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On Sex and Religion in School, Media Coverage Fails

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I know we here in Media Bites world always have a lot of fun with politician gossip, but remember: there's more to politics that just endless speculation about which obese mayor should be forcibly removed from this-or-that city hall or which astronaut should be tapped to run this-or-that party. Sometimes politics entails debating actual issues too -- painful though that may be.

Education policy, for instance, is very important. Jeffery Simpson says it's actually the most important government expenditure of all. Sure, we may "spend more" on health care, but only education can help us mould a new generation smart enough to figure out why health care costs so damn much in the first place.

It's absolutely crucial, therefore, that our nation's classrooms remain strictly rationalistic laboratories of learning and tolerance, free from the corrupting mumbo-jumbo of the Bible-and-Koran set. And don't say that's not a real threat! This is actually a very hot topic in Canadian editorial pages at the moment, following some recent hullabaloo in Toronto, where a bunch of godly parental types have been demanding their kids be granted the right to opt-out of any and all classes involving various ungodly topics, like sex and global warming.

Since all the good secularists with columns to fill believe these parents are totes nuts, there's been quite lot of pundit jockeying to see who can come up with the most flippantly patronizing dismissal of their dumb beliefs.

You can't honestly expect teachers to tell some kids to "put on noise-cancelling headphones, and the rest to listen up because Harriet the Spy is about the complications of love" starts off Heather Mallick in the Toronto Star. I mean, that would be as nutty as expecting kids to read a book published in 1964!

Yeah, agrees her paper's editorial board, what's a teacher to do when a student starts "reading his English essay about Harry Potter flying his broom to the recycling depot? Whistle down the reader while the class is cleared of objectors?"

Or, or, chips in George Jonas at the Post, what if "the parent's religion requires the ritual sacrifice of a maiden to an Aztec god, Tlaloc, say, or Tezcatlipoca, every month? How should the school authorities accommodate him?" (When it comes to stretching metaphors beyond all recognition, you really can't beat George Jonas).

Even the sympathetic voices aren't really that sympathic. The Ottawa Citizen, for instance, concedes that while it's all well and good for some parents to "feel issues of sexuality are best taught in the context of their own values," if they're going to nitpick every last little thing they really "need to consider whether they desire a public education for their children at all."

Or whether Canada even needs public education at all, chimes in libertarian-minded Marni Soupcoff at the Post. I mean, just think of how much happier everyone would be "if we were to adopt a voucher system by which all parents could use government education funds set aside for their child to send him to any school of their choosing," be it Secular Secondary or Tezcatlipoca Tech. And if that results in a generation of virgin-sacrificing volcano-worshippers, well, the market has spoken!

Everyone, of course, dances around the awkward fact that this story is as much about immigration as education, and the the difficulties associated with acclimatizing newcomers from overly religious or superstitious backgrounds into a sometimes frighteningly postmodern, hyper-permissive society. It's one of the most culturally sensitive challenges of our time, in fact, and requires a particularly deft sense of diplomatic finesse to respectfully confront.

Thankfully the press realizes this -- and are delivering the gentlest blows their sledgehammers will allow.

* * *

You know, one of these days the Liberal Party is going to get a new leader, and the collective sobbing of a thousand dejected pundits is gonna be deafening. I mean, without a stagnant, leaderless, immobile partisan machine to incessantly deconstruct and psychoanalyze what's left? "Wither the Bloc?" Pfft.

Luckily for the nation's editorialists, the Grit party remains a happy little basket-case at the moment. Just how basket-casy, you ask? Well, let us count the ways.

For starters, the party's upcoming leadership race is poised to be a total joke, says the Globe's John Ibbitson. The Liberals promised that they'd let normal people vote this time, not just some "narrow base of Liberal partisans," but since the newly-released details of this let-normies-vote-too plan contains fussy registration requirements and unreasonable deadlines, John thinks their plan "to generate buzz" is basically just a "major buzz kill."

Not that it matters much, of course, says Lorrie Goldstein at the Sun, since the Libs will probably just wind up installing Justin Trudeau then collapse under the weight of their latest failed "messiah complex" -- as usual. And then Justin can spend a decade mired in unpayable campaign debt just like all the other hacks who came before him, adds the Post's Kelly McParland.

Woah, Not so fast sad sacks, interjects Postmedia's Michael Den Tandt. What if Marc Garneau becomes leader? I mean, he's "perfectly bilingual" and a "grown-up" and was in the navy and "is quite literally, a rocket scientist" and has been to the moon like a billion times I bet! Forget messiahs, this guy's practically Tezcatlipoca himself!

You know a party's in dire straights when it literally requires a man from outer space to save its skin.