In a recent article, candidate for Burnaby school board Laura-Lynn Tyler Thomson is quoted as saying that she was scared and cried every day when she attended a school in the Arctic where, as “the only white, blonde girl”, she “stood out like a sore thumb”.
When most of the dolls on the toy store shelf look like you, when entire rows of magazine covers have faces that look like you, when people who look like you have occupied multiple positions of power and influence for centuries, it takes a convoluted cognitive sequence to see yourself as a victim of the descendants of people who were starved to death and treaty-tricked out of the land you live on.
It’s not really convoluted though. It’s just regular racism but with a particularly Canadian nicety: implied, not stated.
Given what Tyler Thomson has said about her experiences in the Arctic, what can the 3% of Burnaby’s student population who identify as Aboriginal expect from her if she was elected trustee? Probably not any acknowledgement of the role of education in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
Students who identify as trans or queer are supposed to expect that she will “love them to pieces” even while she denies their right to be educated about what all humans have in common: a sexual orientation, a gender identity.
As a teacher I’m curious about what Tyler Thomson means by us not being trained “to help students dealing with gender identity”.
Does she mean that teachers should ignore the 2016 directive from the B.C. Ministry of Education that “all B.C. school districts and independent schools are required to include specific references to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in their anti-bullying policies”?
Does she mean that teachers are not trained to create safe learning environments for all students?
Does she mean that teachers should ignore the fact that “lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are seven times more likely than heterosexual youth to attempt suicide” ?
How exactly does one teach “manners, reading, writing and arithmetic” to students who are feeling unsafe?
How does one reduce bullying without educating students about human rights?
There is nothing ideological about teaching students that all humans have a sexual orientation and a gender identity just as there is nothing ideological about teaching students that all humans have a brain and a heart.
Some brains are different, some hearts are different. Sometimes one’s biological identity matches with one’s gender identity. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Why would anyone not want youth to know this?
Why would anyone, let alone a school trustee, want to deny students access to information that would reduce discrimination and increase safety, respect and acceptance in schools?
What purpose is served by keeping students ignorant of what it means to be a human with a sexual orientation and a gender identity?
Voters in the October municipal election should ponder these questions when they make their choices for school board trustees.
Schools should be safe places for all students.
No child should feel scared at school.
Not students who are the descendants of the First Peoples to occupy this land.
Not students who are blonde or brown or bisexual.
If you don’t believe that, you should not be running to be a school trustee.