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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Critics Slam Ontario’s Push for Kindergarten Program in ’Sexual Orientation, Identity’

By Kilian Melloy -

The Ontario Ministry of Education has proposed guidelines for an all-gay kindergarten program that posit respect for all students and their family and community members, regardless of factors such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among others. Religious conservatives have responded with outrage, claiming that the proposal amounts to the "exploitation" of children, and charging that the government is attempting to "implant" gay or transgendered characteristics into children in a bid to "separate" children from their parents’ "moral and religious" views.

The guidelines are part of a new daylong kindergarten program, which has also drawn fire from political conservatives because Ontario is in the midst of a budget crisis.

The guidelines that provoked religious conservatives fearful that the government is trying to turn their kids gay appear in a draft version of "The Full Day Early-Learning Kindergarten Program." The final version is due for release next year.

The draft document states that the program seeks to enhance children’s "self regulation, health, well-being, and a sense of security, emotional and social competence, curiosity and confidence in learning," and "respect for the diversity of his or her peers."

Text elsewhere in the document reads, "Respect for diversity, equity, and inclusion are prerequisites for honoring children’s rights, optimal development, and learning."

The draft document provides a visual schematic of the way the program is structured, showing a child’s sense of him- or herself at the center, then family, school community, and the world. The program proposes to educate children to have healthy and constructive relationships at each of these levels of social interaction.

"Four- and five-year-old children arrive at school as unique individuals shaped by their particular cultural and social backgrounds and day-to-day experiences, and at different stages of development," the draft document says. "Their early experiences with school are of paramount importance. children will thrive within classrooms that meet their developmental needs and that provide a secure, respectful, and nurturing environment."

Elsewhere, the text adds, "Children are more able and more motivated to do well and achieve their full potential in schools that have a positive school climate and in which they feel safe and supported. ’School climate’ may be defined as the sum total of all the personal relationships within a school. When these relationships are founded in mutual acceptance and inclusion and are modeled by all, a culture of respect becomes the norm."

The document posts that parents are of supreme importance as "teachers and role models," and views parents as "an integral part of the Full-Day Early Learning-Kindergarten Program, and are often present in the classroom." Moreover, the document sets out the importance of engaging the students’ wider cultural network, planning for students that speak different languages at home and viewing cultural leaders such as "aboriginal elders" as members of the overall educational team consisting both of school personnel and community members.

"In an environment based on the principles of inclusive education, all children, parents, other family members, and other members of the school community--regardless of ancestry, culture, ethnicity, sex, physical or intellectual ability, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or other similar factors--are welcomed, included, treated fairly, and respected," the draft document reads on page 41. "Diversity is valued, and all members of the school community are feel safe, comfortable, and accepted."

Within the classroom, "The Personal and Social development area of learning should include a focus on sexist, racist, and homophobic behavior, in age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate ways, when healthy relationships are discussed, " the draft document reads on page 44, "particularly with respect to bullying/harassment and violence prevention."

The draft document was blasted by an anti-gay activist whose father was a gay man, reported anti-gay religious website LifeSiteNews. Dawn Stefanowicz, who LifeSiteNews said had been "raised by a homosexual father amidst the gay sub-culture," lambasted the program, asserting, "Government-mandated, explicit promotion of diverse sexualities, gender identities, and diverse family units in all-day classes exploits young children, creating confusion around their own innocent same-sex play with other children." Stefanowicz went to far as to say that the program "assumes that very young children have sexual feelings and thoughts, will sexually act out, and can provide sexual consent with whomever or whatever they choose."

Added the anti-gay activist, "This is ugly and divisive propaganda meant to control our precious children and separate them from the moral and religious upbringing of their parents, families of origin, and ethnic and faith communities. In other words, this is state usurpation of parental rights and consent while taking control of our children."

The president of the Campaign Life Coalition dismissed the program as "lunacy," and added, ""Are we going to allow teachers now to plant in the minds of four-year-olds the idea that they don’t have to accept being a boy or being a girl?" Hughes went on to call on "all parents to rise up," exhorting mothers and fathers to "Protect your little boys and girls from being taught that they may not be little boys and girls after all."

According to LifeSiteNews, the Education Ministry has come under fire for "promoting alternate conceptions of gender and the notion that homosexuality is a normal lifestyle choice."

The ministry also received criticism from social conservatives who saw the new full-day kindergarten program as ill-timed, given the budgetary concerns faced by the government, according to a Jan. 13 article posted at The program was slated to commence this fall at 580 schools.


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