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Premier Doug Ford and Ontario's "Consultations"

Updated on August 26, 2018
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

Math And Sex Ed To Be Discussed

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Premier Ford's "Consultations" - And A Snitch Line, Too!

It's been quite the week for Ontario, at least as far as the education sector goes.

News hit that there was now an interim health and physical education curriculum for teachers to use for the upcoming school year. This curriculum is apparently comprised of parts of the much-denigrated 1998 health and physical education curriculum and lesson plans from 2010, but as one might expect, there's more to it than that.

For the uninitiated: Doug Ford, who is now premier of the province of Ontario, campaigned, at least partially, on the promise that he was going to scrap the 2015 health and physical education curriculum, more or less on the grounds that parents were not consulted properly in the formulation of the 2015 curriculum. Within a couple of weeks after taking office at the end of June, 2018, that's exactly what he did. The problem is, there was nothing at the time to take its place, and teachers were directed by the provincial government to continue teaching the 1998 curriculum after spending the last two to three years teaching the 2015 version.

This past week, Premier Ford must have realized that teaching unions and school boards alike are taking a stand. Some school boards have effectively said that teachers will be supported in their decisions to have discussions regarding issues the 2015 curriculum covered so that students were best prepared for today's issues. Some unions have said teachers will be supported should they decide to keep teaching the 2015 curriculum.

Ford's basic response is that teachers will be disciplined should they not teach either the interim curriculum that was just put in place this week or the 1998 version of the curriculum. Fortheparents.ca has been put in place in order to apparently help exactly that happen. While not, strictly speaking, a site put in place to tattle on teachers - the website says that it's designed to help parents who have concerns regarding the curriculum - the general interpretation by the media has been is that this is effectively a "snitch line" to report teachers, even though the Ontario College of Teachers already has a website where parents can put in a complaint, if they were so inclined.

But wait! There's more!

In addition to the establishment of this new website, it was also announced that these consultations that the Ford government had planned as a starting point to revamp an already-revamped curriculum weren't just going to focus on the sex ed portion of the health and physical education curriculum. In fact, the Ford government also announced they would be looking at the math curriculum, too, and suggested there may well be a return to the days of rote memorization instead of the current "discovery" model, where questions tend to be inquiry-based and open-ended, which has allowed students to explore math on a more personal level and find greater understanding than some have found using the rote method of learning.

Not all parents, however, are interested in being consulted, citing their own lack of current knowledge about concepts that should be taught in today's classrooms.

In an op-ed for The Record, Joel Rubinoff says that it's been some time since he picked up a math textbook and probably should have minimal consultation into the curriculum of today.

"Do I have a say in the math curriculum?" he asks. "I do not, which is a good thing, given that the last time I cracked a calculus book Stevie Wonder was cleaning up at the Grammy Awards, I had sideburns the size of lamb chops and Kristy McNichol — star of TV's "Family" — was embarking on a promising movie career."

Rubinoff also suggests that rather than consulting parents, perhaps those experts in the medical field - doctors, nurses, psychologists and other such professionals, for instance - should be the main source of information about what is appropriate for which age.

"If Ford's minions were to solicit my views on topics like gender identity and the intricacies of cyberbullying, I would have to respond: "Why the hell are you asking me?" he says. "I grew up in the '70s. Talk to the doctors, nurses and researchers who actually study this stuff."

These are arguments that make a lot of sense.

As a parent, I get it. We want to ensure our kids have their innocence intact for as long as humanly possible. The problem is, kids are being exposed to a large range of sometimes-factual information from more sources than we could feasibly know about, and we as parents are not experts in all things that kids today are dealing with. Yes, it would be lovely if we could control the flow of the information to our kids, but we aren't with them 24/7. We can encourage them to talk to us if they ever have any questions or something's going on, and we can do our best to encourage that open dialogue with us, but sometimes, we as parents just aren't as knowledgeable as, say, a medical professional (unless, of course, we are one ourselves. I am not.). While it's good that Ford wants to have these consultations with parents, there was a wide-ranging consultation that happened before the 2015 curriculum came out. Why not try and "beef up" the 2015 curriculum by having more input from the medical field?

Why not look at how kids learning math currently are applying their skills in the real world, and on a provincial level rather than just in Ford's riding? To be fair, I don't know where Ford might be drawing his information about math. He could be just grasping at straws - "we're breaking sex ed down to where it was two decades ago. Why not everything else?"

What I would love to see is people going to fortheparents.ca and complaining about Ford's decision to try and roll back the sex ed curriculum and now, apparently, go after math. I'd love to see parents, educational professionals, medical personnel and anyone else who's interested in doing so go to that site and say that they are disappointed, at the very least, that Premier Ford wants to roll Ontario back to the 1990s.

The only thing that maybe - maybe - should be brought back from the 1990s is some of the pop music, not outdated, largely ineffective knowledge.

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