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Hackett: ‘Brainwashing’ and freedom of speech

I’m sure glad I was brainwashed back in kindergarten when my teacher taught me the alphabet.

I’m sure glad I was brainwashed back in kindergarten when my teacher taught me the alphabet.

And I’m even happier on most days that I was indoctrinated by my teachers to be kind to my fellow students, to help one another and to be respectful.

Oh, those horrible, dangerous, no-good leftist teachers I had trying to cram their ideologies down my throat — tucking your chair in, cleaning up after yourself and colouring in between the lines.

Those things, which I’m sure are well on their way to being considered “woke nonsense” are unquestionably not being considered brainwashing or indoctrination. All of that was, of course, facetiousness to help arrive at a point.

It seems like only when the pride flag gets involved, that people have seemingly decided to dig their heels in about “brainwashing”.

Surely, nobody is criticizing the church for teaching the bible to children? Most people are not misconstruing that as indoctrination or brainwashing.

Yet helping children recognize some people are different from others is somehow “grooming” or “sexualizing” or “brainwashing”.

There has been a firestorm over the past week about what passes as brainwashing in schools and it has become a convenient talking point about the limits of free speech. I’m not surprised we’ve circled back to that again.

First off, freedom of speech. Let’s be clear. You have freedom of expression in Canada. It is a guarantee by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

You are not, however, free from criticism of those expressions. You are not free from the consequences of those expressions if per se, you are an elected official who must function under a specific code of conduct.

Because in that instance, from the moment you are elected, you represent more than just yourself and your family, you represent an entire group of people, with many different, races, creeds and religious beliefs. If you choose not to be cognizant of that, you may not be long for public life.

I’ll catch you up quickly.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Trustee Monique LaGrange posted a meme on Instagram last week, with the caption “brainwashing is brainwashing.” Under it, was a photo of Nazi children, juxtaposed below that with children holding pride flags. To many who viewed that image, it was a clear comparison that teaching children about pride is equivalent to what the Nazis did during the Second World War.

Quick sidebar, it’s never OK to compare anything to the Nazis. Hitler and the Nazis orchestrated a cultural genocide of over six million people in one of the most despicable and disgusting acts in human history. No matter what your political persuasion or point you’re trying to prove, that’s simply a deplorable connection to evoke.

One shouldn’t be surprised that when LaGrange offered an explanation this week, in an exclusive to the Western Standard, the post was not meant to be a critique of the LGTBQ+ community, yet a criticism of the indoctrination of children in schools and about protecting children.

This as I’ve discussed before has become a flag-in-the-ground moment for the conservative movement in the United States. In a New York Times article from April, the following was written.

“When the Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage nearly eight years ago, social conservatives were set adrift. The ruling stripped them of an issue they had used to galvanize rank-and-file supporters and big donors,” they wrote.

“And it left them searching for a cause that - like opposing gay marriage - would rally the base and raise the movement’s profile on the national stage. “We knew we needed to find an issue that the candidates were comfortable talking about, said Terry Schilling, the president of American Principles Project, a social conservative advocacy group. “And we threw everything at the wall.”

What has stuck, somewhat unexpectedly, is the issue of transgender identity, particularly among young people. Today, the effort to restrict transgender rights has supplanted same-sex marriage as an animating issue for social conservatives at a pace that has stunned political leaders across the spectrum.”

Different political backgrounds aside, it’s not quite playing out like that in Canada.

It’s somewhat of a boogeyman scenario here, where there are no concrete examples of teachers using the pride flag to endanger children in any way. There is a fear that LGBTQ+ “ideologies” infect children in schools and the classic scare tactic that it’s “already happening” or it’s “coming soon”.

The presence of “litterboxes” in schools for children who identify as animals has been a rumour circulating unsubstantiated for a couple of years now. A different example, but one that’s being used to try and prove a similar narrative.

Yet, fear has been stoked successfully in two provinces. Both Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have passed laws making it mandatory for schools to have parental consent for name or pronoun changes at school for students under the age of 16.

This of course is to “protect the children” and make sure the parents are principal decision-makers in a child’s life. Which is a great thing.

Parents should absolutely be involved in a decision like that.

However, there is one crucial element that seems to be left out of that equation. What about what the child wants?

Don’t you think there could be a valid reason why a child wouldn’t want to disclose that information to their parent if they chose to do so?

See in all this “protecting the children” grandstanding, it conveniently ignores one very important element. The children.

Has anyone stopped to ask about how they feel about pride flags in schools or sharing their pronoun with their parents? Has anyone bothered to ask if they think it’s a big deal?

Children are often our greatest beacon of light and hope for the future and surely they should be able to tell us how they feel about a flag in a classroom or having to disclose something difficult to their parents.

If we don’t empower them with the capability to critically examine issues like this, aren’t we doing them a disservice?

And I don’t believe we should rip kids from their childhood either. They should be free to be kids. They should be encouraged to be kids. But with parents inferring over every little thing that happens at school, isn’t that the exact thing we are trying to prevent?

Have we fallen so far down the rabbit hole that we no longer trust educators to have the best interest of our children at heart?

If we no longer have faith and trust in the institution, then maybe that says more about ourselves than it does about the children.

Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate and a Regional Editor with Black Press Media.

Byron Hackett

About the Author: Byron Hackett

I have been apart of the Red Deer Advocate Black Press Media team since 2017, starting as a sports reporter.
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