Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Post Bill 44

Like many of you, I have been following Bill 44. To my MLAs, to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Culture and Community Spirit, I have expressed concerns about the possible impacts. I've questioned the need for this legislation when we already have parental opt-out rights covered under the School Act and wondered why there seemed to be such a deep reluctance on the part of the government to strike it out or allow more time for consultation. I questioned how anyone could know what the "silent majority" thought, when, by definition, aren't they "silent"?

As it became clear that my voice was not being heard and that the Bill was going to pass despite the many concerns expressed by educators, parents, students and citizens, I felt fear well up inside me. I worried about how this would be perceived by the rest of Canada. I fretted for the kids caught in the crossfires of this issue: the kids with two Moms; the kids of parents who fear homosexuality being taught; the high school students eager to find their own voices and beliefs, separate from their parents; the kids who are gay and might feel marginalized by this Bill. I worried about the teachers who might start to second-guess themselves and change their teaching practice. I worried about the administrators who might feel pressure to create new mechanisms to monitor and account for this new legislation. I worried about all the people who fought so tirelessly to be heard and then felt their effort was for naught. I worried they would give up on political engagement and sink back into apathy.

I don't know how this will play out. I can't see the future. Perhaps we will be able to carry on, with teaching and learning unchanged. Perhaps there will be no cases brought forward. Perhaps. I hold onto that sliver of hope.

But I think we lost something when Bill 44 passed. We lost the sense that we were a reasonable people, who could resolve issues, face-to-face, through dialogue, through compassion and a genuine desire to understand one another. We became divided. We walked down the path of intolerance and suddenly saw our neighbours as "other". We lost trust in each other, in our government, in our fellow Albertans. Fear took over.

I hope all the teachers in Edmonton Public will be able to take a deep breath and trust again. I've been reassured that we will not over-react to the legislation. We will preserve excellence in teaching at all costs. We will not bureaucratize this and ask teachers to teach in tighter and tighter "boxes", drowning in more and more forms.

The world is expanding at an exponential rate, we cannot afford to take a smaller view. We must all be brave and do the right thing for our students.

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