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A second look

Re-examining the Corren curriculum settlement

Maybe I was a bit too harsh in my initial review of the Corren curriculum settlement.

This issue’s letter writers raise some valuable points about the potential for curriculum change the settlement sets forth. Though I remain skeptical about the government’s promise to introduce a Grade 12 elective course with a touch of queer content and review the curriculum with an eye to possibly adding more, I have to agree that the settlement contains some important steps worth acknowledging in greater depth.

As Steve LeBel of BC’s Gay and Lesbian Educators points out, the mere fact that Murray and Peter Corren got the ear of some highly placed government officials and convinced them to acknowledge and address queer invisibility in our schools’ classrooms is a step worth celebrating.

Even the Attorney General of BC publicly admitted that queer content and images are currently absent from our classrooms. (Though, of course, Wally Oppal backed away from “admitting” anything to Xtra West reporter Lori Kittelberg and instead called his ministry’s realization a “recognition” last issue.)

Either way, it’s far more than we had three months ago.

And that’s not all. The Correns not only got the ear of some government officials but a seat at the table for their next curriculum review. Or at least the first phase of it.

As the settlement states, the Ministry of Education will now, with the Correns’ input, draft new guidelines to help its officials review every Integrated Resource Package (IRP) that crosses their desks. (IRP is ministry-speak for curriculum documents and their accompanying course materials.)

“The Guidelines will provide a framework for the Ministry to review each draft IRP from the perspective of inclusion and respect for diversity with respect to sexual orientation and other grounds of discrimination, and an over-arching concern for social justice,” the settlement says.

A significant step in the right direction? Yes, I believe it is.

A guaranteed formula for incorporating queer images and realities into everyday curriculum? Hardly.

It depends on the guidelines, what they say and how the government chooses to apply them. They are, after all, only intended as a “framework” for review; they’re not binding.

Neither are the Correns’ recommendations, for that matter. Though the ministry has promised to consult the couple while drafting its new guidelines this August, nothing in the settlement suggests their feedback will find its way into the finished draft.

Moreover, as far as I can tell, the Correns’ seat at the internal review table applies specifically to the guidelines–not the actual course materials the officials will then use the guidelines to review.

While this surely constitutes unprecedented access to the process, it stops far short of an actual decision-making role in the curriculum review, let alone a guarantee of queer course content to come.

In fact, there’s nothing to say the government will ultimately change its courses at all.

After all, if the government were truly serious about re-evaluating its curriculum–having finally admitted, after years of resistance, that queers are excluded–you’d think it would launch an immediate review of all its courses.

It didn’t.

Rather, the ministry seems to be sticking to its regular schedule where courses normally come up for review every few years. The Correns will, however, get a chance to flag any courses they’d like to see jump the queue for review. Of course, any recommendations they make won’t be binding.

Don’t get me wrong. I have come to appreciate the settlement’s contribution to the overall picture of queer visibility in classrooms across BC. It does have the potential to pave the way toward significant change, possibly even the complete overhaul of school culture that I’m holding out for.

But right now it’s just potential. It remains to be seen what course revisions, if any, the government actually implements as a result of this process–especially after the rightwing parents start squawking.

For now, all we can point to for sure is an elective course with a touch of queer content that Grade 12 students can sign up for in 2007. And a Safe Schools bill that keeps dying on the table.