Vast Majority of Parents Want Teachers to Focus on Facts Over Opinion: Poll

Vast Majority of Parents Want Teachers to Focus on Facts Over Opinion: Poll
A workbook is seen on a student's desk in an elementary school classroom, in Vancouver, on April 13, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)
Jennifer Cowan

A large majority of Canadian parents want teachers to provide notice of controversial lessons and to focus on facts rather than opinions in the classroom, according to a newly released report.

Eighty-six percent of parents surveyed for the Fraser Institute report said both teachers and the curriculum they teach in Kindergarten through Grade 12 should focus on providing students with facts “and a learning environment within which students can openly explore facts” rather than the interpretations or opinions of teachers and school boards.

Eighty-one percent of parents also said schools should provide advance notice of controversial topics being discussed in class or during formal school activities.

“With ongoing debates across Canada impacting K-12 classrooms, school policies, and curriculum development, what we can glean from this parent survey is that a clear majority of parents across Canada want facts presented in classrooms rather than a teacher’s interpretation or opinions,” Fraser Institute associate director of education studies Paige MacPherson said in a press release.

The Leger poll surveyed parents of school-aged children, ages five to 18, enrolled in public and independent schools. A total of 1,202 interviews were conducted via an online panel and 1,000 interviews were conducted with a representative sampling of parents across Canada between March 25 and April 8.

The survey highlights a number of concerns among parents including the use of age-appropriate material, how schools should tackle controversial topics, and if parents have the right to remove their children from controversial lessons without consequence.

A total of 91 percent of parents polled said classroom material and discussions should always be age-appropriate while 76 percent agreed students should either be presented with both sides of controversial issues or they shouldn’t be taught on the topic at all.

An additional 70 percent of parents said they should have the right to remove their child from a specific lesson on a controversial issue, with no impact to their child’s grade. Some of the topics labelled as controversial in the survey included gender issues and climate change.

Of the parents who disagreed with the parental right to remove their child from class, 60 percent said students need to learn about all topics “regardless of their parents’ bias,” while 20 percent said controversial topics should be mandatory because they “prepare children/provide knowledge to form their own opinions.”

Another 15 percent said parents should “trust the educators/curriculum” and 11 percent said it “helps develop critical thinking and open-mindedness.”

“These questions are often presented as contentious in media and politics, but this polling data shows there is a clear consensus amongst Canadian parents with kids in K–12 schools,” Ms. MacPherson said. “Parents overwhelmingly value balance, not bias. They want their kids to be taught age-appropriate facts rather than opinions and expect prior notice so they may offer informed consent about anything controversial happening in their kids’ schools.”

Parents have increasingly been calling for more say in what is taught in the classroom as a growing number of school boards introduce gender ideology as part of health and sex education.

A larger-scale movement dubbed the “1 Million March for Children” swept across the country last September with thousands of demonstrators marching in cities nationwide to protest gender ideology in school curriculum.