It has just come to light that Catholic school superintendents in Alberta, Canada – headed by Karl Germann, above – applied for $66,005 of taxpayers’ money at the beginning of this year to develop a ‘parallel’ sex education curriculum that would reflect the Church’s views on sexuality.
They were effectively told to get lost.
According to this report, the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta – which believes that sex-education lessons in the forthcoming K-12 health and wellness curriculum could be “problematic” — applied for the grant to fund a group of about ten educators to write a new sex-ed curriculum in the winter and spring of 2017, then have it reviewed by religious educators, a teacher focus group, and Alberta bishops and clergy.
The Catholics believe that the new curriculum will promote “homosexual relationships and/or lifestyles,” masturbation, anal and oral sex, and teach about gender identity.
Said Germann, President of the Council of Superintendents, and superintendent of the Grande Prairie Catholic school district:
We wanted to make sure that our Catholic views and beliefs were represented in the curriculum.
As hundreds of educators from across the province re-write Alberta’s K-12 curriculum, a group of Edmonton sexual health educators said in June they believed Catholic school trustees were advocating for a “diluted” version of human sexuality education in the new curriculum.
In April, after the grant proposal was rejected, the group of Catholic superintendents sent “key messages” to the ministry about Catholic school districts’ “needs” in the new curriculum, including examples of where the as-yet unwritten curriculum may conflict with Catholic teachings.
Superintendents are concerned it will be too much like Ontario’s controversial sex education curriculum, which Germann said is “very prescriptive”.
Introduced in 2015, Ontario’s curriculum introduces discussions about gender identity in Grade 3, and addresses consent and sexual orientation in Grade 6. It provides scripts for teachers to initiate classroom discussions.
Catholic schools are mandated to teach what’s in the Alberta curriculum, Germann said, but they also want to teach students what the church believes.
The superintendents’ association lists possible contrary curricular outcomes, including requirements to discuss consent, reproductive aid technologies for other “family types”, contraception, same-sex relationships, anal and oral sex, masturbation, “modern gender theory”, pornography and “sexualization of girls (and boys)”.
It says Catholic schools should promote a life of chastity and virtue as a “positive choice” for people who experience same-sex attraction.
The superintendents said:
We cannot promote modern gender theory or anything that is ideologically opposed to Catholic teaching …
In a statement last Friday, Education Minister David Eggen, above, called the superintendents’ document “unacceptable”.
I’m deeply concerned to see it suggested that providing Alberta students with accurate information on these important topics is ‘problematic’, or that there’s something wrong with being gay. I can assure Albertans that, under our government, any curriculum changes will be inclusive of all students — no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Catholic districts and boards can develop their own resources to teach the curriculum, but not a parallel or substituted curriculum, Eggen’s press secretary, Lindsay Harvey, said in an email.
Cristina Stasia University of Alberta arts professor, gender equity consultant, and founder of a sexual health advocacy group, said she was “intellectually horrified” by the superintendents’ document.
Delivering lessons this way would be judgmental, harmful and degrading to LGBTQ students, staff, and their families.
Their perspective glamourises marriage as a safe place, and potentially puts students at risk of mental and physical illness, which she calls “irresponsible”.
With the high rates of sexually transmitted infections, especially in Alberta, to question the need for evidence-based health education on how to protect yourself is an incredibly slippery slope.
If anything, the superintendents’ submission demonstrates how specific a new sex education curriculum needs to be
Gender identity is the subject of decades of research, not a thing you get to believe in — it isn’t Santa Claus, or a unicorn.
Michael Kehler, a professor of masculinity studies in education at the University of Calgary, said the superintendents’ document is naive, marginalising, and antithetical to how public education should be. It establishes a dichotomy between the “right” choices and “bad” ones, he said.
It doesn’t open up the discussion, it actually shuts down the discussion. It doesn’t invite student voice into the curriculum.
To prevent putting teachers in an awkward position, there should only be one sex education curriculum, said Jonathan Teghtmeyer, a spokesman for the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
Any resources developed by Catholic school boards should be optional, and not at odds with the curriculum, he said.
Announced in 2016, the $64-million K-12 curriculum overhaul will revisit every subject in English and French during the next six years.