20 Feb 2011

Some recent Muslim immigrants to Canada ask for children to be exempt from compulsory music and phys-ed classes

Winnipeg Free Press  -  Canada   February 5, 2011

No co-ed phys-ed, music: Muslims

Dozen families want children excused

By: Nick Martin

A dozen Muslim families, who recently arrived in Canada, have told the Louis Riel School Division they want their children excused from compulsory elementary school music and co-ed physical education programs for religious and cultural reasons.

"This is one of our realities in Manitoba now, as a result of immigration," said superintendent Terry Borys.

"We were faced with some families who were really adamant about this. Music was not part of the cultural reality," he said.

Borys said the division has alerted Education Minister Nancy Allan about the situation, because music and phys-ed are compulsory in elementary schools. There have been no issues, so far, with children of middle school or high school age, he said.

The families accept physical education, as long as the boys and girls have separate classes, but do not want their kids exposed to singing or playing musical instruments, Borys said.

The division has suggested kids could do a writing project to satisfy the music requirements of the arts curriculum, he said.

However, a local Muslim leader says there is no reason for little kids to be held out of music or phys-ed classes on religious and cultural grounds.

That shouldn't be happening, said Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services.

"Who is advising them? My first concern would be, who are these new immigrants talking to?" said Siddiqui. "This is the first time I am hearing this -- I'm not very happy about it."

Siddiqui said there is no problem with elementary school children taking phys-ed together: "No, not with little kids under the age of puberty."

Some middle school and senior high students have asked not to mix genders in phys-ed, and they have been accommodated by schools, she said.

Siddiqui acknowledged music can be an issue, but only for a few people.

"Music is controversial in our community -- this is a North American phenomenon," she said.

"There is a minority view that music is forbidden. (That view) is not accepted by the majority."

Borys said there had been one or two requests for kids to be excused previously, but this year a dozen families came forward at six schools.

Borys said LRSD contacted a member of the Islamic community whom the parents suggested, consulted the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and looked at what other jurisdictions are doing about accommodation, particularly Ontario.

The division is trying to figure out what issues might arise when the children enter junior high or high school, he said. Music is optional beyond Grade 6, but phys-ed is co-ed right through Grade 12.

What the rules say

HERE'S what an aide to Education Minister Nancy Allan says about accommodation for religious beliefs in mandatory school courses:

"There is a requirement on the part of public bodies, including school boards, to reasonably accommodate (short of undue hardship) such requests when the religious views are genuine. School boards will address such requests on an individual basis and within the parameters of the mandated curriculum, and the accommodation provided may be reasonable even if not exactly as expected by the parent.
"The department already makes allowances for accommodation and adaptations of curricula to deal with potentially sensitive content areas and these can be applied to requests for exemptions for religious reasons. Most course outcomes are general enough that achieving them can be done without contravening beliefs.
"For example, accommodations could be made within arts education (grades 1 to 6). In exploring fine arts (visual arts, music, dance and drama), if there is a specific concern related to music, schools have flexibility to determine which of the four areas the student might cover, and teachers have some flexibility in determining the content that will be used to measure achieved outcomes.
"It is similar for phys-ed / health ed."

This article was found at:


Macleans  -  Canada  February 9, 2011

Religion shouldn’t undermine education

Winnipeg school board should deny student request to opt out of music, co-ed gym class

By Robyn Urback   | Macleans blogs - On Campus

Winnipeg’s Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) has been approached by a group of new Canadian parents who want their children exempted from certain elementary school classes.

No, Manitoba’s premier has not adopted Dalton McGuinty’s proposal for anal sex lectures for tweens; these parents want their children removed from music and co-ed physical education classes. According to superintendent Terry Borys, the Muslim parents are concerned about their kids participating in classes involving singing and musical instruments, as well as mixed-gender gym classes. “The families accept physical education,” Borys told the Winnipeg Free Press, “as long as the boys and girls have separate classes.”

A local Muslim leader interviewed by the Free Press said there is no religious reason why these kids should be exempted from the classes. “My first concern would be, who are these new immigrants talking to?” he said. “This is the first time I am hearing this — I’m not very happy about it.” He added that while music can be controversial for some in the community, those people are generally in the minority.

Still, the request is being seriously considered by members of the LRSD, who have already consulted with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and proposed the idea that students complete a writing project in lieu of participating in music classes.

Of course, this type of religious accommodation in secular schools is not new. Religious students have long been able to request exemption from sexual education programs, for example. Catholic school boards in Ontario (which are publicly funded) don’t even have to teach the same sexual health curriculum that is mandated for other boards. And at this point, the concept seems nothing but silly and tired. How can educators and policy makers preach the unequivocal value of the provincial curriculum, while at the same time resign to “Well, I guess STI prevention lessons aren’tthat important”?

Public school curricula are specifically formulated (at least on paper) to provide a well-rounded education while promoting Canadian values such as equality of the sexes. These values should not be subject to religious accommodation. Many districts—the Toronto District School Board, for example—have developed certain policies for dealing with certain religious clashes. TDSB guidelines state that, “While the Board works to create a school system free from religious discrimination, this freedom is not absolute.” It continues: “If a parent/guardian/ caregiver asks for his or her child to be exempt from any discussion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or same-sex-family issue, the request cannot be granted because it violates the TDSB Human Rights Policy.”

So you can close your eyes and plug your ears if you want to, but you’re gonna have to hear about how gay people are entitled to the same rights as you. Even if you’re religious. Sorry. The same idea can and should be applied to the Winnipeg parents’ request for segregated gym classes. Granted, I understand why girls and boys are sometimes separated for physical education in upper years; no one really wants to be going through puberty and doing squats beside a pal of the opposite gender, after all. Plus, as boys and girls develop they diverge in terms of strengths and physical abilities. It makes sense that they would be separated when playing sports, competing in races, relays, etc. But the same isn’t true for little boys and girls. Indeed, it can take nothing more than a bad haircut for one to be confused for the other. Separating girls and boys for physical education during the elementary years sends the wrong message about gender equality; at that age, drawing gender lines is as arbitrary as separating kids based on hair colour. All it does is reinforce difference, and emphasize the idea that girls and boys are not equal. Perhaps more subtle than the sexual orientation example, but important nonetheless.

Allowing students to opt out of music class, on the other hand, doesn’t really upset Canadian values (after all, we did produce Justin Bieber, so what does that say?) but it does undermine the self-professed value of public education. The Winnipeg school board believes learning music is an integral aspect of a well-rounded education, and so, has included it as mandatory in its elementary school curriculum. Parents, on the whole, seem to agree. To allow students to opt out for religious reasons is to forfeit the contention that music is important for growth, just as to allow students to sit out of sex-ed is to concede that learning about birth control is of limited importance, only appropriate for some students. If the Winnipeg board wants to maintain confidence in its program, it should stand by its curriculum.

This article was found at:



Intellectual abuse and suppression of simple childhood pleasures by Islamic fundamentalists common in U.K.

Secularists campaign to change UK law that makes religious assemblies in schools compulsory, government and church resist

Atheist Ireland says children's right to be exempt from religious class a theoretical illusion

Quebec bans teaching a belief, a dogma or the practice of a specific religion in government subsidized daycares

Battle over ethics course in Quebec schools goes to court - Catholic high school wants exemption

The liberal state has a duty to ensure that all children acquire the ability to think for themselves

Who is the Real Anti-Christian: the Atheist or the Fundamentalist Christian?

New Richard Dawkins documentary argues for the abolition of faith schools as a menace to children and society 

British humanist campaign challenges state-funded religious schools 

British government amends education bill to allow faith schools to adapt law according to dogma

U.K. school inspectors report that Christian theology and non-religious beliefs not being adequately taught in compulsory religious education classes

Faith schools that indoctrinate children commit child abuse

Strong Secularism: "Religious education can be a form of mental abuse."

Intellectual abuse and suppression of simple childhood pleasures by Islamic fundamentalists common in U.K.

Faith schools ‘will hinder fight against terrorism’

Majority of people in the UK say faith schools divisive

Religious sect takes over school

Parental rights vs children's rights: debating the role of religious institutions in Irish education system

Irish children subjected to religious dogma in order to get an education in school system dominated by Catholic church

Parental rights vs children's rights: debating the role of religious institutions in Irish education system

European Court of Human Rights rules crucifixes in Italian schools violates children's religious freedom to believe or not

German teen expelled from government funded Catholic school after exercising her human right to religious freedom 

Haifa District Court denies parents' request to send children to secular school instead of orthodox school

Does religion have any proper role in education?

Religious indoctrination thrives in B.C. private schools because education ministry does not vet textbooks or courses

Atheist group files complaint with B.C. Ministry of Education over Christian school teaching creationism in science class 

The dangers of creationism in education

Bob Jones University science textbook for home schoolers ignores science and critical thinking 

No comments:

Post a Comment