A Canadian publisher is discontinuing a Catholic textbook series after the books were accused of containing homophobic and transphobic content.
“Fully Alive,” a series of textbooks aimed at teaching children about marriage and sexuality, is being used in Ontario’s Catholic schools. After LGBTQ+ advocates accused the textbooks of containing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, the publisher, Pearson Canada, decided to discontinue the textbooks.
According to Kyle Iannuzzi, an 2SLGBTQ advisory committee member who is a former member of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, “Fully Alive” isolates and excludes students who do not identify as heterosexual or cisgender. For example, the content teaches students that sexual love should only occur between a man and a woman, and people should identify with their sex assigned at birth. He stated:
“‘It really fosters an experience of loneliness and I think it contributes to the reasons why self-harm is such an option for queer kids, especially in Catholic environments.'”
Iannuzzi filed a complaint about the books with Pearson Canada, the Canadian branch of an international educational publisher, in June 2022. Six months later, he was told that the company would stop publishing the books in December. However, Iannuzzi recently found out that digital copies of “Fully Alive” are available online.
When asked about the digital content, Pearson Canada stated that they already stopped printing the textbooks and plan on discontinuing the online content by March. Even before the “Fully Alive” uproar, Pearson Canada was accused of ‘pink-washing,’ a term which describes when corporations appear to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community but profit from the sale of anti-LGBTQ+ products. According to Declan Amaral, a former student trustee of the Durham Catholic School Board, Pearson Canada is utilizing “performative activism.” He stated:
“‘If you’re actually publishing a book, a textbook that has harmful rhetoric and harmful messaging to young youth, especially in the queer community … not only are you not helping, but you’re actually hurting the cause.'”
Likewise, Ian McCombe, a representative of Halton Parents for Change, believes that the “books are potentially traumatizing for vulnerable young people who are still figuring out their identities or who may have family members who identify as LGBTQ+.” He has heard from some former students that the book has caused lasting harm.
The “Fully Alive” textbooks have been around for 30 years, although they were updated in 2007 and 2015. Ontario’s Institute for Catholic Education and the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the books before publication.
The Institute for Catholic Education still defends the use of “Fully Alive.” In an email statement, the organization claimed that parents “rightly expect that the presentation of a family life curriculum will reflect a Catholic view of human life, sexuality, marriage, and family.” Similarly, the Toronto Catholic District School Board believes that “Fully Alive” is a beneficial resource and teachers should “exercise their professional judgment in the delivery of the curriculum.”
Going forward, after Pearson Canada completely removes the “Fully Alive” materials, the country’s Catholic school boards which had used the materials should pause to examine the impact LGBTQ-negative rhetoric, like in the textbooks, has on students. Catholic schools should instead adopt curricula that acknowledge and embrace LGBTQ+ students’ unique identities, an act that is entirely consistent with their Catholic mission and identity.
—Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, January 21, 2023