A proposal on Catholic Education

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toronto_radical
A proposal on Catholic Education

I'm a staunch secularist, and ideally I would like to see one school system in Ontario. That being said, I think there are a lot of other issues to be addressed before I'd even bother trying to devote my energy to abolishing state funded Catholic education. I don't think you can simply rely on the fact the majority of Ontarians aren't Catholics. Many send their children to Catholc schools because they are seen as instilling better morals than the education system. So a Muslim family sending their children to a Catholic school isn't going to vote for a party that would abolish them. So political support isn't there yet.

The issue of the GSAs and even sex ed. needs to be addressed. Allowing GSAs are a human rights issue and also an issue of the right to freedom of association. Sex ed. is a public health issue regarding unwanted pregnancies and STI transmission. Couldn't a government simply force Catholic schools to comply on these issues using human rights and public health appeals? Its a compromise. Human rights and public health are respected but Catholic schools would still be able to give lessons on Catholic doctrine. I went to a Catholic elementary school. My parents chose to send me there. My parents also taught me to accept homosexuals and to practice safe sex. I'm willing to bet that the majority of parents with kids in the Catholic school system are not fundamentalists opposed to Birth Control and human rights for LGBT people. Now if the government forced Catholic schools to comply, could  the Catholic schools take the Ontario government to court on the issue arguing that their right to providing Catholic schooling is being infringed upon? Could they argue that Catholic education is more than simply having lessons in Catholic doctrine? If we could pull something like this off I'd accept it. No it's not one education system, but I'd rather fight poverty and improve people's lives. These are more pressing issues.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Maybe this Toronto "radical", who is in no hurry to stop public funding of Catholic schools, should take a moment to pause and reflect on this atrocity:

Quote:

Children at Christ the King School [in Winnipeg] who walk in daily anti-abortion vigils outside the Health Sciences Centre will receive community service credit.

The vigils are strictly voluntary and a family decision, principal David Hood emphasized Tuesday, but he's considering organizing it as an official school activity as early as next year.

Hood has talked to the teacher responsible for the students' community service activities, and they've agreed that if any kids take part in the vigils, the time would count towards the student's community service....

[b]Christ the King is a funded independent school, which means it receives operating grants from the provincial government at 50 per cent of the per-student rate[/b] in Louis Riel School Division, in which the school is located.

[url=http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/anti-abortion-vigil-earns-...

Tommy_Paine

Pragmatically though, I think Toronto Radical is correct at least in that people don't want to bring religion into politics-- on either side of the issue.  Ask John Tory.  I expect that if Tory had championed the secular cause, he would have met with the same result at the door.

To coin a cliche, it's the third rail of Ontario politics.

A way to secularize our education system, and fully separate chruch and state would be to start a grass roots movement.  But how do you do that without attracting anti Catholic bigots and turning it into some Orange Order function?

It's a tough nut to crack, a sticky wicket, a hard booger to pick.

6079_Smith_W

Plus, the catholics are hardly the only offenders, nor are they the worst. And most of the fundamentalist protestants agree with them on the issues of choice and orientation, so I don't think it would be quite the same as them going after Mitt Romney.

Want to end public funding for private schools? Good. I am actually with you on that.

But I think toronto_radical is entirely correct in pointing out that focusing on the issues is probably the most effective tactic  until there is critical mass for that to happen.

Your Manitoba example is a perfect one, M. Spector. I think there would be plenty of people who think it is okay for churches to teach their line on creationism in their schools, but who feel differently about making picketing hospitals part of the curriculum

And there are certainly enough people - even politically progressive people - who do send their kids to the Catholic system for reasons other than religious fervor. 

For that matter, I remember reading not too long ago that there are plenty of public schools in Manitoba which are breaking the ban on school prayer, and public schools don't all have the best track record on being supportive of all orientations, so it is not as if cutting off the public funding supply to private schools is going to end the problem.

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

It's not "bringing religion into politics" to say that public funds should not be spent on promoting a particular religious denomination. Religion-in-politics is already the status quo.

I want to take religion out of politics. The religious people with their hands out at the public treasury are the ones "bringing religion into politics".

I don't know why we get calls from supposed "radicals" to compromise on core principles of equality, women's reproductive freedom, gender issues, bigotry, and bullying all because some people's religious sensibilities might get hurt. That kind of capitulationist attitude is what gives encouragement to the Tea Party types of this world - the ones who don't give a shit about sparing the delicate religious or moral sensibilities of the rest of us.

6079_Smith_W

Frankly, after the tactic of going after abuses on an issue-by-issue basis, my next priority would be to lobby for better funding for public schools. Because part of the reason they are losing ground to private schools is that they do not have adequate funding to pay for the increasing services they provide to students. 

I think it is good for everyone that many special needs children are in with the general population. Same thing for students coming into school speaking little or no English or French. But most people who are not familiar with the school system do not realize that that is more work; the issue did not come up at all in the teachers' strike here this spring.

I realize of course that the arguments of increasing public and reducing private are quite similar, but if the ultimate goal is to build a strong and inclusive public system we should frame it that way.

(edit)

After all, the Catholics love their martyrs, and they wrote the book on how to exploit them. I'd rather hold them to task than give them any excuse to claim they are the victims.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Believe it or not, Catholic schools in Ontario are badly underfunded as well. Somehow the myth gets perpetuated that Catholic schools are a great model of progressive education for the public system to emulate. That myth should have died out in the 1970's. The fact is that government education budgets have shrunk and there is less money to go around to more schools since they started full funding for Catholics.

We already have a strong, inclusive system of education - it's called the public system. The existence of public funding for separate schools is a hindrance, not a help, in the maintenance of a strong, inclusive education system.

Of course the cowardly, reformist, social-democratic mantra is always "real social change tomorrow, but never today". Meanwhile the hard-right politicians have no qualms about implementing their version of real social change, and they don't sit around wringing their hands over whether someone's feelings are going to be hurt. And even the liberal democrats in other provinces have abolished public funding for religious schools, with no adverse consequences at all - for their own political fortunes or the education system.

6079_Smith_W

Well I don't know if I would say cowardly, since that calls into question a person's character and motive on an issue.  Let's just say I can see the practicality of dealing with this on a number of fronts, and focusing on certain battles - like the ones involving issues which already fall under the law.

And since you mention other provinces, ours (Saskatchewan) is actually one which has abolished private school funding with the exception of a few specific alternative institutions. So even in our case it's not quite so cut-and-dried. I can only assume the issue is even more complex in Ontario.

And of course. I expect it to remain complex, since these battles over inclusion and entitlement are still being fought in the public system.

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Ooh, it's so complex - we can't be expected to deal with it. These things take time! What's the urgency? We can only deal with one tiny issue at a time and apply bandaids to make the existing rotten system work a little while longer.

It's not as if the quality of our children's education is at stake. It's not as if there's any danger of religious dogma being used to trump abortion rights or fuel homophobia. It's not as if we have better things to spend public funds on than indoctrinating other people's kids in reactionary and anti-humanistic attitudes and beliefs. It's not as if ending public funding for religious schools would be a popular move in Ontario. Why do we always have to do the "right thing", anyway? Why can't we just avoid confrontation with the rich and powerful by looking the other way?

Lord Palmerston

The issue isn't "complex" at all.  In fact it's one of the simplest issues of all.  It's just that nobody wants to rock the boat.  

 

6079_Smith_W

Well, as was said in the OP, fight the issues of homophobia and anti-choice head-on. After all, it's not like those problems don't exist in the public school system as well. 

So toronto_radical thinks it is most prudent to tackle the problem from one side and you see a different priority. Seems to me like a very good division of labour, and I don't see the conflict, actually. 

And yes, in some aspects the issue quite complex. Not to imply that it is too complex for us to deal with, but neither would I assume that it is as easy as thinking we can end all  public financial support for all private education with a single stroke.

 

 

Lord Palmerston

Quote:
Socialists have long critiqued religion as an aspect of the power structures that support the existing social and political order. Religion has also underpinned many patriarchical practices that oppress women. And religious majorities have often suppressed religious and national minorities. Socialists have, therefore, been uncompromising on the demand for a secular state and the end to public subsidies of religious institutions. The insistence on a secular state has gone along with firm support for the protection of the rights to practice religion in private life without discrimination, as part of rights of freedom of assembly, and a vigorous defence of religious minorities.

Socialists have also favoured an educational system as a means to develop the capacities of working people. These are not only the technical capacities for work, but also capacities for democratic self-government, and deepening cultural, scientific and political understandings. This is also the special role of teachers in the public school system: they are not merely conveyers of required knowledge, but the facilitators for building critical democratic citizens in the broadest meaning of those ideas.

A universal public school system has been a crucial objective. It is the reason that the private school system that the capitalist and professional classes often resort has been a fundamental target for reform and incorporation within the public system. And it is why socialists have to continually engage in criticism, debate and engagement with public schools and their curricula. Teachers' unions have often been key allies in Ontario in raising issues of both funding and social justice in Ontario schools. Education in capitalist societies has to be continually contested as it is not ground the ruling classes will ever willingly concede.

In the case of Ontario, there clearly should be no funding of any faith-based schools, and this would include the present funding of separate Catholic schools. The public system is already starved for resources and funding religious schools will further weaken it. Full funding of religious schools flies in the face of some of the most elementary principles of modern democratic societies such as the separation of church and state. It reinforces conservatism and weakens equality and human rights. It undermines the integration of students from diverse backgrounds so necessary in today's Ontario.

http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet058.html

janfromthebruce

Kiss agree

 

Lord Palmerston wrote:

Quote:
Socialists have long critiqued religion as an aspect of the power structures that support the existing social and political order. Religion has also underpinned many patriarchical practices that oppress women. And religious majorities have often suppressed religious and national minorities. Socialists have, therefore, been uncompromising on the demand for a secular state and the end to public subsidies of religious institutions. The insistence on a secular state has gone along with firm support for the protection of the rights to practice religion in private life without discrimination, as part of rights of freedom of assembly, and a vigorous defence of religious minorities.

Socialists have also favoured an educational system as a means to develop the capacities of working people. These are not only the technical capacities for work, but also capacities for democratic self-government, and deepening cultural, scientific and political understandings. This is also the special role of teachers in the public school system: they are not merely conveyers of required knowledge, but the facilitators for building critical democratic citizens in the broadest meaning of those ideas.

A universal public school system has been a crucial objective. It is the reason that the private school system that the capitalist and professional classes often resort has been a fundamental target for reform and incorporation within the public system. And it is why socialists have to continually engage in criticism, debate and engagement with public schools and their curricula. Teachers' unions have often been key allies in Ontario in raising issues of both funding and social justice in Ontario schools. Education in capitalist societies has to be continually contested as it is not ground the ruling classes will ever willingly concede.

In the case of Ontario, there clearly should be no funding of any faith-based schools, and this would include the present funding of separate Catholic schools. The public system is already starved for resources and funding religious schools will further weaken it. Full funding of religious schools flies in the face of some of the most elementary principles of modern democratic societies such as the separation of church and state. It reinforces conservatism and weakens equality and human rights. It undermines the integration of students from diverse backgrounds so necessary in today's Ontario.

 

http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet058.html

______________________________________________________________________________________ Our kids live together and play together in their communities, let's have them learn together too!

6079_Smith_W

@ LP #10

Well clearly you have a far more incisive mind than me, because there is plenty of it that is not clear to me at all. 

And janfromthebruce, while I agree with that in principle, sorry if I reserve the right to haul my kids out of the public system if stuff is happening there that they or I do not think is good for them. I have heard enough stories of kids bullied to death, and a few beaten to death.

And given how much intolerance, indoctrination and breaking of the rules WRT religion we already have in public schools, I am not entirely sure I want to throw a bunch of kids and their parents from staunch religious schools into the mix. 

The issue of funding aside, I am not in principle opposed to private schools so long as they meet certain standards and curricula.

Anyone who thinks closing private schools and throwing everyone into the public system would mean an end to the problem should probably sit in on a few assemblies and school board meetings. That religious and political bias is there already and somehow I think most of those religious parents would show up at the table, and at the ballot box for school board with their own agenda.

And to make things a little more complicated, there are several Native Education institutions in this province which happen to be in the Catholic School System. Not sure what we should do there...  shut them down, expropriate them or starve them to death too?

Anyway, that's why I support the position in the OP. I don't care which is higher priority. The fact is it is a fight we are going to have to fight no matter who is running the schools.

janfromthebruce

well those schools could still operate but without public dollars.

Tommy_Paine

I don't dissagree with what you've said, M Spector.  The question is about moving the public mindset to where we are at.

For example, I've said many times here that indoctrinating children into religion is a form of abuse.  I resolutely believe this.  However, that's the end result of a lot of reading and experience that most people don't bother with.  Giving voice to the end conclusion without bringing people along that road of realization and hitting all the stops comes across as a little brash, if not a little looney.

Perhaps what is needed is an examination of the facts.  Does religious education actually provide a more "moral" education?  Are there less criminals coming from the Catholic system than the public system?  Are there less teen pregnancies in the Catholic system?  Is the rate of divorce less amoung graduates of the Catholic system? 

I don't know the answers. It's my guess that any statistical variation is insignificant between the two.

There is also the economic argument that two systems duplicate administration costs.  At the moment, I think this is the one that is probably most powerfull.

Public systems themselves are now tossing secularism out the window, by accomodating religions and certain practices. 

Are we to argue as stridently and vociferously against Native kids being able to smudge as we are Islamic kids time and space to pray as we do against Catholic education? 

Are zero tollerance polices on knives going to be applied to Kirpans? 

StuartACParker

What this thread illustrates to me is how far the Canadian left has strayed from a commitment to socialism to some kind of US-style liberalism. Canada does not have a constitutional order that gives special rights to churches nor should it. Religious associations and practices deserve no more or less protection than any other organization enjoying prohibitions on creedal discrimination, freedom of association and freedom of assembly. What we seem to have today is an absurd double-standard. If a visible, tangible entity tells people to carry knives, treat their daughters like shit, harass women seeking reproductive healthcare or whatever, we don't hand out public resources to help them and we don't facilitate this bullshit with the apparatus of the state. But if an invisible,imaginary entity tells people to do these things, we pant after these groups and ask how the state might better facilitate the bullshit they are getting up to.

I believe in freedom of association, freedom of assembly and the protection of all creeds under the constitution but balanced against other important constitutional principles like the security of the person, equality of the sexes, etc. What we have today is a society that feels it is somehow our obligation to help groups that adhere to certain especially irrational creeds in their project of dismantling gender equality, racial equality and other sacred principles that underpin a pluralistic society.

As for the original post, I think that your plan would be good if not for the very worry to which you point in the last paragraph. My fear is that the courts have very much drunk the Kool-Aide on this one and, bolstered by the 19th century Catholic schooling elements of the BNA, would end up ruling in favour of the church.