It's Tuesday again, time for Coffee Chat over at Time out for Mom. This week's topic is a bit more controversial and I'm curious to see the dialogue that comes out of it. Read on at your peril, you've been warned. Some of the language may be objectionable or offensive. It's meant to be and hopefully I've done my job and put it in context.
Normally, I wouldn't bother with something like this. Quite honestly, I'm not sure it deserves to get any more attention than it already has, but sometimes..............I stumble across things on the web that just make me wonder. Do we really not use our heads for more than keeping our ears apart? A sharp rap on the top of the head for all involved.
I saw this on my Sympatico home page when I logged in a while back. Not my normal reading fare but...
I read the article, followed the link to the offending ad, read the Wiki entry and browsed through the comments. All of it just made me disappointed, in journalist integrity, in our tolerance, in our intelligence.
It touches on religion, politics, the role of media, education, tolerance and children. All things it is far to easy to get all worked up about. Sorry, I'm not going to rehash the ad or the article you'll have to look at the links because it would end up being an even longer post if I do. I'll touch on some of it and leave you to make your own conclusions. Where to start? At the beginning I suppose, with the ad itself.
Should the National Post have run the ad in the first place? Is it their job to censor what we read? I'm going to have to come down on the side of no, the ad should never have run. I have no problem with Institute for Canadian Values publishing their views, they have that right protected under law. Whether I'm for, against or indifferent to what they stand for is irrelevant. To be published in a national paper lending credence to their point of view, not so much. Not unless we are going to allow every group who can afford it to publish their own opinions regardless of the message they send. We don't.
Let's face it, the only thing the newspaper is really concerned with is ad revenue and readership. At approximately $85,000 dollars for the ad and a whole lot of exposure because of it, how does the paper lose? They don't.
The agenda for the Institute seems pretty clear, get our message out. What is that message exactly? That is a little harder to tease out.
Why? At first glance, it actually looks like one of the " Because I am a girl " ads. It isn't.
Reading the copy, it seems like its a criticism of our public school system and the sex education program. It isn't that either. There is no mention of the content of the curriculum being age inappropriate, incorrect, inaccurate, teachers poorly trained/prepared or the subject better suited to discussions between parent and child, dealt with in the home. What it does do is target a specific kind of information relating to a specific group of people.
Now we're getting closer to the truth.
What is the offending material? Anything related to the target group, the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans-gendered) community with the Intersexed community thrown in for good measure. Wait, but what about Two Spirited? I don't see the word homosexual at all, what are you talking about? It was actually a clever move on the Institute's part. Two Spirited is a term currently used to identify the GLBT community within the aboriginal or First Nations community. Putting in the word homosexual would have guaranteed the ad would never have run.
The rest of the ad goes on to talk about how students can't be pulled from the class, leaving parents no choice. Teachers have to teach the subject regardless of moral or religious grounds etc, etc. Again it sounds like genuine concern, but it isn't. Here's why.
Parents have the choice to have their children absent during the days the offending material is taught, change schools, petition the school boards for curriculum to be changed, home school, private school etc.
Children have the right to attend but not participate, ie not doing dissections in biology class. Put on an iPod, close your eyes, don't pay attention.
These are not easy choices but standing up for what you believe isn't always easy. That is a lesson worth learning all on its own.
Teachers teach. They are paid to relay information, not moral judgements, not their religious dogma. Don't like it, don't do it. Does a mechanic refuse to work on foreign cars because they are patriotic? Does a doctor have the right to refuse care for people of a different faith than their own? Of course not, the idea is ridiculous.
My sympathies are for the teachers. They are in a tough spot. Teaching about sex, sexuality, orientation and sexual stereotypes is an incredibly tall order. These are challenging subjects for adults. I had to look up a couple of terms and I consider myself pretty well informed, let alone trying to teach these concepts to children.The only reason it's in the classroom at all is because we put it there. We don't, can't, won't , are uncomfortable talking about it so let someone else do it. Let's be fair, if even the majority of parents were talking to their children about these things it wouldn't be part of the curriculum. It isn't exactly a class like science, history or math.
To my dismay the article and resulting comments about the ad weren't a whole lot better. Again, at first, it seemed like a rebuttal but turned out to be no more tolerant than the ad, only the target was different, the religious, painting everyone with the same brush.
One comment that stuck with me went something like this- If we can't have prayer in school don't expect us to accept teaching about homosexuality. What? that's comparing apples to elephants.
We don't have prayer in school because not everyone believes in the same God. Personally, I think kids would be better off if a moment of silence for worship were allowed then followed by discussion of all the different religions and beliefs but that is another post.
Our sexuality, homo, hetero, bi or a is who we are, like skin colour or height. We aren't all the same and as far as a choice, do we tell or do we lie. Does anyone really believe we control who our bodies respond to sexually? We have the choice to act on that response or not, but that is about it.
Why does all of this bother me? There are a few different reasons.
The biggest one is are we still this hung up on sex, talking about it, understanding it. What happens between two consenting adults isn't anyone's business but their own. How is it an attack on someone else's beliefs? Why does this topic still raise every one's hackles?
The next is are we really the age of stupid? What happened to intelligent news reporting rather than sensationalism and the 15 second sound bite. Is the ability to look at an issue logically, rationally and impartially lost? To the National Post and the writer of the article, if I can work it through, you can too.
Are we really so intolerant? Notice I said intolerant, not unaccepting. The world is a big place with lots of different people, races and creeds.The beauty of living here, in a democracy, is the right to be as you are so long as you aren't hurting or endangering anyone else. The only thing we have to accept is that we are all different. You can agree, disagree or not care what someone else believes in, there is space enough for all. We all carry our own truth.
To the Institute for Canadian Values, change your name. I'm Canadian, proud to be, you don't represent what I believe in or my values. Say what you mean, don't dress it up, don't hide behind political correctness or clever media savvy ploys. If your message is "We hate fags", have the courage of your convictions to say it loud. I don't agree but I can at least respect your right to your opinion and then give you and your organization the consideration it deserves, none.
We live in a world where Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. Because he was different, and he's not alone. We are good a using words like; fag, nigger, kike, slut, dyke, towelhead. Hiding them behind politically correct terms doesn't change the intent. It is far too easy to marginalize, differentiate and segregate everything that isn't "us". The only problem is we all fall into a category for someone else.
The question is this, do we teach our children to be strong in their own beliefs while respecting others and the right to theirs, or do we teach them to fear, mis-trust and hate. Sometimes we just have to agree that we disagree.