- Robin Singer
GEGI The Groomicorn goes to school
by Robin Singer
With the publication of gegi.ca during Education Week in May 2021, Ontario professors Dr. Lee Airton and Dr. Lyle Kirkup have explored new territory in the global academic field of “critical pedagogy” or critical education theory. They have used students to turn theory into practice through praxis.
What is critical pedagogy and what is praxis? Google offers the following definition of critical pedagogy:
What is praxis? Praxis from the Ancient Greek: πρᾶξις Romanized to praxis, is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized.
Gegi.ca provides Ontario students with the tools needed to “queer” their student workplace, going well beyond the assumption that everyone has a sexual orientation or even that everyone is male or female. Gegi.ca proudly leads students “to critique structures of power and oppression” in relation to gender and sex in their own K-12 schools.
But first, a little education history from What was a liberal education? by Roger Kimball. How did we get here? Back in 1970, education in the anglosphere followed classical liberal theory.
“There was, for example, a shared commitment to the ideal of disinterested scholarship devoted to the preservation and transmission of knowledge—which meant the preservation and transmission of a civilization—pursued in a community free from ideological intimidation. If we inevitably fell short of the ideal, the ideal nevertheless continued to command respect and to exert a guiding influence”.
And still a little later from the same article, “consider the observation made by the philosopher John Searle in the 1990s that “the idea that the curriculum should be converted to any partisan purposes is a perversion of the ideal of the university. The objective of converting the curriculum into an instrument of social transformation (leftist, rightist, centrist, or whatever) is the very opposite of higher education.” Until the day before yesterday, Searle’s warning was regarded as common sense. Now it is uncommon, and highly provocative, wisdom”.
The change from liberal education to critical pedagogy happened first in the United Kingdom but quickly spread throughout English speaking Universities as illustrated here. Scholars such as Renee De Palma challenged teachers and[DM1] parents with her academic paper “No Outsiders: Moving beyond a Discourse of Tolerance to Challenge Heteronormativity”. This theory was made practical with the creation of a program of the same name, NO OUTSIDERS, at Parkfield Community School, a Birmingham UK primary with a 98% Muslim intake. Parents pushed back, especially Muslim parents who objected to LGBT teachings and culture as might be expressed by this article by Belinda Brown in Sept 19, 2021 by Mercatornet, “We like heteronormativity and we don’t want you to smash it.”
Photo courtesy of mercatornet.org
Due to ongoing parent pressure, inspectors were sent to the school and found that:
“A very small, but vocal, minority of parents are not clear about the school’s vision, policies and practice. This group of parents feel that staff do not sufficiently listen to their concerns. Their view is that the PSHE education and equalities curriculum focuses disproportionately on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues and that this work is not taught in an age-appropriate manner. Inspectors found no evidence that this is the case.”
Transgendertrend.com is the leading organisation in the call for evidence-based healthcare for children and young people suffering gender dysphoria and for factual, science-based teaching in schools. The organization notes that the parents’ concerns in this instance (at Parkfield Community School), centre around the suggestion to very young children, as young as four, that they can change sex rather than simply that gays and lesbians exist. The Equality Act mandates in law the recognition of the protected characteristic “sex” but which the school changed to “gender”. Incredibly, instead of calling the protected characteristic “Gender Reassignment”, the school used “Transgender Identity”. The linked Transgendertrend article has critiqued the “No Outsiders” program in great detail but the program seems to have survived as a template for programs in Canada like SOGI123 and HI SAM and which Gender Dissent has critiqued here and here. In 2020, the UK government issued an extensive schools guidance document to protect against any future overly aggressive teaching of gender ideology.
With gegi.ca, Dr. Lee Airton and Dr. Lyle Kirkup have created an entirely new pedagogical concept clearly in line with critical pedagogy which is based on Queer Theory and transgressing norms. For a more in-depth explanation see Queer Theory 101. Dr. Lee Airton teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels, in addition to the concurrent education program at Queen’s University and claims a non-binary identity using the pronouns “they, them”. Dr. Airton received an Insight Development Grant of $66,568 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of the Federal Government along with Dr. Kyle Kirkup of the University of Ottawa. The project, entitled “Gender Expression: How school boards are shaping Ontario’s newest human rights category.”, which led to GEGI, is supported by Ottawa University Faculty of Law and Queen’s University Faculty of Education. Dr. Airton’s personal website indicates active participation in both the Kingston and larger Canadian entertainment communities.
The gegi.ca design concept is simple. It describes four steps:
First, as trainee social justice warriors, all students are invited to question themselves, their friends and their school communities, with a view to finding any sort of discrimination which may exist regarding gender identity or gender expression. This “research” for possible harms, lacks or omissions is part of the learning.
Secondly, gegi.ca points out that the Internet can be a tool for uncovering harm and injustice. Policies with tip sheets for washrooms, sports, field trips, names and pronouns and gender diversity for all 72 Ontario School Boards are available at a click. Students are taught to compare the policies of their board with Ontario Human Rights policies to determine if they are aligned. Both the sparkly and serious versions are available in addition to a version for non-readers. Sparkles and glitter are an important stage of trans “coming-out” and glitter families stand by at least online, to volunteer to parent students whose current parents may not be affirmative.
Gegi is particularly concerned that gender identity and gender expression may be “squished” together or that gender expression may be ignored completely by board policy writers. Washrooms, sports, field trips, names and pronouns are areas of the greatest concern to gegi so tipsheets help articulate student’s rights.
Thirdly, students are encouraged to share their findings with a trusted adult, not necessarily at home or at school. That trusted adult could be a “friend” from 18 linked organizations for youth and 117 for the general public, specifically the LGBTQ public.
Step 4 on the website is still under construction so we don’t yet know what gegi has in mind but meanwhile there is still lots to explore including 72 gender related human rights cases with a search bar for relevant case law, and 11 vetted organizations and firms offering affordable legal services in 10 provinces and territories. There are six cornerstone legal cases with thumbnail sketches of which students should definitely be made aware. Because gegi is for children, and funsies and merch are always available.
The gegi.ca launch stumbled badly when the creators requested potentially minor person’s email addresses, a basic safeguarding mistake.
Multiple letters were sent to multiple university officials with subject headings like “Take down Gegi the Government Funded Groomicorn”. Experts such as Canadian researcher Dr. Debra Soh have been active in educating the public about the harms of current SEX-ED/GENDER-ID programs in schools in this two part interview with James Lindsay https://linktr.ee/DrDebraSoh?s=03 episodes 39 and 40.
Justdad7, a prominent Canadian twitter voice, comments frequently on legal and education issues in addition to the progress of bills through the legislature. He has pointed out the legal flaws in what gegi.ca is teaching.
Reporters and social media ridiculed the name since “gegi '' is slang for women’s genitalia. Mysteriously the term was removed from the Urban Dictionary after Gegi’s launch.
Many Ontario parents objected to any discussion at school of their child’s gender insisting that only their child’s sex is relevant. Specific criticisms included objection to topics such as “exploration of their sense of self in relation to a sexually stereotyped gender scale”.
Gender identity is a belief and many people do not share this belief. In fact, a variation on this argument is now before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in which a teacher insisted to a grade one child that there is no such thing as a girl which of course is a denial of her Charter protected belief in sex. Other people object to the term cis-gender being applied to their boy or girl arguing rightly that they have a sex and it is a protected characteristic.
Image from the thecanadianencyclopedia.ca
A very serious objection occurred when the initial publicly accessible online information session closed abruptly and became available only to educators even though parents had obtained tickets beforehand. Gegi was collecting children’s online information while locking out parents? No adult outside of those already approved by one’s parents should be communicating directly online with any child without their parent’s knowledge or presence. Jonathan Kay, journalist and twitter commentator as usual had a lot of fun with his comments about Gegi.
Grave misjudgments by professors charged with educating teachers and students of law? It is well known that Faculty of Education professors rarely have enough on-the-ground classroom experience to be aware of these necessities, but most protective parents are aware. Although alienating children from their families by any means is legally actionable, neither Queen’s nor University of Ottawa acknowledged or responded to any letters of complaint by email or post.
Finally, the original website looked very childish as though targeted towards elementary school readers and some felt the cartoon character to be
slightly menacing. The unicorn symbol is widely used to convey gender ideology because the previous genderbread man was deemed to be too patriarchal and/or humanoid. The site has since been updated for “thirteen and up” although the unicorn still leers.
Today, parents in North America are on high-alert as more and more news stories appear which demonstrate the sinister, activist role educators are assuming in order to gender-transition students. The recent banning of the teaching of Sexual Orientation and Gender Ideology in Florida K-3 classrooms is just one such example.
Some parents have worked together to compile a list with email address of every Canadian school trustee. Initial letters from at least two different parents with large twitter followings have been sent. Many trustees have responded, mostly sympathetic to their concerns. Parents’ rights are under attack and they are only now just becoming aware. Parental organizations like Parents As First Educators and Fair are sounding the alert and new organizations are forming. What is a trickle will become a flood. Harming children is the third rail.
Here is one such letter of concern to officials at Queens University and University of Ottawa from a concerned parent and grandparent.
I am writing to you to express my concern as a parent and grandparent over the sudden ubiquity of “Gegi” the unicorn, and the manner in which your university, faculty and faculty members are promoting gender ideology in schools.
First, my twenty something granddaughter informed me with much embarrassment the definition of “gegi” - surely you must be aware by now that it’s insulting slang for the female vagina. Though I personally prefer the OED, the online Urban Dictionary is far more popular with youth, and the definition is there. It’s disgraceful, and I do not believe in coincidences of such magnitude.
Second, why so much focus on “gender expression” in respect to “overnight field trips”? What does this have to do with education?
Third, and most important, is the obvious determination to freeze parents out of their children’s education. Why did parents who obtained tickets to a webinar about Gegi have those tickets abruptly rescinded? And why was the webinar cancelled in favour of a more “discreet” format, where only a select few were welcome? Why is Gegi collecting children’s online contact information, while locking out parents? If there is nothing improper in all of this, why all the secrecy?
Parental rights are vital to the interests of children and to the flourishing of any free society. This sort of behavior raises all kinds of red flags - it gives every appearance of grooming (perhaps this is why Gegi is increasingly being referred to as “Gegi the Groomicorn’) and parents and grandparents will not tolerate it. Alienating children from their families by any means has become legally actionable.
This letter is meant to let you know that I intend to bring this matter to the attention of elected officials at all levels, university donors and alumnae, and I do assure you that I am not alone. Remote learning during the pandemic has both alerted and alarmed concerned parents who were unaware of what is being taught to their children. Now they know.