LANGLEY, April 30, 2010 (TBOS) — A meeting of concerned Langley constituents with Langley MLA Mary Polak (who is also Minister of Children and Family Development, and Minister Responsible for Child Care) today produced some hopeful results—but also some concerns.
The four who met the Minister at her constituency office for an hour were Langley residents Bryan Grim and Eric Vandergriendt of ARPA (Association for Reformed Political Action), as well as Ron Gray, vice-president of Parents for Democracy in Education; and another member of ARPA from Surrey, Shaun Raap. They sought an audience with the Minister to present concerns about the deleterious effects of how the Corren Settlement Agreement is being implemented in public schools by the BC Teachers’ Federation, and the Agreement’s impact on the culture generally. They also expressed deep concern that the Agreement had been reached without reference to the Legislature.
They presented Minister Polak with a copy of Parents for Democrcy in Education Society’s report on the BCTF’s February, 2009 “conference” at University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford (including the infamous “staircase” graphic, which exposes the BCTF’s agenda to manipulate students’ attitudes towards homosexuality); a report about the American College of Pediatricians’ letter, sent to all school superintendents in the USA, warning that it can be very harmful to adolescent children to affirm any tendencies they may have towards homosexual behaviour (along with a copy of the actual letter); a copy of McGill University Ethics Professor Douglas Farrow’s 2005 statement that “all Canadians have a duty to refuse to recognize Bill C-38” (the Liberal legislation legalizing same-sex “marriage”); and a copy of ARPA’s recent statement about the potential hazards of all-day kindergarten starting at age 3.
The delegation pointed out that while implementing the Corren Settlement Agreement is primarily the responsibility of Education Minister Dr. Margaret McDiarmid, its adverse effects on children and families also impact Minister Polak’s portfolio as well. They expressed the hope that from that perspective, she would share their concerns with the Education Minister. She replied that they often discuss matters of shared concern.
The Minister was at pains to defend the Corren Settlement Agreement (which she said she had been instrumental in proposing as a solution to human rights complaints against the provincial government by Murray Corren and the late Peter Corren). When the Correns began their human rights complaints, she said, they sought to exclude any opportunity for parents to remove their children from classrooms where “sensitive” issues were being taught. However, she insisted, parents still retain that right, and she said schools have a duty to accommodate religious belief.
Published statements by the Correns and by the BCTF’s assistant director of Professional and Social Issues, James Chamberlain (the teacher in the Surrey “textbooks” case), have indicated that parents do not have such a right. Their statements—which are false if Minister Polak is correct—are taken as factual by many teachers and parents.
The BC Supreme Court decision that public schools in this province must be “secular” was overturned at the Supreme Court of Canada in the “Surrey textbooks” case, she said.
Minister Polak said she believes that most Grade 12 students are indifferent to the Social Justice 12 course developed by the Correns as part of their Settlement Agreement—but she agreed that when the Abbotsford School Board refused to adopt the SJ-12 course (because of its overt advocacy of homosexuality), the BCTF and some activist teachers manipulated students into staging a rally in support of the course.
“We agreed to work with them on a teacher’s guide (Making Space—ed.),” she said—and she described that guide as “a significant win” for pro-moral forces.
That assessment is radically divergent from the opinion of such authorities as Sean Murphy of the Catholic Civil Rights League.
In the Surrey Textbook case, the Supreme Court of Canada “rejected the teachers’ ‘free expression’ argument,” Minister Polak said. However, apart from all legislation and ministerial regulations, teachers remain “virtually autonomous” in their classrooms, she added. “Most teachers are not interested in social engineering.”
The delegation from ARPA and PDES noted that such teachers need to be supported, and we must all resist teachers who choose to adopt a “social engineering” approach in their classrooms—which violates the prohibition of indoctrination in the BCTF’s own Code of Ethics.
The benefit of the BC Government’s plan for all-day kindergarten, said Minister Polak is two-fold: that it is not compulsory, and that pre-schools do not have to employ BCTF personnel. She agreed that the BCTF has played a strongly activist, pro-‘gay’ role. The concept of “neighbourhood learning centres”, she said, is that they can be at school sites (to minimize costs by using existing plant), but focused on child development through play, intramural sports, and perhaps connection with seniors in nearby facilities.
The ARPA representatives voiced concern over the cost of all-day kindergarten (“$600,000+,” said Bryan Grim); Minister Polak said it would not be nearly that much, but did not offer an alternate estimate.
Perhaps the most promising result of the exchange was the Minister’s proposal for a strategy meeting in the near future, to further exchange ideas and formulate plans to advance pro-moral concerns.
“We consider it a benefit that we have an MLA who is in the cabinet, and presumably shares our viewpoint,” said PDES Vice-President Ron Gray.
The group plans to follow up on the Minister’s proposal for a strategy meeting in the near future.