School Choice Debate in Calgary Herald

On Tuesday, Calgary Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz argued that parents should not be able to opt their children out of lessons on religion and sexuality. 

PCE Executive Director Garnett Genuis sent in a response, and an abbreviated version was published today.

Below is the full version of his response:

"Naomi Lakritz recently argued in these pages that Alberta should not allow parents to opt their children out of classroom discussions about religion and sexuality. She said that the current opt-out provisions guarantee “the next generation of red-necks.” The use of that pejorative terminology to describe people who don’t share her worldview on religious, moral, or sexual issues illustrates exactly why an opt-out is necessary.

Lakritz is right that all children should learn about the multiplicity of points of view on religious, moral, and sexual issues, and that that learning should occur at a point which is age-appropriate. However, there is nothing wrong with parents wanting to ensure that children have a firm grounding in a particular world view before they encounter other world views. It is a basic right of parents to provide children with that grounding, before those children inevitably encounter other perspectives. If the efforts of parents to teach particular points of view in the home are to be somehow counter-acted by public education, then by what authority and through what procedure can public education claim to know what is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ world view?

Children should encounter a multiplicity of ideas at the appropriate point, but it is up to parents, as long as a child is in their charge, to determine what that appropriate point is. Age-appropriateness is a slippery and subjective concept. It is better for individual parents, as opposed to distant public servants, to determine if a child is ready to be confronted with information which may conflict with what they are learning at home.

It’s also noteworthy that rescinding the opt-out might lead some parents to pull their children out of public schools. Not allowing an opt-out for certain material would likely lead more people to opt-out of the system entirely.

Alberta has long recognized the important role parents play in our education system. An opt-out ensures that parental and educational influences will always be complimentary and not contradictory. This has been a key source of the strength of our education system, so let’s keep things working well."