2 min

Beware of Concerned Parents

Conservative group opposes gay-friendly curriculum

There’s a brand new group on BC’s conservative horizon and its leader can sound pretty persuasive.

Concerned Parents of BC sprang to life a month ago to object to the Corren curriculum settlement.

The settlement, reached this spring between spouses Murray and Peter Corren and the BC government, saw the government actually acknowledge that queer realities have been excluded from classrooms until now–and take baby steps to rectify the situation.

Specifically, the government promised to develop an elective Social Justice course with a touch of queer content for 2007; enforce its policies prohibiting parents from yanking their kids out of all but three courses they might find morally objectionable; and develop gay-friendly guidelines for its curriculum reviews.

The settlement also says the government should consult the Correns every step of the way.

And that’s a sore point for Concerned Parents of BC.

This settlement gives a special interest group “privileged access” to the curriculum review process, and that’s not fair to parents, says the group’s chair, Brian Roodnick.

The Correns get regular meetings with the Ministry of Education, they get a say in the curriculum review, they get mediation if they’re not happy with the review–parents don’t get any of that, he says. “I can send my input into the Ministry. If the Ministry chooses to ignore it, I have no further access.”

He’s got a point.

Though the Correns’ role is merely consultative and hardly binding, they now have a seat–however powerless–at the internal review table. Parents, in contrast, can only contribute their views on proposed course changes once they’re presented publicly for external review.

I’m not going to pretend that’s equal access.

But I am going to remind Roodnick that the equal access model wasn’t working. That’s why the government agreed to this settlement in the first place: because it acknowledged there was merit to the Correns’ human rights complaint and conceded it had been excluding gays and lesbians.

This is not a question of granting queers privileged access. It’s a question of granting us basic access long overdue.

Roodnick won’t be swayed so easily. He maintains the process is unfair and that parents’ rights are being eroded.

He also assures me that his concerns with the Corren settlement have nothing to do with adding gay content to BC’s classrooms.

“We’re not fighting against homosexuality,” he insists. “We’re fighting for parents’ rights.”

In fact, he says, he welcomes the opportunity to make the curriculum more inclusive–provided it’s done right.

“What’s the right way to teach kids about gays and lesbians?” I ask.

You have to “present both sides of the issue,” he replies. “When education only teaches one side then it’s more indoctrination or propaganda.”

So what are the two sides to this issue? I press.

“It’s kind of like evolution and creation,” he replies. “The theory of evolution, it’s still just a theory. I mean, a lot of people think it’s a fact, but they call it the theory of evolution.” So you have to present it as such and also respect that some kids believe in creationism. And you have to tell those kids: “You’re completely within your right to have that view.”

So whose perspectives would you like to see included on gay and lesbian issues? I ask.

The discrimination gay people face needs to be addressed, he says. But you also have to address the discrimination against people of faith. They’ve practically been “evicted” from the public school system.

It’s the freedom of conscience perspective, he continues. “There are people who disagree with the homosexual lifestyle.”

Not about content, my ass. Dig a little deeper and it seems the real reason Roodnick’s so worried about queers getting “privileged access” is because they might slip some purely positive gay imagery into the classroom.

The question is: who will the government heed in the end? The queer consultants it grudgingly invited to its internal review table, or the increasingly loud protestors like Roodnick who will surely flood the external review process with their objections when the time comes?