This week, a special, full-edition feature interview with Susan Zuidema. Susan is a public school teacher in Brantford, Ontario. She and co-author Charlotte Goulding have written a new book; a Christian critique of the gender and sexual identity ideology embedded in today’s public education system, particularly in the new Ontario sex-education program.
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[vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” css_animation=””][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”7015″ img_size=”medium” add_caption=”yes” qode_css_animation=””][vc_empty_space height=”18px”][vc_single_image image=”7012″ qode_css_animation=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]This week, a special, full-edition feature interview with Susan Zuidema. Susan is a public school teacher in Brantford, Ontario. She and co-author Charlotte Goulding have written a new book; a Christian critique of the gender and sexual identity ideology embedded in today’s public education system, particularly in the new Ontario sex-education program.
LN: Let’s start just with a broad outline of the book. What are some of the major points and conclusions you come to here?
SZ: Well, the book is called “My Child, My Chance” and its main goal, I would say, is to help parents be aware of the dangers of today’s sex education, the big issue being the ideology that’s embedded in the curriculum. [The curriculum] is really heavily weighted in support of the gender ideology and a free sexuality. So, if you follow the news you’ll notice that we are actually seeing an increase in the experimentation and confusion among kids, and I think that can be expected to increase as this curriculum is implemented further.
LN: What actually prompted you to write this? I mean, did you just get up one morning and say “I’m going to write a book”?
SZ: Actually yeah. (Laughs) It was two years ago when the curriculum first came out in Ontario – 2015 – and I was following it really closely as a teacher, just concerned about the implications for me and my profession, and concerns for the kids and what it all meant. And there was so much in the media – so much in the news – and yeah, it was spring break two years ago, I woke up one morning and the Lord had laid on my heart, just sort of the introduction of the book, and I got up and started writing. That’s how it got going and it’s been two years now that we’ve been working on it and it’s definitely been a journey of learning for me. Just a ton of research, and the form has changed over time. It went from being one book to being a series of books. We can talk about that a little bit more later. But just really getting into informing parents and equipping them to be aware and to hopefully begin the process of discipling their kids. So, yeah, I woke up one day and here we are.
LN: You talk about you “wrote the intro”. You spend a fair bit of time at the beginning setting out the notion that this isn’t about any kind of phobia or hatred for homosexuals or people struggling with sexual identity. Expand on that a little bit. What is, in your view, a proper Christian ethic or approach to these issues?
SZ: Well, that’s really where the conversation has to start, isn’t it? I think as believers we’ve spent a lot of time getting this wrong, in terms of our relationship with the gay community. In studying the topic I have really come to see that we have to find that line where grace and truth kind of come together. I find on one hand the Bible is really clear, obviously, that those who engage in homosexual behaviors, that that is a sin, just like those who lie, and cheat and act promiscuous in other ways. But on the other side there is grace, and grace says that God so loved the world and there is no exceptions to that, right? So it’s really just finding that spot where we are not being condemning or being seen as hateful because I don’t know many Christians in my own circles who would say, “Yeah, I’m homophobic”, you know, in the true definition of the word. But, you know, our desire being to love that community and to demonstrate that tangibly to them. And to make that really clear, so that when we do have to get into that conversation about what the Bible says and what the truth is, that there is really no question that we love everyone and specifically the person in front of us, regardless of their orientation and so on. So I really do spend a lot of time talking about that, because people who read the book are not going to know me on a personal level, so I really want to be clear that the message in the Bible is one of grace, but also one of living in right relationship with God. And this does have implications in terms of how we live our lives. So, yeah, I do spend quite a bit of time on that because I feel it is so important to get that right.
LN: In the intro you also infer that the objectionable stuff in Ontario – which is what this is mostly about – isn’t just confined to Ontario. That this has implications for parents across the country.
SZ: Really, when you’re looking at news you can see that no matter where you live in North America this is happening in the schools. Ontario’s laid it right out there in its curriculum; this is what we are teaching. Other areas in Canada have done the same thing. Like, for example, sexual orientation, it’s introduced in grade three in Ontario but Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia also introduce it in grade three, Quebec introduces it by the age of five, and gender identity, similarly it’s introduced quite early in a number of provinces; Saskatchewan grade 1, Nova Scotia grade 4, Manitoba grade 5 and there’s a pilot program in Quebec that’s still underway talking about a potential significant change to their sex education. But it’s not just the curriculum, and I want to make that clear. Like, you can look at your curriculum and these documents can be tricky to unpack because they are written for teachers, and teachers are trained in terms of how to get what they need from the curriculum and how to apply it in the classroom. But I really want people to know that even if it’s not specifically laid out in the curriculum, it’s in the culture, it’s in the classroom. I was reading some case studies where years before even the 2010 Ontario curriculum came out, there were classrooms in Ontario that were operating under social justice principles where a teacher with a specific ideology will bring that into the classroom because they are passionate about it and so they may teach from that viewpoint in terms of pushing forward gay rights and that kind of thing.
So I do want to caution parents that if you do look at your curriculum and you don’t see ideology embedded in it, it doesn’t mean that you are exempt from this issue and chances are good that there is a movement there. I was talking on Sunday to Charlotte, who is working on this project with me – Charlotte Goulding – and she lives in Newfoundland, and in Newfoundland these topics don’t come up until much later in the curriculum, but she was talking to a teacher at church on Sunday, and the teacher was saying yeah, as staff with our Teachers Association and so on, this is what we talk about almost every time; like the gender ideology and the LGBT issues and how to address them in the classroom. And that’s in a province where they don’t actually talk about sexual orientation in the curriculum until grade nine, so you are not necessarily free and clear just because your curriculum is not addressing it.
LN: So, it’s not just in the specific curriculum like you say, it’s sort of system wide. It’s also not just in the public school system. I mean, a lot of folks figure, “Well if I home-school my kids, or if I put them in a private or independent or Christian school we’ll get away from this.” I know in Alberta they are trying to integrate this stuff across the system, irrespective of where the kids are being taught. What advice do you have for parents who are facing this reality?
SZ: Yeah, so that is the big caution. I feel like you would not be wise to assume that you can pull your kids out of the culture, and put them in a bubble where they’re not going to be exposed to this. The reality is that parents, you want to set yourself up for the win because your kids have to figure out how to survive and thrive in their environment and that includes all of these things. It’s ideology, it’s everywhere and kids really need to know how to respond when it does come up in front of them and they are dealing with it. So, parents want to set themselves up for the win with their kids.
So I would say first of all that you want to be informed, in terms of reading the curriculum or whatever it is that is being pushed through, and if your children are in the school setting you want to speak to your child’s teacher. The Bible says we want to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, and that kind of goes along with the saying, you know, that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So I would not recommend an adversarial approach. I would say that you want to be an ally – a partner – in your child’s education, and really come across that way with the teacher. Just invite conversation, share your thoughts and concerns and listen to theirs. And just get in there; get in the game.
And with regard to your child, I would say get there first. A lot of parents, and this includes me, are uncomfortable talking about sex with their kids, and sexuality, and you have to just get over it. Because it’s out there, it’s everywhere. And I really think it’s better if our kids see us parents as the expert; as someone who is comfortable talking about these topics. That they can come to when they have questions or concerns and that really just means that we have to get over it, right? I would say, you know, that if you are not in the habit of talking about those things with your kids, and you’ve got teenagers, just bring out a news article and say “What do you think about this thing that’s happening in the news” – whatever the topic is, there is so much – “I was just reading about this. What’s your opinion”? And teens love that. They love to have that conversation and tell you what they think.
With a young child you can introduce the proper names of body parts yourself, and I personally believe that that is the wise thing to do. First what it does is take the novelty out of it, if the child is in school and the teacher is introducing it then it’s old information, it’s not novel, and so it’s not going to have that same shock value. But it also does open the conversation for safe and unsafe touch, and sets you up as a person who, you know, wants to be having that conversation with your child. It’s not taboo, it’s something we are going to talk about. So I think that you want to be that parent; the parent who is comfortable, and kind of just getting over your own inhibitions and having these conversations with your kids. Because then your kids will say “Oh, you know what, it’s not something that I can’t talk about with mom or dad. It’s something that they are OK with, and so I can bring them my questions.” And you will be the go-to, more likely to be that go-to person.
And then I would also say that you do have to know the true facts. So that comes along with knowing the curriculum, but then doing the research. And that’s where what we’ve written in “My Child, My Chance“, we’ve done that research and we have kind of set you up for that win. Giving the information and also what the Bible has to say to go along with it. So that would be a really important point as well.
LN: Let’s look ahead 10 years. Can this stuff be stopped or slowed down or are we on a slope where this kind of ideology will become completely mainstream? (I mean, the fact that the governments are writing this kind of curriculum indicates that it’s already pretty mainstream.) But will this kind of thinking be able to sustain itself in the long term?
SZ: You know it’s really hard to say. You know, those of us who would urge for common sense, we really hope that there will be a turning point. And there is a little bit of that. I was just reading the other day an article about a movement of people who have been in the trans community and now they are de-transitioning and just calling out for better information. And so I kind of wonder. Perhaps that’s indicative of, you know, just that call for common sense. Because so much of what we see…like in the curriculum right now in Ontario – in the lessons to support the sex-ed – the two different biological sexes are labeled as “people with penises” and “people with vaginas.” Instead of boys and girls. That’s the terminology, and so I just kind of find myself shaking my head saying “Wow! If only we had a word for a person like that!” And to me, and to us, it seems like it doesn’t make sense.
And so then I feel like: “Ten years down the road, are we still going to be doing this?” I kind of hope that it’s one of those pendulum swing things where we will swing back and start to realize that it’s going to cause more confusion. The really sad thing, and honestly the tragedy is all the lives that are going to be impacted and significantly! Like, we’re talking about people who are, you know, in the case of gender confusion, they are mutilating their bodies through surgical procedures and these are things that are not easy to reverse, your know, it’s sometimes impossible. That’s where my heartbreak comes in, where I think “this is basically a massive social experiment on our children.” And the price tag is so huge because we are looking at a whole generation that could potentially be lost to this thinking. That’s why I really urge parents to be in the game. And to get there first. To be ahead of this stuff, and be talking to your kids. Because we just can’t allow that kind of confusion in our children. Our job is to disciple them. I hope that in 10 years that we’re having a very different conversation.
LN: You have plans for a study guide to accompany this book. The release notes I saw said it’s due out by the end of the year?
SZ: I am really excited about this. Basically what we are doing is we are creating a series of discipleship material(s). We called it “Created for a Purpose”. And what it does is it breaks down into different age groups, the primary, junior – children up to age eight – and then nine to eleven, and so on. Talking about how children can learn what their true identity and purpose is, starting with God’s Word. So, you know, where the culture says your identity is tied up in your sexuality and your gender, God’s Word says “No. Your identity is connected to who I have created you to be.” And that has everything to do with God’s opinion and what God has to say about that child, and nothing to do with what the culture would try to impose on it. The purpose of the series is really just to build that foundation, “What is my identity?” And along with that, “What is my purpose?” Because God has given each person a specific purpose. Of course to know Him, but we are looking at Ephesians 2:10 as a key verse and it says that we are God’s workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the great things he planned for us long ago. And so it talks about how God has designed each person as a masterpiece. And just all of the messages we can communicate through that; you know, that God created mankind, and He said it was good. And that gender is good, you know, you would not be you if you were not a boy or not a girl. God made you specifically with that gender for a purpose so that you can fulfill all these good things that God set up for you.
And so the idea being just to really connect to kids in God’s Word, and who He created them to be. What He says about them, and then building from there. The idea is it’s connected to what is being taught at schools. So for example in grade one, or in the early grades, naming your body parts. Well, we’re looking at creation, how God created everything in a specific order and just His design of all things. And then connecting kids into that in terms of how He made them. So, I’m really excited about that series and like you said, the first set is about half done and we are looking – hoping – maybe late summer to have that first one available. So information about that will be on our website in terms of when it becomes available, we’ll be getting that out there.
LN: So, finally Susan, how can folks get their hands on this book?
SZ: We are selling it through Amazon. And so if you go to Amazon.com or Amazon.ca you will be able to find “My Child, My Chance“. You can also go directly to our website, which is www.mychildmychance.com, and get it directly there at any time. And you can also send us an email at [email protected] and we can talk to you about it if you are having trouble locating it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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