According to the most recent editorial in the Alberta Teachers’ Association News, entitled Myth-busting needed in LGBTQ debate”, Mr. Jonathan Teghtmeyer and I share two very important things in common:
- Neither of us are fans of blatant spreading of misinformation.
- We both agree this discussion has been full of misinformation.
Ironically, the ATA Editor-in-Chief included some misleading information of his own that needs to be addressed:
1. ATA Editorial: “The group Parents for Choice sparked the most recent hotspot with its attempts at countering the guidelines through a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #protectABkids”.
Thank you to Donna Trimble, the Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education, who corrected Mr. Teghtmeyer’s claim on her website. Indeed, I was the one who initiated the Twitter Campaign as my own attempt at a grassroots advocacy strategy to help give many concerned Albertans a public voice. I invited two other organizations to join me and appreciated their support, one being Parents for Choice in Education and the other P.R.O Children Alberta.
2. ATA Editorial: “Unfortunately, inexperience in social media caused the campaign to backfire as proponents of the guidelines hammered away at Parents for Choice and its advocates in the volatile medium.”
I would hardly say that our campaign backfired. In fact, in two very important ways our campaign was a tremendous success.
First, despite the fact that thousands of people had been signing petitions, writing letters, sending emails, making phone calls and attending various meetings, there was little acknowledgement in the media of widespread opposition to the Guidelines. Through the Twitter Campaign we finally had several opportunities to gain more public voice. Thank you to the many newspapers and television stations who took the time to hear our perspective and bring it to public awareness (listed in “Articles & Links” section). And kudos to the many hundreds of parents and members of the public who joined us that day on Twitter, many for the first time, to help make our voice heard.
Second, the alarmingly aggressive attacks that our #protectABkids campaign received served as a wake-up call to Albertans across the province.
As became clear on March 1, there is little room for civil debate or respectful, reasonable discussion with people who tout protection for LGTBQ youth while simultaneously spewing an onslaught of hateful labels toward anyone who holds a different perspective on the issue.
Many Albertans are extremely concerned how these same people could possibly be qualified to develop and promote effective “anti-bullying” and “inclusive” approaches in our K-12 schools.
Being exposed to such hostility strengthened our resolve to continue to advocate. Now we realize there are actually two issues at stake – one continues to be the Guidelines themselves, but the other is defending the freedom of parents and their children to hold a different perspective on gender and sexuality, without fear of reprisal.
No one should have to endure such aggressive behaviour – not grown adults on Twitter and certainly not any children in our schools. No one should be bullied for voicing their concerns or for holding a different perspective than others.
3. ATA Editorial: “There are 12 best practices included in the guidelines, and they are much less prescriptive than fearmongers make them out to be. The controversy comes from the examples included with the guidelines, but they are being misinterpreted.”
I believe it is an insulting disservice to suggest that opposition to the Guidelines could be solved so easily in a few tidy paragraphs. In terms of the specific “myths” mentioned in the ATA Editorial, all cited from the Calgary Sexual Health Centre website, I will address those more specifically in the coming days.
The reality is that anyone who cannot see the implications and the ideological tensions inherent in this divisive Guidelines document has clearly not read it closely enough. Neither have they been listening. There are thousands of Albertans who want answers. Accusations of fearmongering and simplistic answers do nothing to help address their real, legitimate concerns.
In closing, it seems that Mr. Teghtmeyer and I share one more commonality. I believe we both truly desire the best solutions for all students, teachers and parents in our province. So instead of resorting to minimizing and misrepresenting the concerns voiced by so many Albertans, let us discuss the issues in an open, civil and respectful way. THAT is what will make the greatest difference to us all.
Oh, and one last piece of advice.
When I was a teacher in elementary school classrooms and we discussed bullying, I taught my students about the key importance of the bystander. I encourage everyone to read a few of the excellent resources online regarding the topic.
I find it surprising that Mr. Teghtmeyer and many others were obviously on Twitter that day and clearly saw the abundance of name-calling being thrown about, yet didn’t do something about it. Is it somehow acceptable just because we’re on Twitter to simply use name calling to address any type of disagreement, labeling others as bigots, homophobes, narrow minded, anti-LGBTQ, hateful, etc.?
Is that our advice to our children when they face cyber-bullying: “oh, don’t worry, Sally and Johnny. Those cowards wouldn’t have the guts to say it to your face. It doesn’t mean anything if they’re calling you names through the screen. Relax!”
You know a great anti-bullying strategy? Leading by example.
And if adult bystanders don’t have the guts to call out bullying behaviour when they see it, how can we ever hope that our children will learn?