Dear Mr. Eggen,
I am sure by now you’ve received hundreds of letters from other Albertans expressing their concerns about the recently released Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions. I’ve read many such letters online from doctors and lawyers, from Catholic bishops, and from other ordinary citizens. I’ve heard many convincing arguments about why the guidelines do not serve our children well – how they won’t, in fact, help create warm and caring environments where all children will feel safe. I’m not a doctor or a lawyer, so I won’t try to persuade you with legal or medical arguments. But I am a parent, and today I’m writing to you as such – from one parent to another.
My husband and I have five wonderful children. I still remember the day that our first daughter, Paige, was born. I was filled with a sense of awe and amazement and could scarcely believe that God had entrusted this little life to our care. It was daunting at first; we were so young and inexperienced and knew nothing about raising children. But we also weren’t alone. We had family and friends we knew we could count on, we sought the wisdom and advice of our parents and grandparents, read countless books, and spoke with other parents who shared our views and values. But most importantly, we prayed. We knew that if God had given us these children, He would also give us the grace and strength to raise them.
Over time our family grew, and as we got to know our three daughters and two sons better, we began to understand their individual temperaments and personalities. We realized that they are all so unique, and we were challenged to find solutions that were appropriate for each child – that would also protect the good of the entire family. Like all parents, we didn’t always make the right decisions. But somehow (thankfully) we’ve done okay. We are raising our children to understand their inherent dignity and worth, to see that they were put on this earth for a reason, and that they must use their gifts and talents to serve others – to make our world a kinder, more just place to live.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and in some respects, this is true. We do need to help one another. But I would like you to carefully consider what you’re asking in the new guidelines and try to understand why so many parents are upset. In many ways, the guidelines disregard the role of parents and undermine the bond of trust and unity within a family. What if one of your daughters were experiencing concern or confusion about her sexuality or identity? Wouldn’t you want to know? We certainly do. Not to chastise or control them, but to help them.
Anyone who’s ever experienced adolescence knows what an incredibly confusing time it can be. More than ever, this is precisely when a child needs the sound advice and loving support of those closest to him. Like all of us, they’re trying to figure out who they are, what they believe, and where they fit in. Is it any surprise then that many youth describe their identity as “questioning”? How can we expect this to be easy when we ourselves often don’t get it?
Some parents have undoubtedly lost confidence in themselves and aren’t sure how to help their children navigate these crazy, confusing times. But, please, let’s not take resources away from them. The fact that families can no longer be referred to special programs through schools just doesn’t seem right. If my child were confused about any other issue – say, math or a science question, or even how to resolve a dispute with a classmate – he or she would be able to get help. But when it comes to the deepest, most important questions about who we are, must we consign them to fate or to someone else’s definition?
As a mother myself, I understand a mother’s heart. I’ve felt the desperation of seeing one of my children hurting and wanted to be able to just snap my fingers and make it all better. But sometimes that’s not possible. The only thing we can do is to love them in that moment and help them to see the beauty of who they are. Looking for a quick fix isn’t the answer, not if we want our children’s eternal happiness.
Sadly, our culture has become fixated on sexuality, as if it’s the complete summation of who we are, the defining quality of our personhood. But as parents, we know this isn’t true. Watching our children grow, we see the many facets and qualities that make them all so interesting and beautiful. Like a diamond in the rough, they just need a little polishing to really shine. And sometimes that comes from asking deep questions, with working through problems and difficulties, and even through suffering. It’s hard to watch, to sit by and feel as if we’re doing nothing. But we need to be so careful about the messages we send our children, for they’re not easily forgotten; they are lasting and will shape their lives in so many ways.
I’m not usually one to get involved in politics, but my kids mean everything to me; they’re worth fighting for! As written now, the guidelines will impact all Alberta schools, whether they are public, private, faith-based, or secular. My husband and I have chosen to send our children to Catholic schools because they offer something other schools don’t. They nurture the whole person – intellectually, physically, spiritually, and morally.
Catholic teaching has always upheld the dignity of the human person as paramount, protected at all costs. No matter the age, size, gender, stage of development (or decay), we believe in the inherent goodness of our bodies and our personhood. This conviction guides and informs all our actions. Children in Catholic schools are taught about the beautiful diversity and complementarity that has intentionally been written into our nature. They learn that God has given each of us different temperaments and personalities, different gifts and talents – and that the world is a richer and more interesting place for it. When you think about it, God is all about diversity!
As Minister of Education, you’ve been entrusted with the lives of well over 600,000 Alberta children. I’m sure at times it must seem like a daunting task. But you’re not alone. Parents and families are here to help. And we want to help! As it so clearly states on the Government of Canada website, “Parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children.” But we must work together and continue to listen to one another. Only then can we guide our children to become the best people they can be, kind and caring individuals who will positively impact the lives of others. Only then will Alberta continue its longstanding tradition of offering excellence in education, including Catholic schools. Thank you, and may God bless you in this most important work.