"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Disturbing questions about sex education policy



Premier Kathleen Wynne. (Toronto Sun files)
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Word that University of Toronto professor Ben Levin had been arrested on child-pornography charges rocked Queen’s Park this week.

A highly respected educator and a former senior bureaucrat, Levin was a member of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s transition team, a trusted and influential adviser.

I’m told Wynne is “shocked and upset” by the charges. Levin is charged with two counts of distributing child pornography and one count each of making child pornography, counselling to commit an indictable office and agreeing to or arranging for a sexual offence against a child under 16.

Levin walked with Wynne, former federal Liberal leader Bob Rae and current leader Justin Trudeau at the recent Gay Pride Parade, so this is a person with political connections.

It’s always difficult at times like this to draw conclusions. First, we must remember these are only charges; Levin’s been convicted of nothing. That’s up to a judge. But it does raise disturbing questions in general about the way education policy is formulated and who has input.

Remember the uproar in 2010 over the new sex-education curriculum? It was slammed — not just by the religious right, as some would have you believe, but by average parents — for being overly graphic in its nature and not age-appropriate. This curriculum was developed at a time when Levin was a deputy minister.

And, yes, thank you very much, I do understand that curriculum is developed in consultation with a number of groups.

Wynne’s office and the education ministry were quick to tell me Tuesday that police, mental-health agencies and others were all part of the development of the new curriculum.

I’m sure they all gave their input — as did groups such as Queer Nation. It’s also true, though, that the deputy minister would have input into which groups were “consulted.”

For anyone to suggest this was not a political process is nonsense. Who cancelled the new curriculum? It was former premier Dalton McGuinty, because parent outrage became a political liability for him.

Wynne was education minister at the time.

The curriculum aimed to teach 11-year-olds about oral and anal sex, and eight-year-olds about sexual orientation and identity.

One teacher “prompt” suggests how the teacher might discuss “erections, wet dreams and vaginal lubrication,” as normal things that happen with puberty. Ironically, we were told kids need to know this stuff at an early age “because they can find it on the Internet.”

The big question now is, who put it there?

After Laurel Broten took over at the helm of education, the sex-ed curriculum quietly died.

One of the first questions Wynne was asked the day after she won the Liberal leadership was when she’d bring it back. She’s under pressure from the gay community on that score. In an article in the gay newspaper Xtra in May, Nick Mule, chairperson of Queer Ontario, said, “This continues to be a concern for Queer Ontario.”

Wynne is vacationing at her cottage this week and while she issued a statement on Toronto’s storm, there’s been radio silence on Levin.

She needs to make a statement clearing the air. If this happened to a Tory government, the Liberals would be gloating, so it’s fair to hold the Liberals to the same standard.

Reader Comment:
Our children are our most precious people. When they are sexualized and desensitized at an early age — in this case, through a school curriculum — they become easy victims to those who’d prey on them. We have to be ever-vigilant about what they’re learning. That’s why parents remain the people best equipped to talk to them about sex.

Ben Levin, Justin Trudeau, Kathleen Wynne: Toronto Gay Pride Parade 2013

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