Boost Same-Sex Curricula: Union

Article excerpt

MTS seeks big changes to education in province

So you thought Bill 18 has stirred up an education hornet's nest?

The union leadership representing Manitoba's 15,000 public school teachers wants all provincial education curricula to reflect sexual orientation and gender-identity issues.

A resolution to go before the annual general meeting of the Manitoba Teachers' Society May 23 to 25 would call on the Department of Education to "ensure that same-sex families and LBGTTQ (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, two-spirited, queer) people and themes are reflected in all curricula."

All Manitoba schools, regardless of whether they are public or private, must follow provincial curricula.

"Kids get a distorted social mirror," MTS president Paul Olson said Wednesday. "The world is not a Leave it to Beaver, heterosexual place."

The curricula don't reflect reality, said Olson. "There's this kind of ringing silence -- it's a deafening silence."

The resolution comes from the provincial executive, Olson said.

Teachers have given their union a clear message that what they teach must reflect gender and sexual identity. "It's not that every lesson has to include it; we're not saying anything that absurd," Olson said.

MTS is aware the idea will not go over well everywhere, Olson added.

"I'm sure it will generate some debate. That kind of heat tends to generate some light.

"There should be tension -- that's how we hold ideas up to scrutiny," said Olson.

Education Minister Nancy Allan said Wednesday, "They have not discussed that with me," adding, "I'm glad they're having that discussion."

Allan would not speculate on what the union might do, or what the government would do if teachers pass the resolution, but noted "it would take years" to implement such sweeping changes.

Deputy education minister Gerald Farthing said sexual-orientation issues are covered in the health curriculum under family life, and in human-rights units in the social studies curriculum.

But what teachers are proposing is a sweeping change that would include amending and expanding the curriculum in every subject taught in schools.

"It's systemic. It would be leading if it were to go ahead," said Chad Smith, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre, which serves the gay and lesbian community. "It's great. This is a bigger picture" than the incremental small steps the centre has been making with individuals at the school level, Smith said.

"We've had concerns raised to us by parents who are same-sex couples, that they aren't being represented" in what their kids learn in school, Smith said. …