Majority of Ontario parents want balance—not bias—and parental consent in K-12 schools

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Appeared in the Toronto Sun, June 12, 2024
Majority of Ontario parents want balance—not bias—and parental consent in K-12 schools

Parents of kids in K-12 schools in Ontario want balance—not bias—in their kids’ classrooms, and want to be informed in advance about what their children learn about controversial topics, according to a new public opinion poll.

Specifically, the poll (conducted by Leger and commissioned by the Fraser Institute) found that nine in 10 Ontario parents with kids in K-12 schools believe teachers and the provincial curriculum should focus on facts—not teacher interpretations (which may include opinions) of those facts. Only seven per cent of Ontario parents disagreed.

Currently, Ontario’s curriculum guide is sorely lacking in fact-based content. For example, Ontario students can graduate high school with almost no knowledge of Canadian history. And because the current curriculum encourages teachers to interpret facts to suit their opinions, what kids learn can vary greatly depending on their teachers.

What about controversial topics such as gender, sexuality and climate change? According to the poll, 77 per cent of Ontario parents with kids in K-12 schools “strongly agree or somewhat agree” that teachers should present both sides of controversial issues or avoid them entirely. By contrast, 15 per cent of Ontario parents disagreed.

Moreover, 81 per cent of Ontario parents agreed that schools should provide advance notice when controversial topics will be discussed in class or during formal school activities. This isn’t surprising because many parents would want to discuss these issues with their children in advance or remove their children from those lessons.

In fact, when controversial topics arise, 76 per cent of Ontario parents believe parents should have the right to remove their children from those lessons without consequence to their children’s grades. Of the minority who did not believe parents should have this right, most said “children need to learn about all topics/viewpoints, regardless of their parents’ bias.”

And an overwhelming majority of parents in Ontario (91 per cent) believe classroom materials and conversations about potentially controversial topics should always be age-appropriate.

In May, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce directed school boards to be more transparent with parents about what their children learn, the purpose of school activities, and which external groups will present to students or teachers on Professional Development days. The directive, according to Lecce, recommended proactive communication with parents rather than providing information on potentially controversial material only after parents inquire.

The Leger poll suggests the government is on the right track. Despite claims by activists and politicians—and skewed coverage in the media—parents in Ontario strongly value balance rather than bias in the classroom, and want parental involvement and consent. In other words, they believe K-12 schools should leave decisions regarding controversial issues up to parents.