Speaking of One School System for All: What About One Sexual Education Curriculum?

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Scott Douglas Jacobsen

There has been discussion over a long time with some ‘flash-points’ about one publicly-funded education system in Canada. Organizations such as Civil Rights in Public Education (CRIPE), One Public Education Now (OPEN), One Public School System for Ontario, One School System, OneSystemSask, and others, presumably (CRIPE, 2017a; OPEN, 2017; One Public System, 2017; One School System, 2017; OneSystemSask, 2017).

Even with a brief scan of some articles, it continues to be a topic of interest to the general Canadian public, active members at any rate (Gee, 2017; Pascal; 2014; Emann, 2016; Brown, 2017; Mang, 2010; Ostroff, 2016; Roden, 2017; French, 2017a; Medicine Hat News, 2017; Schuklenk, 2014; Ramsay, 2017).

The call comes from the desire for one public education system for all. A recent news item talked about the proposal from the publicly-funded Catholic education school system for a separate, not only school system but, sexual education curriculum.

Intriguing, at a minimum.

As reported by the Edmonton Journal Editorial Board (2017), a publicly-funded Catholic school system set of superintendents have been developing, in essence proposing, a sex-education curriculum in parallel to the current one in the publicly-funded schools. In the development of a separate sexual education curriculum, the implicit message seems to be that the current one is wrong or flawed in some fundamental ways – enough to justify, to the Catholic superintendents, the need for an entire overhaul and proposal of another one.

The one in development by the superintendents would stand in the place of the provincial health and wellness curriculum. The provincial government “rejected the request to fund its development but the project is still going ahead in hopes the province will agree to it” (Ibid.).

That hope is a faith, for sure.

Granted, the Alberta Act of 1905 (Government of the Province of Alberta, 1905) provides the privilege to one religion, the Roman Catholic Church, to form a separate publicly-funded school board; also, apparently, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario fully fund a Catholic separate school system (Edmonton Journal Editorial Board, 2017). But should this separate system exist in the first place? Roman Catholicism is the dominant faith in the country. It has declined in dominance over decades.

1905 onwards, these were the times of its dominance, the Residential School System, and so on. I will grant, in the discussion, ignoring the historical over one century-long series of crimes by the Roman Catholic Church against the Indigenous populations within the borders demarcating Canada.

Nonetheless, one-quarter of the Canadian general public identify with no religion (Statistics Canada, 2017). Only ~39% of the Canadian population identifies at Roman Catholic, so a publicly-funded separate religiously-based education system based on only 39% of the population, in a country with an increasing number of people lacking formal religious belief or have no religious affiliation (Ibid.).¹ Does this move against the larger demographics, something like a tacit or implied will, of the people in our democracy?

Possibly, almost certainly.

Aside from the apparently outdated reasons for a separate school system, misalignment with the demographics of the country – or the desires of the general population for a single publicly-funded education system (as apparently found by Civil Rights in Public Education with about 54% of the public wanting a single publicly-funded education system), what is the justification for the difference from the provincial health and wellness curriculum in the separate, religious sexual education curriculum from the Roman Catholic superintendents in development (CRIPE, 2017b)?

The Catholic School Superintendents found the future sex-ed lessons “problematic” (Edmonton Journal Editorial Board, 2017). That comes out as one reason. The provincial health and wellness curriculum will include the following: “promotion of homosexual relationships and lifestyles, teaching of gender identity as disassociated from biological sex, masturbation and anal and oral sex” (Ibid.).

Those come out as others: disagreement with Roman Catholic morays, norms, and theology.

David Eggen, Education Minister, rejected the substituted curriculum as an idea. Eggen said, “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.”

All schools in the province of Alberta must follow the universal program of study set out by the Government of Alberta, including Roman Catholic educational institutions. One curriculum for all. I love the statement of the Edmonton Journal Editorial Board:

It makes no difference that it’s the forthcoming provincial human sexuality curriculum that the Catholic superintendents want to replace with their own. Whether it’s math, language arts, social studies or sex education, the principle is the same: there is one curriculum for all. In the case of sex education, that concept is particularly important.

The point of including human sexuality in the curriculum is to ensure that children get accurate knowledge and respectful instruction on a subject matter historically fraught with misinformation, angst and stigma. (Ibid.)

This becomes a subset in the national discourse about separate educational curricula and institutions with the preferential treatment of one authority structure grounded in faith apart from the general public even as most of the general public do not identify as that faith, nor do they likely, as a simple majority, want a separate publicly-funded school system.

A discourse on one publicly-funded sexual education curriculum. As Eggen stated, and as others have echoed, such as Janet French, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, President of Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 80 for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Brice Unland, Alberta Teachers’ Association Spokesperson Jonathan Teghtmeye, a spokesperson on behalf of the Red Deer-based Trans and Non-binary Aid Society (TANAS), Red Deer Public Schools Trustee Dianne Macaulay (who has been arguing for one public education system), Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, Luke Fevin of Edmonton Atheists and A PUPIL, and others probably, a single publicly-funded secular school system is needed and the proposal for an alternate Roman Catholic sexual education curriculum is “completely unacceptable” (French, 2017b; The Canadian Press, 2017; Hall, 2017; Simons, 2017; Franklin, 2017).

Not only in Alberta, but nationally: we can make the change too.

But it’ll take work, not hope.

¹12,810,705/32,852,320 or Catholic/all others equals 38.9% or ~39%. Statistics Canada. (2017, February 14). 2011 National Household Survey: Data tables. Retrieved from http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/dp-pd/dt-td/Rp-eng.cfm?LANG=E&APATH=3&DETAIL=0&DIM=0&FL=A&FREE=0&GC=0&GID=0&GK=0&GRP=0&PID=105399&PRID=0&PTYPE=105277&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2013&THEME=95&VID=0.


Brown, J. (2017, June 18). It’s time to end public funding of Catholic schools. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/radio/the180/stop-funding-catholic-schools-restore-trust-in-the-neb-and-let-me-change-my-name-1.4162978/it-s-time-to-end-public-funding-of-catholic-schools-1.4163049.

CRIPE. (2017a). Civil Rights in Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.cripeweb.org/home.php.

CRIPE. (2017b). Why One School System?. Retrieved from http://www.cripeweb.org/about-us/why-one-school-system/.

Edmonton Journal Editorial Board. (2017). Editorial: One curriculum for all. Retrieved from http://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-one-curriculum-for-all.

Emann, S. (2016, March 14). Canada’s publicly funded religious schools have to go. Retrieved from http://www.metronews.ca/views/opinion/2016/03/14/canadas-publicly-funded-religious-schools-have-to-go.html.

Franklin, M. (2017, October 25). Alberta government reacts to Catholic school’s stance on sex education. Retrieved from http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/alberta-government-reacts-to-catholic-school-s-stance-on-sex-education-1.3647944.

French, J. (2017b, October 23). Catholic school districts want their own sex-education curriculum. Retrieved from http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/catholic-school-districts-want-their-own-sex-education-curriculum.

French, J. (2017a, May 11). Red Deer public school board advocates elimination of Catholic school system. Retrieved from http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/red-deer-public-school-board-advocates-elimination-of-catholic-school-system.

Gee, M. (2017, June 9). Toronto needs a single, secular school system. Retrieved from https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/toronto-needs-a-single-secular-school-system/article35264933/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&.

Government of the Province of Alberta. (1905, July 20). Alberta Act. Retrieved from http://www.solon.org/Constitutions/Canada/English/aa_1905.html.

Hall, J. (2017, October 24). Exclusive sex-ed push putting ‘final nail in coffin’ for Catholic system, says local advocate. Retrieved from http://rdnewsnow.com/article/558051/push-exclusive-sex-ed-final-nail-coffin-catholic-system-says-local-advocate.

Mang, E. (2010, October 7). A publicly-funded Catholic school system is unjust. Retrieved from http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/ericmang/2010/10/publicly-funded-catholic-school-system-unjust.

Medicine Hat News. (2017, May 29). Single, publicly funded school system the best route for Alberta. Retrieved from http://medicinehatnews.com/commentary/opinions/2017/05/29/single-publicly-funded-school-system-the-best-route-for-alberta/.

One Public System. (2017). One Public System. Retrieved from http://www.onepublicsystem.ca.

One School System. (2017). One School System. Retrieved from http://www.oneschoolsystem.org/fast-facts.html.

OneSystemSask. (2017). OneSystemSask. Retrieved from http://www.onesystemsask.ca/.

OPEN. (2017). One Public Education Now. Retrieved from http://open.cripeweb.org/aboutOpen.html.

Ostroff, J. (2016, January 8). It’s Time To Excommunicate Public Catholic Schools. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/joshua-ostroff/end-public-catholic-schools_b_8712316.html.

Pascal, C. (2014, November 3). Public funds shouldn’t pay for Catholic schools in secular Ontario. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/11/03/public_funds_shouldnt_pay_for_catholic_schools_in_secular_ontario.html.

Simons, P. (2017, October 24). Paula Simons: Catholic sex-ed proposal puts church, NDP on collision course. Retrieved from http://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/paula-simons-catholic-sex-ed-proposal-puts-church-ndp-on-collision-course.

Ramsay, C. (2017, May 11). Red Deer Public School Board supports unified Alberta school system. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3444865/red-deer-public-school-board-supports-unified-alberta-school-system/.

Roden, T. (2017, July 12). Niagara school closures show need for a single school system. Retrieved from https://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/7419349-niagara-school-closures-show-need-for-a-single-school-system/.

Schuklenk, U. (2014, January 24). Why special funding for Catholic schools is wrong. Retrieved from http://www.thewhig.com/2014/01/24/why-special-funding-for-catholic-schools-is-wrong.

Statistics Canada. (2017, February 14). 2011 National Household Survey: Data tables. Retrieved from http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/dp-pd/dt-td/Rp-eng.cfm?LANG=E&APATH=3&DETAIL=0&DIM=0&FL=A&FREE=0&GC=0&GID=0&GK=0&GRP=0&PID=105399&PRID=0&PTYPE=105277&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2013&THEME=95&VID=0.

The Canadian press. (2017, October 24). Catholic school sex-ed plan as advertised won’t ever be taught, premier says. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/catholic-school-sex-ed-notley-1.4370304.

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