Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sex, Religion and the Educational Debate

Education is a very difficult field in regards to establishing curricula. For example, the debate wages on over religion and sex education being offered in schools. In Alberta, for example, there is a proposed bill in the legislature that will enable parents to withdraw their students from class if they do not find the subject to be favourable. This pits the will of the parents against the will of the state – a tenuous situation as neither are perfect and both have the right in having a say about what education a child receives.

As a teacher, I have observed and studied terrible mandates from the state such as the residential schooling of Aboriginal peoples, in addition to other less notorious policies, both past and present, with which I do not agree. Certainly the education policies in many non-democratic countries and democratic ones as well have served as vehicles of propaganda and even hate. In the end, with the changing world, politics and new research, education will continue to change, and the change will consist of all points in the range of the pendulum's swing – the good, the bad.

On the parenting side of the coin, we also see a range of opinions and ability. A family has a right to raise their children as they see fit… or do they? Though many parents are amazing and wonderful mentors for their children, the reality is that there are many out there who are perhaps not the best decision makers or who make decisions that can be harmful, if not straight out abuse. There is no professional requirement to become a parent (nor is there to become Minister of Education). Just as we must question government ethics, so too must we examine how some parents raise their children. For example, what do you do with religiously fundamentalist parents who decide to home school their children because they feel there is some atheist conspiracy at work within the system, resulting in a child who has the potential to be a doctor intellectually, but is 13 and does not know the alphabet?

At the end of the day, school should be a place to explain and expose students to new ideas and offer explanations about how the world works from a variety of points of view. The method in which these things should be presented should be objective, as opposed to evangelical. For example, I can teach students about Communism without trying to convert them to being Communists. I can teach the theory of Creationism alongside the Big Bang, and let the students decide for themselves as to what they believe. Just as I do not believe the state has a divine right to tell people what to believe, I do not believe that "beliefs" should allow parents to isolate their children from other points of view. No matter which way we go, mistakes will occur and we can not expect to please everyone.

So, let's look at the two most contentious issues: religion and sex education.

As far as religion goes, I think that we should examine all the major religions of the world over one's educational career. It should not be done in a matter that is offensive or derogatory, but rather an examination of views from within each faith. Creationism should be presented as a theory, just as Science is portrayed as theoretic. I do not believe that religious freedom should deny individuals the opportunity to learn about other faiths. The only result from such practices is intolerance, ignorance and hate. I also believe that if a parent elects to send their child to a Christian or Islamic school, that these schools have an obligation to objectively teach about other faiths. At the end of the day, families may live according to whatever beliefs they hold. Likewise, I believe that children are entitled to different points of view upon which to base their future.

In regards to sex education, again, I believe that to deny a child this because of parents beliefs can be very dangerous for the child and may also be considered a health risk to society as a whole. Regardless of parental beliefs, sex is a fact of life and, regardless, their children will face temptations. I know that this is a delicate issue, but sometimes, again, we must be reasonable in regards to the age in which we live. Unwanted pregnancies, STD's, AIDS, and so on are real possibilities, and the risk is personified by ignorance. In Africa we see where cultural beliefs are resulting in tragic statistics of HIV and AIDS. I want to respect cultural boundaries, but, at the end of the day, some things simply must be changed. Just as the abuse of women under the Taliban is unacceptable, so too is denying children the knowledge they require to be safe.

In conclusion, I know that I am excessively liberal and even heretical individual in the eyes of many. I am certain that many of the bureaucrats, devoutly religious parents, etc., believe just as strongly in their views as I do in mine. As much as I want to respect their opinions, I also believe that I have a right and responsibility to speak my mind. As I do speak my mind, I truly believe that I have the best interest of children at heart, and wish to offer them an objective education that is presented under the mantle of tolerance and enquiry. As the ages change, so too do we, and few of us turn out to be just like our parents are. While both the state and parents have rights in regards to children, those children must also be allotted the right to choose a path based upon a fair exposure to differing points of view. I say this both as a teacher and a parent.



  • At 5:33 a.m. , Blogger Catvibe said...

    Well written essay. I agree with you entirely, but of course you know you're preaching to the choir with me. Would that those who need to hear this, will.

  • At 10:21 a.m. , Blogger Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

    ...and this is the great irony isn't it! As long as we permit isolation based on beliefs, those folks will remain in isolation - the great catch-22!

    we do what we can as individuals - keep your voice being heard!

  • At 12:37 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    found you on the bill 44 fb group- like your writing and looking forward to spending another hour or so here!!

  • At 8:11 p.m. , Blogger Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

    Thank you for stopping by Anon. Hope you enjoy my blog.


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