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Friday, March 06, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Sexuality and Public Education

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

In the news this week: the sex education curriculum for the Ontario public school system will now be implemented starting in Grade 4. That’s correct: if you live in Ontario, your eight-year-old will be discussing sex in class come September.

And not just the usual stuff we were embarrassed to listen to in high school.

The Story

Under cover of a gigantic red herring of an introduction all about health, diet, exercise, engagement and leadership; the responsibilities of various parties in the educational process; and pages and pages about curriculum and its implementation — that is to say, way down on page 42 where it is easily missed — is the first hint of the Ontario government’s real agenda:
“Sexual health, understood in its broadest sense, can include a wide range of topics and concepts, from sexual development, reproductive health, choice and sexual readiness, consent, abstinence, and protection, to interpersonal relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, affection and pleasure, body image, and gender roles and expectations.” [italics mine]
Lest I come across as slightly paranoid, page 104 provides clarification:
C1.5 demonstrate an understanding of factors (e.g., acceptance, stigma, culture, religion, media, stereotypes, homophobia, self-image, self-awareness) that can influence a person’s understanding of their gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transsexual, intersex) and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual), and identify sources of support for all students.”
and even a sample exchange between teacher and student on the subject:
Teacher prompt: ‘Gender identity refers to a person’s sense of self, with respect to being male or female, both, or neither, and may be different from biological or birth-assigned sex. Sexual orientation refers to how people think of themselves in terms of their sexual and romantic attraction to others. What determines a person’s sense of self? How do social expectations and stereotypes about gender and sexuality influence how a person may feel about their gender identity or sexual orientation?’ ”
Tom: That should give us a nice, inflammatory starting point, especially since I share this spot every Friday with a teacher in the public system.

The Sexualization of Children

So far the only possible type of sexual orientation (oddly, a biblical one) unrepresented in this curriculum seems to be “asexual”, but I haven’t read it all yet. Then again, perhaps the government’s desire for “engagement” precludes any non-participants.

Immanuel Can, why should we be happy when they explain to our eight-year-olds that they may well be “two-spirited”?

Immanuel Can: Oh my … you did throw a hand grenade to me this week. Well, I couldn’t possibly be stronger on this issue: the schools have absolutely no business doing what they’re doing. The sexualizing of children is not any kind of legitimate government function.

Tom: Hmm. “Sexualizing”. That’s strong, some will say … and surely not the government’s intent …

IC: I would not be at all sure about that. It’s certainly the effect of their strategy, and I have no idea why they would do it unless they meant to. They’re not exactly a pack of sexual naïfs, this government. The goal is to bring children into sexual practices at the earliest possible point, far before most are developmentally equipped with the moral and rational means for making good decisions, and without a moral framework that tells them if, how and when the various things in the program are to be practiced. Essentially, it does the first step a child-exploiter would have to do in order to initiate a child into wrong sexual practices, and that is normalizing these abnormal behaviours for them.

Tom: I tend to think you’re right there, at least as far as the driving forces behind the gender-related aspects of the curriculum. For those outside of Ontario, our recently elected Premier is a lesbian, and the former deputy minister responsible for provincial education last time the Liberals toyed with curriculum changes is currently charged with counts of child pornography and counselling a sexual assault against a child. 

So if you live in Ontario and this curriculum surprises you … well, it shouldn’t.

The particularly noxious paragraphs I quoted are wrapped in hundreds of pages of innocent happy chat about making good food choices and getting lots of fresh air, so its proponents can effectively maintain that, you know, “the whole gender identity thing is a small part of a very comprehensive educational package” and “its critics are blowing it out of proportion”.

Still, I think you’re right: the effect of this on our kids and ultimately our culture will be absolutely devastating.

Submission to Authority
IC: What do you see here biblically, Tom? How are we to handle situations such as these, either in respect to the government or with regard to children?

Tom: Well, we are to submit to authority, just as the Lord Jesus and the apostles did. That means we comply with what the law requires, whether we like it or not. But currently in Canada, the law neither restrains us from freely expressing a dissenting opinion, nor does it compel the Christian who finds this an intolerable violation of his or her children to subject them to public school. That is not the case in Scandinavia, where home schooling is actively discouraged. I also don’t expect it will be the case here indefinitely. It is clear that governments generally feel that they can produce the most compliant citizens if they take full control of the educational process.

IC: Well, the public system aside, for me the essential question is, Can a Christian legitimately surrender the sexual training of his or her children to the tender care of a thoroughly secular government with manifest designs on producing a certain conception of sexuality — and indeed, of morality in general? I think proponents of this idea labor under the delusion that there’s some sort of wondrous property that public school officials possess that is simply not to be had by ordinary parents … and trust me, nothing could be farther from the truth.

They are, if anything, less equipped to deal with deeply personal questions about sexuality, and by virtue of their role as public servants serving secular interests they are deprived of any means to apply spiritual values to sexuality even if they wanted to do so. What they can do is talk about the mechanics of how to get things done; but they cannot moralize about what’s right to do, except about those values liberalism itself approves.

Analyzing the Dangers

Tom: As someone right in the middle of it, what are the dangers you see for kids in a system determined to produce a particular sort of citizen? You’ve mentioned sexualization, which is inevitable when you introduce children to things about which they have every reason to be curious.

IC: The problem is not just introducing them to it. It’s introducing them to stuff that, in a normal life, they would never ever need to consider at all. And worse than that: it’s introducing them to it in a way that implies it’s all an open option, with no moral compass provided to help them make wise and holy choices. Oh, and did I mention … it’s introducing them to it in the company of hundreds or thousands of their peers, each of whom is being trained to view sexuality in just the same morally-bankrupt way? I can’t think of a more toxic recipe for the sexualizing of children through schooling.

Tom: I almost don’t dare ask, but I will anyway: What do you think this sort of education produces in the long term?

IC: That will depend, of course. People react to things differently. I can’t imagine it turning out well. But I think that’s not the issue, so much as the issue is the question of whether or not it is diligent Christian parenting to turn the matter over to so incompetent, morally disoriented and spiritually-empty resource as the school system. But what’s your take?

Tom: I’ll tell you in a second, if it matters. But you stopped me cold there. Is this the life-long public educator telling Christians that home schooling is not only a legitimate option but perhaps even preferable to the current public situation?

IC: In regard to sexuality? You bet. In other matters, it really depends on your child, as I’ve argued before. It depends on who the Lord has made him or her, and what level of maturity, gifts and ministry the Lord has bestowed. To some extent, it also depends on the academic training the child in question requires, and on the ability level of parents to deliver what’s needed.

But that call too I would leave in the hands of parents, not policy makers.

The Effect of Sex “Education”

Tom: Agreed. As to my take on what this produces, you’re right, it’s a speculative one. But I can say from personal experience that there are things I never would have contemplated in the realm of sexual deviance if, at one point or another, someone had not opened my eyes to possibilities I would never have imagined on my own. And once in your head, those ideas are there for life, whether or not you agree with them. It’s not without reason the scripture says these things are “shameful even to mention”. Add to that the fact that the Ontario government plans to ‘normalize’ these notions with children, who by virtue of their immaturity are already disposed to impress and draw attention to themselves by being outrageous, and you have a recipe for cultural disaster on a scale I can’t even reasonably contemplate.

We never got back to my earlier question: What’s your take on the science behind the gender identity and gender expression aspects of this curriculum?

IC: Ah, I’m not much interested in getting into particulars about the perversions of our day. I’m happy to let scripture speak on them. What’s bugging you, Tom?

Tom: Well, I think it’s interesting that while the political Left is generally disposed to shout “Science!” as if it’s the definitive answer to every objection raised against its policies, in this case it couldn’t be less relevant. There’s not even junk science to substantiate leftist gender identity theories, let alone hard data. Mental health professionals are still referring to gender confusion as a “disorder”. And yet here we are plunging an entire generation of children into a gigantic social experiment on the basis of pure political ideology without even the faintest pretense of scientific cover. It’s astounding to me that people will roll over for this so easily.

Opting Out and Registering a Protest

But that’s a problem for Ontario voters. I’m more interested in Ontario Christians. Neither of us has young children currently in the system. We can be as outraged as we like, but we really haven’t got a personal stake in this. For the many Christian parents who do, what can you tell us as a teacher? Is there any way to opt your kids out of this sort of thing?

IC: Of course. At the end of the day, they’re your children: don’t let anyone tell you it’s otherwise. And parental protests can be highly effective if they are conducted by more than one parent. Two or three objecting is often enough to change policy; a dozen or so is guaranteed to produce action. So don’t be afraid to band together as parents and do the right thing. The system will cave. Ultimately, it has no legal leg to stand on if it’s forcing your children to do something you don’t want done.

Sampling the Buffet

Tom: Now we understand why some folks who live outside of Christ with no knowledge of real purpose, satisfaction, meaning and relationship might want to have something other than the package of looks, emotions and circumstances with which they were born. But from a Christian perspective, does choosing from a buffet of gender preferences solve anything?

IC: No. From a Christian perspective, the whole point of life is to learn to accept gracefully the things God has given to us, whether it’s our parents, our location of birth, our physical makeup or our gender — thank God for the givenness of it — to live in an attitude of thanks and in faithful stewardship, to meet the challenges of life as God has given them to us, and to find His grace sufficient for all our needs. The attitude that says, “Well, God may have made me X, but I want to toss in my hand for a Y, with an option to go Z if I change my mind, or whatever else I want as an expression of my will” … all that is in opposition to the spirit of Christ. He said to the Father, “I have finished the work you have given me to do”, not “I was and did whatever I chose for myself to do”.

We do not live to please ourselves; we live to please the God who made us as we are.

Enslavement as Freedom

Tom: And those who don’t know him may choose to live as they please, of course, but there are consequences that arise from all our choices. And it almost seems to me that there is some sort of mania at work in the type of ideological leaps we are discussing today. They are based on nothing substantive. There is no evidence they will accomplish anything positive for the children upon whom they will be inflicted. Such initiatives exist purely to salve the screaming consciences of those who have learned incrementally to practice the sorts of things that shouldn’t even be part of public dialogue.

IC: Well said. Ours is an era in which the sinful has been declared the optional, enslavement has been touted as the ultimate freedom and that which rightfully brings shame is celebrated with pride. We Christians need a reminder that it does not matter at all to us what the modern world thinks about sexuality; the only thing that matters — and that ever mattered — is what the One who designed our sexual nature declares about it. Our happiness will not be purchased by indulging ourselves in sexual license, but by meeting the challenges of keeping our sexuality in the right perspective … the divine perspective.


  1. This will miss the mark a bit but that quote from CS Lewis comes to mind:

    "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
    (From The Weight of Glory)

    ...except now the mud pie in the slum is being forced upon everyone (in this jurisdiction) and "going to the sea" is being all but suppressed to the children that most need to see the glories of "the Sea." The bill for this mess will be paid for 10 years down the cultural road and will be too late to be rectified. My sure hope is that the promise and light of the gospel of Christ shines even brighter in the darkness by the Holy Spirit. Sin exhausts the soul when it is pursued and makes one extremely weary, spent. When the surface gets so scratched, marred, and beaten up as to be ugly, that is when eyes look up from the gutter and look for hope. I think Christians will be terribly mocked (to what degree of persecution is hard to tell at this point) but "persevering" will be needed by the faithful for that time to come when Hope will be wanted again. I have seen this in individual lives and families in the area I live and Christ has transformed many. I think the scale of the current downward slide at present will lead to many lives changed in future days-- despite the amount of baggage that will be piled on in those lives in the meantime.

    1. If that's missing the mark, I'd love to be around when you nail it. Thanks for some very valuable thoughts.