You think you know what Alberta students learn in school?

Question: What do the following three points have in common?

1. Avoid using terms such as “boys and girls” and use alternatives such as “comrades”, “folks” and “friends”
2. Organize a school-wide drag performance
3. Require all students to participate in mandatory international letter-writing campaigns to advocate for LGBTQ rights

Answer: These are just three examples of recommended teacher lessons and practices from the new Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) resource entitled PRISM Toolkit for Safe and Caring Discussions about Sexual and Gender Minorities, Secondary Edition, which has been published for use with Grade 7-12 students [PDF available here: PRISM Toolkit, Secondary Edition – original version ].prism3

The opening pages state that a copy will be provided “free of charge” to all ATA members and credits funding support from the Government of Alberta.

From lesson plans and “inclusive” practices to some concerns with the document, let’s take a closer look at this PRISM resource which was generously provided to all teachers in the province courtesy of your taxpayer dollars.

LESSON PLANS

If you’ve ever wondered how sexual and gender minority (SGM) content could be infused into each subject area in order to achieve specific curricular outcomes, look no farther than the PRISM lesson plan section.

The following examples are all excerpts directly from the resource. I have underlined certain phrases to highlight them.

Language Arts and Social Studies:

Map of LGBTQ Rights, page 114
“Sexual and gender minority (SGM) people throughout the world continue to struggle under oppression, and continue to fight for recognition and protection under the law. In this activity, students are asked to view a variety of maps that detail the current situation for SGM peoples around the world. Students can be asked to do comparisons between nations, examine timelines of human rights achievements for specific regions, join letter-writing campaigns, and study the historical, social and political contexts of nations where human rights are still under threat…. Students can also explore social movements taking place and dig into the concept of solidarity. This is an excellent opportunity for students to practice skills of allyship across international boundaries.”

Text Analysis, page 115
“Students are given clippings from newspapers and online articles with various LGBTQ content from the current news cycle (marriage announcements, Pride Tape, Pride Centre news, trans athletes, etc) and are asked to code to whatever language conventions are being worked on in class at that time. For example, highlight transition words, circle the 5 Ws, underline metaphors, etc. Activities such as this normalize content in our classrooms and serve to destigmatize difference. Normalizing content can be more helpful than the token “gay” lesson as it is embedded in our regular practice. Be prepared to have a discussion of any issues or questions that may arise.”

Art:

Famous Queer Artists, page 116
“Research local and international artists who have faced political and legal backlash for their work. Discuss the importance of art for breaking down social barriers and for questioning the status quo. Encourage students to examine how art is a political act and look for ways to support local artists.”

The Colours of the Rainbow, page 107-109
“Provide students the opportunity to research the history, significance, and meaning of the Rainbow Pride Flag… Have students work in groups of two or three or on their own to research an issue or concern of the SGM community. For example, discrimination by the medical system, marriage and relationship rights, separate change/washrooms, bullying, suicide rates etc…. Encourage the students to use their research findings, the history of the rainbow flag and their own personal reflections on the theme of gender and sexual identity to create a drawing, painting or collage. Encourage students to use all the colours of the rainbow flag in their work.”

Drama/Cosmetology

Drag 101, page 118
“Students put their hair and makeup skills to the test while learning about the art form of drag culture…Students will gain a deeper understanding of sexual and gender diversity while exploring perceptions of gender, masculinity, and femininity. Students may want to invite local drag queens to come to the school to teach make-up and hair techniques. Students may also want to organize a drag performance for the school.

Religion 7–9, 15, 25, 35

Why Homophobia Leads Us to Sin – John 8:2-11 (story of the adulterous woman), page 89-92
“Extend the conversation to understand the impact that homophobia has on classroom, school, and church community. Ideas might include breaking down true communication of God’s love and mercy, resistance to the inclusive nature of God’s call to be ourselves, restricting the pastoral approach to community.”

Science 9 & Biology 30

Intersex Conditions, page 81-88
Assessment question #5: “What is the difference between an individual’s sexual identity and their gender identity?”

Answer Key: “An individual’s sexual identity is considered to be a biological construct whereas an individual’s gender is considered to be a social construct. Also check out the Gender Unicorn (page 21)”:

gender-unicorn

 

INCLUSIVE PRACTICES

However, lesson plans are not the only section available in this resource. The ATA also directs teachers in the province to incorporate “inclusive” practices into all their teaching.

On page 23, teachers are encouraged to post the following chart in their classroom as “a reminder to yourself and students that there are many inclusive ways to refer to each other.”  In order to help students learn the proper use of these pronouns, teachers are encouraged to ask students to incorporate them into their classroom writing.

prism-pronouns-list

On pages 22 and 56, teachers learn about the importance of “gender inclusive language.” Binary language is deemed “restrictive” and teachers are urged to “break the linguistic binary” in order to “practice allyship”. Notice the ATA’s suggested use of “comrades” as an alternative to “boys and girls”. 

prism-gender-inclusive-language

“OPTIONAL” RESOURCE?

Some have attempted to offer reassurances by saying this PRISM resource is only “optional”.  However, consider the following points:

1. The PRISM resource is clear that it is intended for use by all teachers in the province.

On pages 42 and 43 we read that being “inclusive” is every teacher’s “moral, ethical, professional and legal responsibility” and that “sexual minority issues and concerns are first and foremost a civil and human rights issue and, as such, need to be addressed and supported by all teachers and school leaders.”

Teachers are even warned of potential consequences if they do not actively address SGM issues in their classrooms:

“Canadian courts have found that schools that fail to address homophobia and heterosexism can be in serious breach of their professional responsibilities and considered to be engaging in educational malpractice.” (page 10)

2. Not optional for students.

While it may still be “optional” for teachers to integrate this material (so far), be rest assured these lessons would never be optional for any of the students who happen to be in the Grade 7-12 Language Arts, Social Studies, Biology, Mathematics, Art, etc. classes where these lessons are supposed to be taught. 

Grade 7-12 students have no choice to decline these lessons, which happen during mandated instructional time and are powerless to object to their learning time being used toward political activism for the advancement of LGBTQ rights or watching a school-wide drag performance. 

3. No sensitivity or respect for alternate perspectives. 

For any teachers who may be concerned about discussing this information in a religious-based school, the ATA responds with the following statement:

“These topics are not about religious or moral beliefs. They are about the safety issues and health concerns of SGM students in schools. They are also about human rights. These are important issues that the whole school community ought to address.” (page 43)

The profound disrespect communicated by this ATA response is alarming.

While their judgement may be true for some, it is deeply offensive of the authors to unequivocally redefine what qualifies as the “religious and moral beliefs” of others.

Whether the ATA chooses to acknowledge it or not, this IS a religious issue for many teachers, parents and students in this province.  And the dismissive tone of the response is insulting to any teacher, parent and student who happens to believe that, for themselves, it is a religious and moral issue.

Three critical questions arise:

a. How is this resource “for the good of all students” (page 42), when it fails to respectfully and sensitively reflect the diversity of beliefs and multiple perspectives represented by students in the classroom?

b. How is it effective educational practice in a free, democratic, pluralistic society to force compliance into a singular worldview without exploring and valuing the diversity of multiple perspectives?

c. Do the authors presume they can just simply redefine an issue and make any potential conflict disappear?

Not only is the response disrespectful, but it is also an intellectually dishonest and inaccurate simplification of a complex issue, failing to realize that human rights cannot be separated from morality. If not for the moral foundation of “right” and “wrong”, the idea of human rights never would have existed in the first place. 

4. Do not bite the hand that feeds you

Finally, regardless of whatever the resource says, teachers are fully aware that this so-called “optional” resource is provided by the same union that wields the authority to revoke their teaching license.

It is not surprising that teachers with concerns have said they must keep quiet or they fear they could lose their jobs.  I was a teacher and member of the ATA for many years and I know firsthand that this pressure is real. 

The content of this resource calls into question the integrity and capacity of the ATA to effectively represent all the teachers in its membership. Teachers must demand better.  If you are one of the teachers who is frustrated with the lack of representation, feel free to email me – perhaps we can begin to coordinate strategies to avoid any teacher being placed into a position of having to decide between their conscience and their job.

YOUR CHOICE

The content and concerns of this PRISM resource require Albertans to answer a critical question: Who should be entrusted with authority over our next generation of youth? 

Vladmir Lenin understood the power of that choice.  As he said, “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.” .

Some may think it is in Alberta’s best interest to destroy diversity by forcing compliance to a single perspective within our next generation.  They may also appreciate the usefulness of enlisting the masses of our province’s schoolchildren toward ideological and political activism.

But many others believe these actions fundamentally violate the role of an education system in a free, democratic, multicultural and pluralistic society.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born out of the ravages of war and the people who penned article 26 – that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” – understood that when parents abdicate their responsibility as the primary authorities in their children’s education, an entire generation is at risk.

They understood first-hand, just as Lenin did, that control over a generation of youth is a prize of tremendous value, especially for activists and ideologues intent on “culture change”.

Will we fail to learn from history?

Do you want to just go along with the new status quo, entrusting the care and instruction of your children to the organizations that helped to author this PRISM resource, including the ATA and the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services, along with other influential people such as Dr. Kristopher Wells?  Not speaking up is a choice. And it is a choice for this new status quo.

Or do you believe that parents must be returned to the primary authority in their child’s education? 

If so, it is critical to speak up now.

Parents for Choice in Education has launched an important campaign demanding that parents – not bureaucrats, union officials, ideologues or activists – should be the primary authority in the care and education of children.

The more people who sign up for this campaign, the greater the pressure on elected representatives to implement changes. Your support is vital to getting that count as high as possible. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

This is a critical window of time. MLAs are officially heading back to the Legislature on Monday, October 31st. They will have 16 days to take action before they break again until March.

Please forward this link to others or print the information regarding the PRISM resource to raise awareness about this important information.

Those who we put in authority over our children are the ones who will shape the future – it is important we choose wisely.

 

**************************
*16/12/14 Update
– A tremendous amount of media coverage followed the publication of this blog article. Here are some of the interviews and articles:

CBC Radio Edmonton interview – November 1st – Theresa Ng (Informed Albertans) and ATA representative Jonathan Teghtmeyer

CBC Radio Calgary Eyeopener interview, November 2nd – Theresa Ng (Informed Albertans)

Alberta at Noon, CBC Radio November 2nd – Donna Trimble (PCE) on panel discussion

CBC News Article, November 1st

CBC News Article, November 2nd

Calgary Herald, November 2nd

Fox News World, November 2nd

Toronto Sun, November 3rd

LifeSite News article, November 4th

Video – CTV Two News, November 4th – Theresa Ng (Informed Albertans) and ATA representative Jonathan Teghtmeyer

Parents for Choice in Education blog article, November 7th

 

 

UPDATE May 1st, 2017:

The Alberta Teachers’ Association has revised their PRISM Toolkit Secondary Edition repeatedly over the past several months. The newest version now has a different coloured cover (from green to orange), has replaced the “Gender Unicorn” with the “Gender Spectrum” on page 21 and removed the word “comrades” from their gender inclusive language chart on page 22.  However these are merely superficial changes that still do nothing to resolve the foundational concerns of the resource.  Here is a downloaded copy, current as of May 1st, 2017: ATA PRISM Toolkit downloaded May 1st

 

 

 

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24 comments

  1. G

    Nowhere in the resource is it stated that students are required to participate in a mandatory letter writing campaign. Nowhere. Not once. Wanna raise awareness, fine. But must you be so disengenuous and misleading?

    Like

    • informedalbertans

      Refer to the blog article in the lesson plan section. I have re-copied and pasted that section for your reference:

      Map of LGBTQ Rights, page 114
      “Sexual and gender minority (SGM) people throughout the world continue to struggle under oppression, and continue to fight for recognition and protection under the law. In this activity, students are asked to view a variety of maps that detail the current situation for SGM peoples around the world. Students can be asked to do comparisons between nations, examine timelines of human rights achievements for specific regions, join letter-writing campaigns, and study the historical, social and political contexts of nations where human rights are still under threat…. Students can also explore social movements taking place and dig into the concept of solidarity. This is an excellent opportunity for students to practice skills of allyship across international boundaries.”

      If you prefer to read it for yourself then access the document and read page 114: https://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Research/PD-80-15e%20PRISM.pdf

      Like

      • G

        Students CAN BE ASKED TO join letter writing campaigns. Not “must”, not “are required to”, not even “should”. Nothing. After viewing the maps, students can do a variety of things. Perhaps including letter writing, but it clearly is optional.

        Like

      • informedalbertans

        “Can be asked to” presents an option for the teacher in the context of this teacher resource. That “option” does not need to be extended to the student. I worked as a teacher for many years and teacher resources often say to the teacher that you “can” do this or you “can” do that, in order to provide different options. However, if I am a Grade 8 Social Studies student and my teacher says that our assignment is to “view maps, do comparisons and then choose a country to write a letter to in order to advocate for the advancement of LGBTQ rights” then I doubt the teacher would say the last part is optional. And at the very least there is no warning to the teacher to NOT do so. As a teacher I could create any variety of assignments in order to provide opportunities for students to practice for their writing skills. So why couldn’t a teacher who believes strongly in this material require students to do a mandatory assignment of international letter writing advocating for LGBTQ rights?

        Also, the last line of the lesson plan says “This is an excellent opportunity for students to practice skills of allyship across international boundaries.” The mention of “allyship” means action (see definition on page 51 of the resource – allyship means “the consistent action we take in support of others”) and the direct reference to “international boundaries” refers to other countries. How else would that be done if not for letters? Bottom line: if a teacher says that joining a letter writing campaign is an assignment that will be graded then it is required for that student.

        Like

    • Brian

      Sure it doesn’t say mandatory but it does say students can be asked to do letter writing campaigns … Do you think a student that would have a different thought or belief could voice that and not be called a “bigot” or “hater” given the incredible over reach the government is proposing in this PRISM literature? This is the problem G.

      Like

      • jscalzo

        Actually, students can and do refuse to do assignments. It happens, and teachers make allowances. I know this because I am a teacher and I do this for my kids. So do many of my colleagues. There are other ways a student can demonstrate the skills that are being assessed. Teachers often provide multiple ways to show their knowledge and that they have met the outcome. Perhaps you were a hard liner with assignments, but not all teachers are.

        Like

      • informedalbertans

        I appreciate that you are a teacher who provides consideration to your students and their values and do not put them in a position where they would ever have to do an assignment they are uncomfortable with. It demonstrates that you care about multiple perspectives and I commend you for that.

        However, I have had interactions with many other teachers who steadfastly believe that the lessons in this resource are necessary in order to combat heteronormativity and homophobia. Their argument would be that making any sexual and gender minority content optional demonstrates the teacher’s discrimination.

        Furthermore, they would argue that if any student would be uncomfortable in doing any of the assignments that their discomfort indicates a prejudice and bias that the student should be “educated” to overcome. The assignments would not be optional in their class.

        Teachers have tremendous freedom in how they implement lessons. You said “teachers make allowances” and I agree that many do. But I also agree that many do not.

        The very suggestion by the ATA that any of these lessons should be taught show that they hope teachers in Alberta will implement them. Otherwise, why would they go to all that expense?

        Since you are currently teaching in Alberta, do you intend to make your classroom “inclusive” and incorporate use of the diverse gender pronouns in your classroom, as per the ATA suggestions?

        Like

      • G

        1. This isn’t from the government
        2. How is option anti discrimination education “overreach”?
        3. Do you want schools to be openly discriminatory towards minoritized populations?

        Like

      • Jeff

        Jessica, as a primary contributor to this resource, will you advocate for optional involvement on any point? Do you have any authority to? It’s all well and good to say there is flexibility (and I vouch there is) in a very general sense as you have, but is there any real force to your generalization given the arrogance of Alberta Education in cutting parents out of the loop regarding what may be happening on any given day – as David Eggen has said in a mass email response, “school authorities may make decisions on a case-by-case basis about what is in the best interest of the student”, with respect to sharing “confidential information” with parents. In the context of GSAs and Bill 10, you know as well as I do that translates into, “We don’t have to tell you what’s going on.” I haven’t yet heard the phrase from Alberta Education, but I have no doubt they, and the ATA, consider themselves co-parents of the provinces children. That is pure communism, and you don’t have to read far into Marx’s Manifesto to see it.

        By the way, “you” in the last paragraph doesn’t necessarily mean you specifically. It’s a general use of English that encompasses an unspecified group, in the same way Britons will say “one”. Since we’ve left Middle English and the handy distinctions it provided for singular and plural second person pronouns, we use just the one “you” and rely on context to distinguish the audience. Most people understand that, as well as how other pronouns function in similar fashion. “Most people” includes, for example, the guest columnist who contributed an article to the St. Albert Gazette a couple of issues ago when she used “it” to refer to someone who might not be sure of their gender identity, and the Criminal Code of Canada that interchanges “person” and “he” in section 319 (3). (I only point that out for the purpose of removal of matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.)

        On the topic of pronouns, why not use “it”? Our Middle English forbears freely interchanged “it” with he and she, no disrespect or de-personalization intended, so there’s no need to attach any to it now. I don’t mind using “one” for the sake of correct English, but I will not use it for the sake of the feminist socialism. And I refuse to gibber like the girls who sat behind me in grade five.

        Like

  2. 1mil21

    G’ stop your griping and stop being so naive. Or maybe you’re a government schill? First off if you pay attention to what’s happening in the states with the LBG issue it’s being forced into mass media as a widely excepted lifestyle. This is expected, ok no problem but just like any other issue whether religious, social or political this shouldn’t be force fed down children’s throats as is the intent of this programming. So you feel that people should be allowed to choose what gender they want to be with? That’s fine, nobody’s taking that right away and in fact it’s been widely promoted since Bruce Jenner came out as a transgendered woman. Secondly, it is overreaching to a Christian person who doesn’t agree with the lifestyle. Before being gay or straight we’re human beings first with our own issues and beliefs and any person who actually follows the bible knows that it’s simply not up to us to judge how a person lives their life, but at the same time that student should be allowed to learn and study any subject without it being peppered with something that they don’t necessarily agree with. So yes it is actually over reaching. Third point; you’re totally gaslighting the author of this article by using the age old saying “well if you’re not with us you’re against us”. By you not learning about a minority doesn’t make you discriminant of them, whether that minority is racial or sexual preference. You’re using dualism by this and it really doesn’t prove anything. Let’s pick a minority here, let’s say Hispanic, so let’s pick a country like Honduras in Central America, so if you decide to not want to learn anything about these visible ethnic minorities does this make you discriminant? I think not.

    Like

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  4. Rachel

    Great article.

    Also, ‘can be asked to’ clearly is referring to the teacher assigning the task, not the student’s choice to refuse it, and the commenter either has reading comprehension issues or is being disingenuous.

    The funny thing is I’m more liberal but this direction they’re heading in with the Orwellian newspeak and indoctrination is terrifying.

    Like

  5. Max

    This is pure Hitleresque brainwashing garbage as usual by the insane far left. Let’s trample reality and everyone’s real rights by introducing nonsense and confusion for our children. Hopefully this is just a big farce because otherwise it’s an embarrassment for the entire generation and school system.

    Like

  6. Tax payer and mother

    Can we take the ATA to court for malpractice and abuse of power? If there is a lawyer willing to take the case I will be happy to pay for some of the fees. These folks will not stop regardless of how many petitions and rallies and the only option now is legal action. In addition to the economic recession and unemployment in Alberta, is abusive and lack of respect that parents need to stress and worry about the safety of their children in schools and all of this at the expense of our tax money. I do not want to work and pay taxes for these folks to abuse and brainwash my children. Enough is enough!

    Like

  7. Jeff

    If “These topics are not about religious or moral beliefs”, why are they distorting scripture in their reinterpretation surrounding John 8? If there is anything respectful about this, why are they distorting scripture in their reinterpretation surrounding John 8, and why do the class materials include bibles and not Bibles, and why are they distorting Jesus and Christianity?

    “They are about the safety issues and health concerns of SGM students in schools.” Safety has become a code word in this agenda. “Health concerns”? Are they getting sick? Are they getting beat up? What about the smears directed at the schools dragged through the Calgary Herald a couple or so years ago?

    “They are also about human rights.” There is no such thing. Not as they mean it, anyway Their version is another code word. Human rights do not exist in the vacuum of leftist opinion. They exist in the presence of real human responsibility. There is a real human responsibility to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the poor. Therefore those in that need have a right to ask for help from those who can. There is no human responsibility to recognize or respect the gender propaganda promulgated by feminist socialism. It is hypocritical how they wave the human rights excuse with one hand and hide articles 26 and 18 of the Universal Declaration behind their backs with the other.

    Like

    • Maureen

      Your opposition to schools teaching acceptance of all is based on fear. What do you fear is going to happen? No one can “turn” someone into being gay or transgender. I highly recommend that you educate yourself on transgender issues and history. I also suggest that you get to know some transgender people. This is not a lifestyle they choose, they are born this way. They face intense anxiety often on a daily basis. They are horrified on the inside if they don’t transition, and scared to death if they do, but it is the only way they feel authentically themselves. If you did do what I suggested above (education and getting to know them) you would understand this. You cannot simply decide that something that millions of people worldwide feel and live is not real just because you don’t want to or think it’s wrong. Education is key to all people loving one another, accepting one another and living free of bias and prejudice. Your child will not become a transgender student just by learning to respect and love everyone. They might however, help to prevent the extremely high suicide rate among the transgender population largely due to the lack of acceptance expressed by people like yourself. Your issue is not with your right as a parent, your issue is your fear of what this education might do to the beliefs you have against this population. Please, please, please, educate yourself and speak with some people who are transgender, who have transgender children, and/or who work with transgender people. You may not know it now but there is someone in your world that is transgender. If you are open minded enough to do what I have suggested you will change your outlook. If you will not, that speaks for itself.

      Like

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  10. Psalm 37

    I am a parent of children in Alberta public schools. I have heard of no parent I have interacted with asking for this ‘new religion’ agenda the Notley government is on. This is all coming from the far left in some far away land, implemented by their local representatives. Although they are too intimidated to say it, most parents simply subscribe to the ‘He created them male and female’ world view. We Canadians really like taking on the chin!

    Like

    • Aaron

      Maureen,
      You need to look at history and other current examples to broaden your context. Hitler understood this concept well, which is why he instituted “youth groups” to indoctrinate the youth to his biases. Apparently, Vladimir Lenin had the same thought. This topic will bring more confusion to youth and will help guide some into a transgender lifestyle. Would your moral belief hold steady if/when youth or adults feel they truly are a pedophile and must livery out that lifestyle to be fulfilled? Then they will hurt others, of course that’s not OK. What about person who is convinced that they are supposed to be missing a leg when they have two healthy legs? Would you let them – encourage them – to cut that limb off to be true to themself? I hope not. What about the man who is an adulterer and convinced that he is better this way? Do we teach our kids to accept and encourage that life style and maybe even fight to give him additional rights and freedoms to promote that lifestyle? Definitely not.
      We can love transgender men and women, but we don’t have to accept and encourage their life choices.

      Like

  11. Pingback: Minister Eggen, what is Alberta Education’s standard? | informed albertans

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