Thursday, September 22, 2011

Toronto Father "Shocked" by School's Progressive Planner

Eva Rivera is a proud lesbian Chicana, daughter, sister and sex worker who can walk in 6 inch heels and twirl naked on a pole in front of total strangers but is still viciously afraid of moths. You can catch her more of her here

I'm not a parent so I'm not going to speak to this issue as someone who has to educate children about social justice. The point of view I can speak from is that of a someone once educated in a formal and crumbling U.S. education system and who grappled with my sexuality as a lesbian, my loneliness as a child of color in a mostly white school and girl growing up in a working class home.

Here is what seems to be the issue. A father in Toronto, Canada is appalled that the school district chose to insert days of significance into students planners (including his 6 year old son) which, god forbid, highlight hugely problematic, dire, and largely unaddressed social justice issues. He is particularly offended by the inclusion of Transgender Day of Remembrance, Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, LGBTQ Pride Week and World AIDS Day along with a few other "shocking" reminders that most people don't actually benefit from a white-western-male-cis-straight privilege and have to negotiate marginalization and violence on a daily basis.  He felt that his son was too young to be "exposed" to such issues saying to the Toronto Sun, "He's six. I want him to enjoy being six." The father voiced his concerns to the Toronto District School Board and was assured that the issue would be investigated. Naturally, the conservative and religious groups have taken this and ran, decrying the school's LGBTQ "agenda" and urging their readers to call, write and otherwise demand an end to this leftist indoctrination.
 
I can't speak for anyone else, but as a lesbian student I would've strongly appreciated some kind of acknowledgment that being queer was okay, normal and not something that would send me straight to hell. Even if it was just a token day. It would've made me smile a little bit to read in my planner that their were queer folks who were actually proud to be queer. I struggled with major depression during middle school, high school and throughout my brief community college experience. A huge part of that was directly related to the guilt and shame I felt around my sexuality.

Another issue here is that not only does the father take for granted the privilege he has being able to "shelter" his child from the reality of the violence of marginalization, he does it at the expense of those marginalized. His demand to protect his son's innocence comes at the emotional and very possibly physical cost to other students who are LGBTQ, who have lost loved ones to the violence directed at sex workers, who are living with HIV. His demand is not to simply that the school district leave these issues to parents to deal with, its to turn away from students who are at the margins and need some kind of reassurance that our experiences are worth talking about and we are worth being listened to.

Don't get me wrong,  tossing some days in a planner to highlight social justice issues, is nothing to get too excited over if that isn't backed up by action. Clearly, though whoever approved adding the dates may have had good intentions, these days are ultimately tokens. I can read a blurb in a calendar, not understand what it means, gloss over it and learn nothing. This doesn't do me or my classmates any good. Especially, when bullying, is a major problem in schools. I'll be impressed if it actually becomes part of the curriculum and teachers and students are actually address issues that students deal with in real life. In the meantime, how are students who don't face marginalization ever going to understand their own privilege if adults rush to cover their eye over a mere calendar date?