Canadians do not all agree on everything. If they did, there would be no need for different political parties, or elections for that matter. In reality, Canada is a diverse country composed of people with different beliefs, values, and preferences, which means we must be judicious and balanced when we interact with our friends, neighbours, and coworkers who hold different opinions from us.
Thus, when public school teachers welcome students into their classrooms, they accept the responsibility of working together with their parents, including parents whose beliefs differ from their own. It’s not the role of teachers to ensure that students adopt “correct” beliefs, whether on religion, politics, environmentalism, or gender identity.
Simply put, public schools exist to serve the community, not the other way around. The moment parents discover that teachers are pushing their personal beliefs on students—or hiding important information from parents—is the moment when public schools will lose the trust of the communities they serve. Once this trust is lost, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to regain.
Some things are non-negotiable. Ensuring all students are treated with respect is one of them. However, this is best done by cracking down on bullying and creating a learning environment where all students, regardless of their background or beliefs, are focused on the academic basics. There’s no more need to fly the Progress Pride flag at schools to express solidarity with LGBTQ students than there’s to put giant crosses in front of schools to make Christian students feel welcome.
In other words, public schools need a whole lot more genuine empathy and a lot less meaningless tokenism. Treating one group of students with respect does not mean alienating another group of students whose parents happen to have different values. Only by staying neutral on controversial topics can public schools hope to keep the trust of all the families they serve.
If public schools cannot do this, then expect to see a whole lot more parents choose to educate their children in other ways. Expanding the choices (independent schools, charter schools, homeschooling) available to parents is an effective way of ensuring that their children are not stuck with teachers who do not respect their beliefs.
Public schools must serve everyone. Losing sight of this is one of the fastest ways to shrink the public education system even further. Maintaining strict neutrality on controversial topics is an absolute necessity.