On the campaign trail today, Tim Hudak stood by a flyer accusing the McGuinty Liberals of promoting, among other things, “cross-dressing for six-year-olds” the promulgation of kissing booths, and of keeping parents in the dark. The criticisms were aimed at a Toronto District School Board curriculum aimed at reducing homophobia and heterosexism. Critics called it homophobic, with its alarming design, cherry-picked quotes and references to “the McGuinty Agenda.” Hudak maintained that he is simply in touch with Ontarians, where McGuinty is not. Fortunately, the curriculum itself is online, there for the torturously bureaucratic reading. We took a look to see if Hudak’s flyer’s claims lined up with the facts. Here’s what we found, allegation by allegation. 1. Cross-dressing for six-year olds, page 19 There’s no reference to this unquoted allegation on page 19–which only contains a list of significant LGBT figures throughout history, with citations. There’s nothing on adjacent pages, either. In fact, the only reference to “cross-dressing” in the entire curriculum is a hyperlink to a transgender support group, buried in an appendix. But let’s give this insinuation a fair shake. You might ask, does the curriculum teach six-year-olds anything of the sort? Let’s look: The curriculum goals for kindergartners, for instance, call for students to “demonstrate a beginning understanding of the diversity in individuals, families, schools, and the wider community.” It also calls for them to recognize that there are different kinds of families, to engage with diversity in general, and to grasp the effects of discrimination. The curriculum does call for teachers to challenge traditional roles of what boys and girls act like – what constitutes a “girl toy” and a “boy toy,” for instance. And amongst the teaching strategies is having students role-play short scenarios. The curriculum encourages “girls and boys to role-play opposite roles, or to role-play animals or objects, or even parts of nature.” So six-year olds might role-play animal, vegetable, mineral and human roles of both sexes. Cross-dressing? Not so much. Verdict: MISLEADING + 2. “Reclaim Valentine’s Day and celebrate sexual diversity (with a) kissing booth,” page 143 Already today, I’ve fielded comments from people upset that six-year olds (per the allegation above, presumably) are being offered kissing booths. Alas not. The “kissing booth” described wasn’t really a kissing booth, and it certainly wasn’t for six-year olds. At a high-school, students put kiss-shaped stamps on each others’ cheeks and handed out chocolate. What’s more, this isn’t a rigid curriculum item, but a suggestion based on a case study. Verdict: MISLEADING + 3. “Read some traditional folk tales and fairy tales with the class. Have students write/illustrate their own ‘gender-bending’ versions,” page 44 This is quoted accurately. It’s part of the junior-level unit on breaking stereotypes, one of eight extra activities mentioned as suggestions. Other activities include “Share stories, articles, and illustrations of people in the media and communities, who break gender barriers (e.g. female hockey player, male teacher who likes to cook or sew)” and spotting magazine pictures that reinforce stereotypes. Verdict: ACCURATE + 4. “Read ‘Gloria Goes to Gay Pride.’ Additionally, students could have their own Pride Parade and invite the local media.” This is cobbled together out of two separate points, cutting out the supporting language. The reading recommendation comes first. A page later, the full recommendation on Pride follows, starting with the idea that they take part in the downtown Pride Parade: “One idea students could come up with is to make posters for the TDSB float and/or school bus that are in the Pride Parade. Additionally, students could have their own Pride Parade in their school and invite the local media as well as representatives from Pride Toronto or other community agencies that celebrate and promote equity for sexual orientation and gender identity.” Verdict: SPLICED QUOTE + 5. “The 219-page guide, titled ‘Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism,’ recommends schools not to inform parents.” This is a partial quote from a CTV report. The complete quote is as follows: “The 219-page guide, titled “Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism,” recommends schools not to inform parents when teachers will be introducing concepts such as gender discrimination, anti-homophobia and non-traditional families in the classroom.” However, the quote itself distorts reality. The curriculum does tell teachers not to send notes or permission slips specifically before starting an anti-discrimination unit, since flagging a topic as controversial (and not a matter of course) is itself discriminatory. But the curriculum also recommends that parents be kept advised of equity topics – just in a different way. “Sending a school newsletter home at the beginning of each term is a best practice for keeping parents/guardians/caregivers informed of all upcoming equity topics in the classroom without having to single out one topic over the other.” (Page 10) Verdict: MISLEADING + 6. “McGuinty of purposefully ‘keeping parents in the dark’ about what is being taught in schools.” – CTV News As the incomplete sentence suggests, this is an incomplete quote from the same story as above, rehashing the same bogus claim. One guess as to who made the accusation, though: “Hudak charged McGuinty of purposefully “keeping parents in the dark” about what is being taught in schools.” As it turns out, the full quote was agrammatical, too. VERDICT: JUST PLAIN WEIRD Updated to add point 4. __ Ivor Tossell writes the Toronto Standard’s Urban Studies column.