The irony – and hypocrisy – may have escaped Premier Doug Ford and his people when he announced this week that the province is setting up a snitch line so that any teacher who actually tries to help their students and teaches the modern sex-ed curriculum brought in under the previous Liberal government could be reported and, presumably, suspended.
Ford said, “We will not tolerate anybody using our children as pawns for grandstanding and political games.”
Now every parent or guardian who has a problem with what their children are learning about sex can scream down the phone at, to quote one anti-sex-ed activist, “the satanic homosexual evil that is destroying our children and their eternal souls.” Should be great fun being a phone-operator on the other end of those calls!
The snitch line resembles the federal Conservatives’ 2015 election move to set up a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline, which was simply a badly disguised attack on Muslims. But the research within conservative ranks showed that it resonated with the populist right, the very people Ford considers his own. That matters in the dark world of Ford.
While Ford’s sex-ed snitch line will no doubt be used anonymously by bigots, it’s intended for another purpose: to create a “useful crisis” in the education system, much like the PC government of Mike Harris did in 1995. Back then, education minister John Snobelen was caught on video saying he needed to “bankrupt” the education system to justify, among other initiatives, the government’s rote learning curriculum.
The sex-ed snitch line is Snobelen redux.
Ford and his backroom people know that they can’t do much to prevent modern sex-ed being taught. Teachers are not employed directly by the provincial government, and school boards, teacher’s unions and senior staff are overwhelmingly supportive of a curriculum that has now been in place for three years. A number of boards have already said they intend to continue to teach the updated curriculum.
But the government can create confusion, low morale and chaos. Ford’s base is traditionally anti-teacher and anti-union, and any conflict will play to the government’s advantage.
The propaganda about the curriculum is utter nonsense. It does not “teach” anal sex or any other form of intercourse, and its central themes are the need for consent, safety, self-worth and knowledge. It also affirms, thank goodness, the entirely normal and mainstream nature of LGBTQ relationships. In many ways, in fact, it is blandly orthodox.
But a group of zealots from the fringes of the Roman Catholic and evangelical churches grabbed the issue and managed to convince some in the Muslim and Sikh communities that hell was on their doorstep. At the heart of all this was a colossal dose of homophobia.
Ford owes these people. He received their vote for leader, but then his education minister waffled on the issue. This resulted in a storm of emails and calls from social conservatives, who are well organized, and Ford was then told by his staff that he had to act.
Hence the snitch line, which is mostly a publicity stunt. But it’s not the last such obscenity that we will see from an administration that governs by optics more than policy.
Meanwhile, a grand jury in Pennsylvania revealed last week that over several decades, more than 300 Roman Catholic priests had raped a thousand – and likely more – children, inflicting the most grotesque forms of sexual sadism on them. One of the main reasons that this went unreported for so long was that the victims were ignorant of what was actually happening, unable to name body parts and unsure of what a person in authority was allowed to do to them.
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