May 31st, 2020

Are politicians serving parents or special interest groups?

By Letter to the Editor on March 31, 2017.

Aren’t political priorities fascinating? Two weeks ago, it came to light that all Alberta students had access to what amounted to pornography in the classrooms. But apparently providing students with the proper way to administer oral sex, best positions for anal sex and the latest toys for kinky sex merited a very muted response from our elected officials. No censure of the support Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services group, that in the name of gay-straight alliances defended the website, no admonishment of the director of this group (who incidentally is a key consultant to Alberta Education), who was openly aware of the offending content, and certainly no media interviews expressing shock and astonishment that such material was available to children with two clicks of a mouse.

This week however, a politician dared to say that parents should be informed when their child joined a GSA group at school. And the political maelstrom that has resulted in the media has been nothing short of amazing. Every party leader has given interviews decrying this breach of ‘intent of the current government’s school regulations’? What is wrong with this picture?

As a former principal, I not only informed, but requested parent signatures to allow students to join the basketball team, the band or any formal school club that was sponsored by the school. This allowed parents to function as full partners and informed participants in THEIR child’s education.

It must be asked: Are the politicians are serving parents or select special interest groups? Which special interests take precedence over the parental right of the Alberta School Act to select the best education for their child? Why is there an attempt to freeze parents out of participation on this particular issue?

Richard Dietrich

Medicine Hat

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5 Responses to “Are politicians serving parents or special interest groups?”

  1. Harriet Shoebridge says:

    Re: Are politicians serving parents or special interest groups?

    My daughter gifted me her old iPad at Christmas and now, as a fully fledged citizen of the 21st century, I have unfettered online access to all and sundry bits of the truly wonderful and deeply disturbing. As an adult of advanced years, I filter the disturbing, wallow in the non disturbing and live a fulfilling and peaceful life. At the same time, school age children have the self same internet access without benefit of filters and can and probably do absorb much internet muck in the privacy of their bedrooms. Responsible adults presenting current topics in a responsible manner is to be lauded and, in the area of sexual education, need not be dismissed as disseminating pornography.

    So what does it mean when a politician steps forward and states that parents should be informed when children are engaged in gay straight groups in the school? Do parents have the right to examine every nook and cranny of their children’s life? Indeed, and given the internet, that parental know-all has gone the way of the dodo bird. So, why the fuss? It’s my thought that some parents are very uncomfortable with the subject of gender identification, some children are very aware of parental discomfort and, subsequently, choose to keep explorations to a non-parental circle. Bouncing a basketball across a gym floor is not the same as discussing sexual orientation and any attempt link the two goes far and beyond the boundaries of credible discussion.

    The world is changing and a careful and compassionate observation of those changes is, in my opinion, the job of every citizen.

    • Kristine says:

      Harriet Shoebridge, I would recommend that you view the materials that people are objecting to before suggesting they’re just “making a fuss” over nothing. Adults of all political strips — progressive, conservative and everything in between — have been outraged by these so-called “resources.”

      Yes, the internet has a plethora of garbage that is available, and yes, parents should do what they can to protect their children from it. However, parents should NOT have to protect their children from materials that are funded and recommended by Alberta Education.

      Please see the Informed Albertans blog if you would like to actually see what all of “the fuss” is about:

  2. Harriet Shoebridge says:

    Kristine. Thank you for the web direct to Informed Albertans. Admittedly operating with limited browsing skills, I was unable to track down Fruit Loop, cited by Informed Albertans as a community support for the Alberta GSA Network. However, retired and with time on my hands (and freshly brewed Sumatra in my French press), I stumbled upon a CBC article, dated March 15, 2017, entitled “Alberta government funded GSA website removes links after complaints of sexually graphic content”, removed link identified as Fruit Loop …. suggesting that the Informed Albertans site could do with an update.

    In all fairness, I found the Fruit Loop references, albeit dated, to be somewhat OTT (over the top) and could well appreciate parental concerns. Too, public funding for iSMSS as relates to sketchy vetting of material is certainly worthy of scrutiny.

    However, unable to separate Fruit Loop material from the catalogue of material presented on the Informed Albertans link, if indeed any such OTT content remains, I am unable to comment further.

    • Kristine says:

      You’re most welcome, Harriet.

      Yes, you’ll note in the March 14 update on the Informed Albertans link to which I directed you, both the CBC article you found and Danielle Smith’s March 14 interview with Donna Trimble of Parents for Choice in Education (about this issue) are noted.

      Theresa Ng also asks in that March 14 update:

      “Links and content so inappropriate for K-12 kids should never have been there in the first place, especially under the guise of ‘support.’ If I hadn’t happened to personally stumble across the content, it would still be there. Why is it up to citizens to vet these government funded and recommended resources? Shouldn’t the Alberta government be hiring people who can do their job without volunteer citizens having to do it for them?

      “Removing a few links does not solve the problem. iSMSS and Dr. Wells have severely violated the public trust and should not be in a position of influence in our K-12 education system at all. Alberta children deserve better.”

      I believe those are excellent questions. Wouldn’t you agree?

  3. Harriet Shoebridge says:

    Lost first draft, iPad feeling unfriendly, so will keep things short. Dr. Wells is certainly a concern and a further concern that Edmonton did not keep a watchful eye on his material. Again, not trusting the iPad, I thank you for your link and must allow that my approach would have been somewhat tempered if only Mr. Dietrich had provided that same link. Finally, and I suspect that you and I may agree to disagree, I continue to hold that students engaging in gay straight groups should not be obligated to inform parents. And, now coffee beans and a French press are calling out. Take care, HS.

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