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Gays Want "Queer Issues" in Schools
A complaint aimed at forcing British Columbia's public schools to teach compulsory lessons on "queer issues" comes before the Human Rights Tribunal, July 11, 2005.

A  pending human rights complaint aimed at forcing British Columbia's public school curriculum to include compulsory lessons on "queer issues" could make some students balk at discussing those issues, says Christian educator Steve Bailey.

… the couple allege that the absence of pro-homosexual instruction is a denial of equal treatment.

"I've talked with students recently who have had speakers on gay-lesbian-transgender issues, and these 16-year-old boys just don't see any purpose [in] being exposed to that," says Bailey, a former vice principal at a Burnaby high school.

"That's typical. 'We're not interested in having people come to speak particularly on those issues,' they say. 'What's that got to do with us?' They don't see the relevance when they're hit over the head with it."

Murray and Peter Corren were legally married during the summer of 2004. The Correns—who were formerly known as Peter Cook and Murray Warren, and legally changed their surnames—were involved in the campaigning to pressure the Surrey School Board to endorse children's books extolling same-sex relationships.

In a complaint lodged with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, the couple allege that the absence of pro-homosexual instruction is a denial of equal treatment.

"Basically, there is systemic discrimination through omission and suppression of queer issues in the whole of the curriculum," Murray Corren—who is an elementary school teacher in Port Coquitlam—told The Vancouver Sun.

While conceding there is nothing in the curriculum that is anti-homosexual, he claimed that the curriculum's failure to highlight prominent gays in history, for example, "has the effect of enforcing … the assumption that all people are—or should be—heterosexual."

National Post columnist Susan Martinuk countered that it is "the ultimate in revisionist history" to assume that the sexual practices of people in the past "played a major role in determining their acts and contributions to history. (Could it be that former prime minister Brian Mulroney's heterosexual orientation led him to impose the GST?)"

As well, Derek Rogusky, vice president of family policy at Focus on the Family Canada, says many parents would be rightly indignant at a public school system that trumpeted a lifestyle offensive to their religious beliefs. "If we are going to be providing and promoting a curriculum that treats homosexuality as just a normal thing that's really no different than heterosexuality, we will be trampling on the religious freedoms of thousands of British Columbia families." Rogusky also rejects Corren's claim that the fact that gay marriage is now legal in B.C. makes it even more urgent that the curriculum be changed to reflect this new "reality."

"Look at Reginald Bibby's material," he says, referring to a new survey by the noted University of Lethbridge sociologist. The survey found that for nearly six in ten adults, the ideal family is a man married to a woman, with at least one child.

Bailey, who has worked on curriculum development, says a curriculum ought to reflect the commonly held social values that parents want transmitted to their children, such as tolerance, acceptance and positive human interactions.

What Corren is seeking, he says, would inject a specific issue into a values-based system. And not only would that open the door to other groups demanding their own special teaching units, he believes most British Columbians would oppose such a radical step. "And that's where I think … you get a backlash," says Bailey.

One form that backlash would take, Rogusky predicts, would be an even greater exodus of children out of the public system and into independent schools and home schooling. "Already, what the schools are teaching and what's going on in the schools are often in opposition to what parents are teaching at home and what they hold up as the ideal, and this will just further that."

New education ministry figures show that 62,200 students are now enrolled full-time in independent schools, a rise of more than two percent in one year.

A better approach to handling "queer issues" in the classroom, says Bailey, would be to make it part of learning how people ought to treat one another—and "seeing, for instance in history courses, how gay people have been discriminated against through history. You put it in that broader context, and you're more likely to get a positive response from students."

The Tribunal will begin hearing the case July 11, 2005.

Frank Stirk is a writer based in Vancouver, B.C.

Originally published in B.C. Christian News, February 5, 2005.




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