Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Paging Mr. Darrow!

Homo Erectus: Not Welcome in Alberta

Ok, maybe that's a bit of an over-reaction, but still...

Alberta passes law allowing parents to pull kids out of class
Written notice required when sex, sexual orientation, religion are covered

Alberta legislators passed legislation early Tuesday that will give parents the option of pulling their children out of class when lessons on sex, religion or sexual orientation are being taught.

And at first glance, it doesn't sound too bad. No sane person would argue that parents shouldn't be informed about the curriculum, nor even that they shouldn't have some say in it. This is not an issue (the old straw man that is the idea of "sexual orientation being taught in school" is far too tedious to address here). The issues, and indeed the screaming bloody problems with the bill, begin with this statement from Premier Stelmach (despite political disagreements, I've never particularly had a bone to pick with Stelmach, and I've been reliably informed that he's an intelligent and pleasant man in person. The whole Bill 44 controversy is exposing a side of him that's, well, not very edifying):

If [Bill 44 is] passed, parents will be able to pull their children from lessons on evolution, Stelmach confirmed.

Ah. Well, this is a problem. For you see, Bill 44 is not a mere tweak to the School Act. It is a piece of human rights legislation (more on this in a moment). Therefore, if you, as a teacher, bring up evolutionary biology to your class without having informed the parents, then you have violated the parents' human rights as much as if you'd fired them from their jobs because you didn't like their skin colour (significantly, exposing a child to ignorance by dragging him or her out of science class because of his or her parents' personal beliefs is not held to be a violation of the child's human rights...).

The government's reaction, when this problem was pointed out to them, was to haul out the world's teeniest band-aid and slap it over the offending section of the act. Classroom discussions that occur spontaneously, outside of the actual curriculum, were exempted from the bill. This, of course, will in no way prevent people from complaining about spontaneously-raised topics which are offensive to them, and thus putting the teachers through the hell of dealing with being accused of human rights violations. As for the rest of it, the government rather huffily denied that the parents' rights clause could ever possibly cause any trouble for teachers whatsoever:

"The intention of this bill was never to have undue fear, undue duress put upon any members of the teaching profession," [increasingly surly and petulant Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett] said Monday.

Mr. Blackett's statement is what we refer to as "a lie." The entire, deliberate, intended reason for enacting the "parents' rights" section of Bill 44 is to instill fear in teachers and to place them under duress. Bill 44's primary purpose is to write sexual orientation into Alberta's human rights legislation, the government having been ordered to do so by the Supreme Court. And so, having lost gays as a legal target for petty thuggery, the troglodytes of the religious right have been given teachers as a replacement. It is every bit as simple, and as shameful, as that. And you had better believe that said troglodytes are drooling with the anticipation of being allowed to make mischief against a group they have always viewed with contempt and fear:

Brian Rushfeldt, co-founder of the Calgary-based Canada Family Action Coalition, thinks the proposed human rights provision can be more widely interpreted.

“It’s up to the parent to make (the legislation) as broad or as narrow as they want,” said Rushfeldt, who welcomed the proposed changes.

And there you have it. At this point, anything that is taught in a classroom is fair game. Want to talk about the fellow whose skull is portrayed above? Well, that's evolution, which, as we have seen, counts as religion, so you'd better make sure that everybody's been told you're going to do it. A class unit on ancient Greece? You can be accused of teaching polytheism. You just know that somebody will use this bill to start beaking off about the contents of school libraries; after all, library time is part of the curriculum, is it not? And don't get me started about classtime spent on math! As we all know, math textbooks destroy values and cause drug use.

Anyway, it's not a good day for Alberta. And I'd feel better about it if I weren't fairly sure that our federal government approves deeply of all this.


Stealthy Dachshund said...

Masterfully summed up, as always.
You used your Feat "Greater Persuasive Writing", I can tell.

I see two glimmers of hope on the horizon:

1) The provincial Tories are split, heavily, on a number of issues. An urban Edmonton MLA had introduced a bill to allow Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles that was shot down by the Transportation Minister. The MLA who introduced it was a Tory.
2) The federal Tories are in a minority and unlikely to seize power.

Crimson Rambler said...

I have a religious scruple against any of my children being or becoming bone ignorant...whom can I pull out of what, to prevent that happening? ;-D

Chorus said...

I was hoping you would post about this.