Experts fear Alberta bill may hamper education
From The Canadian Press
CALGARY – Educators and human rights experts in Alberta are worried that a proposed change to human rights legislation could make it tough to teach a number of controversial subjects.
The change says parents should be notified when classes “include subject matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation,” and should have the right to ask that their child sit out that part of the class.
The term “religion” is extremely broad and could edge its way into almost anything that comes up in the classroom, said Dan Shapiro, research associate with the Calgary-based Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.
“It’ll be like a kind of Monty Python skit. You have to say: `Well, today we have to think about the Hindu student’s going to object to this and tomorrow the Jewish student to this and then the Catholic student to this,’ ” said Shapiro.
“It’ll be madly off in all directions. (Teachers) are strapped enough for resources and time to do their job properly and help educate children.”
Frank Bruseker, head of the Alberta Teachers Association, said he’s also concerned about what the new rules could mean.
He’s worried that some parents might think mentioning different classes of worms would constitute a reference to evolution.
And he said a discussion of ancient geologic formations can’t be had without mentioning the world is billions of years old, much more than a literal reading of the Bible would suggest.
Meanwhile, history and literature from around the world are chockablock full of references to religious upheaval.
“Religion is kind of a fuzzy thing, in a sense, in that what some people see as religion others might not,” Bruseker said.
Opposition parties have hammered the government on the issue, saying the province is headed back to the time of the 1925 Scopes trial, in which a high school biology teacher in Tennessee was tried for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Premier Ed Stelmach conceded to reporters last week that the provision could be used to pull students out of classes dealing with evolution if parents preferred their kids be taught what’s in the Bible instead.
“The parents would have the opportunity to make that choice,” he told a news conference.
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