring diverse perspectives.” How, exactly, is this useful to a child struggling with depression?
Further, one of SMHO’s articles presents “colourblindness” and saying “we need qualified people” or “all lives matter,” among other things, as racist (see below):
It is easy to see that these organizations are ideologically captured. Why does the Ministry continue to fund groups that seem to exist to promote a political agenda? Who is responsible for verifying the quality of the resources these organizations create? Why does the bill appear to force “respect” for these learning materials? What if an educator does not want to teach propaganda?
I hope that the Ministry of Education will consider my questions and suggestions and strengthen its position against the indoctrination of children in our schools. I would be happy to further discuss any of the items above, should you have any questions.
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