Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Is it time to pull the plug on Catholic Education in Ontario?

Lifesite's John-Henry Westen has written a thought-provoking editorial questioning the value and role of publicly-funded Catholic education in Ontario today.

It would seem that thanks to the influence of the powerful Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, Catholic education today is almost indistinguishable from the public alternative. If the current trend to distort Catholic dogma is maintained, Westen wonders why Ontario taxpayers should continue to fund the apparently redundant Catholic system?:

...However, were the political battle to be fought and won, and the status quo of OECTA-stlye 'Catholic' education to continue, you may find myself and other Canadian Catholics wishing that the so-called 'Catholic' system were abolished.

With an anti-Catholic system masquerading as a Catholic system in place, parents are deceived and the spiritual and moral formation of their children will continue to be severely harmed. At least with a secular-only system parents are not deceived and must make appropriate arrangements for faith formation of their children...

I'd love to hear from parents of children who are attending Ontario Catholic schools, as well as anyone from other provinces who has some interest in the subject of Catholic education.

Personally, I find myself wondering how we can continue to support Catholic education in an increasingly multicultural society?

Meanwhile, Premier McGuinty states that the Ontario government has no plans to scrap publicly-funded Catholic schools, despite recent pressure from some public school board trustees:

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty denied that the government had any plans to scrap the Catholic system whose existence is protected under the Constitution. Section 93 of the 1982 Constitution Act guarantees to Roman Catholics in Ontario the right to have a publicly-funded separate denominational school system.

Not surprising, since the teachers' unions appear to be huge McGuinty fans, and Catholics in general seem to vote Liberal.

Why would Dalton want to rock that lifeboat?

* * * *
Other posts on this subject: Just between us girls - Single School System.

Doggerel Party - Merging school boards. 'Mike' in comments says why not 'Fund the Student'? Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

I think Sarah should pick up on this one.

Also, thanks to Tomorrow's Trust for posting a link to this blog.


anonymous in the Gulag said...

As a teacher in the Catholic system, and one whom my priest described in his letter of recommendation as "more Catholic than most Catholic teachers" (I groaned when I read that line and thought "that's it for me; I won't even be considered for a job") I can attest tot he fact that you're not encouraged or given any kudos by either admin or other teachers if you express your faith openly and articulately.

There's an unspoken "rule" that in a multicultural, diverse, and open culture that Canada has become, we Catholics are better to hide our lights under a bushel. Couple that with the fact that about 75% of students who attend Catholic schools hardly ever go to church and there's the other unspoken rule: Teachers shouldn't offend the parents.

The Catholic School system has done a lamentable job of being "Catholic." And I lay the blame on OECTA and wimpy administrators, who are not in any way leaders when it comes to encouraging the Catholic faith in either their teachers or students.

You are not thanked if you take your faith seriously. You are looked at sideways and quite quickly learn to keep your spiritual convictions to yourself.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Anon in the Gulag - Thanks for weighing in with your very candid, albeit disheartening comment.

I would suggest that it applies to society at large as well.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, we all have to hide our faith under a bushel now days and it's too bad. We should all be saying God Bless Canada at every chance we get.
Back to the question though, we should only have one public funded school board for all, and have religion classes optional.

glenda said...

I've come to question the multi-board system - and posted about it recently as well. In this rural area we have, not two, but four boards competing for students and the threat of closure and busing kids to the city is real. The Constitutional guarantee is not insurmountable, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland have all gone to a secular system. Access to religious education for everyone just isn't plausible. Struggling churches might also welcome the opportunity to fill the gap - and a few more pews as well.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Glenda, agreed. The only purpose that the Catholic board serves now is to further the interests of the unions, or so it would seem.

I see little or no value for the students. Would love to hear from more teachers about this. Also from public-school supporters.

Frank Cybulski said...

Having just been released from the Ontario Catholic school system into university less than a year ago, I'll have to disagree quite vociferously. My experience was that it DOES help faith development; many of the teachers are quite strong in their faith and encourage their students to participate (prayers in class, going to school Masses, religious studies courses).

Maybe, however, I just went to a high school that was a model school - they actually cared about the community, what the school was founded on and so forth. It doesn't matter if they have more 'liberal' ideas about some of the Church's teachings - let's face it, most Catholics in the Western world do. My experience was, though, that both teachers and the administration were quite sure of their purpose: to educate young people in a faith environment that is productive and enriching. It showed.

Reforming the system is the answer, not demolishing it; Catholics fought for that right and eventually got it. It would be a shame to throw away decades of work simply because a few conservative Catholics got angry about a few teacher's positions.

Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater...

Joanne (True Blue) said...

It doesn't matter if they have more 'liberal' ideas about some of the Church's teachings - let's face it, most Catholics in the Western world do.

Thanks for your perspective, Frank. So I take it that the 'Catholic' education was mass, prayers, religious studies, etc., but not always in line with the Pope's point of view?

Frank Cybulski said...

So I take it that the 'Catholic' education was mass, prayers, religious studies, etc., but not always in line with the Pope's point of view?

Not always, but often, surprisingly: my religion teacher for most of high school was one of the biggest social conservatives I`ve met in my life, who actually taught us about why the Church frowns on homosexuality and other immoral acts. The main problem is that outside society is continually pushing the other way; you may be taught why, rationally, the Church's teachings are logical and appropriate, but if the media and everything else is pushing the other side of the coin, education unfortunate loses the battle most of the time.

The world's largest religion and Christian denomination, with approximately 1 billion adherents, is obviously going to have a great deal of differences in opinion. What I would support is the reform plan set out in that article - make Catholic education more Catholic, and let the students make up their mind about these issues for themselves.

Anyways, enough of my life story. ;)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thank, again Frank. A very thoughtful and well-informed opinion.

Anonymous said...

If memory serves - the current formulation of the Catholic school system in Ontario was the handiwork of departing PC premier Bill Davis. While I am a small c Canadian - Davis is a reminder - like Mike Harris - that even PC's need to be taken to the wood-shed and whipped for head-up-their-ass smugness.

Davis ( a former Education Minister) took a functioning provincial system and watered it down - for what - a few catholic votes ...? His legacy ....?
The man was " .. one conservative too far .." Some legacy.

Lets get back to ONE education system.

Michael Maltby

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thanks, Michael. Davis was perhaps from an era where we weren't so diverse in a multicultural sense.

It is a very complex issue.

Red Tory said...

It might surprise you to learn that when we I lived in Ontario we sent our oldest daughter to Catholic school. She accepted all of the faith nonsense and religious instruction as the price to be paid for going to a school that was demonstrably better in practically every respect than the public alternatives. My son however was not of that mind and absolutely refused to leave the public system and we chose not to force the issue.

Coming from B.C., the notion of dual school systems does seem quite odd as we don’t have that here; at least not that I’m aware of. Alberta also has a dual system which came as a surprise to me when we lived there and first encountered this arrangement. I believe in some communities there (St. Albert, for example) the Catholic system is actually regarded as the de facto “public” system and everything else is a deviation from that.

PGP said...

Fragmentation in the educational system is one of the biggest problems and one of the main reasons QUALITY of education has sunk so low.
Fragmentation of resources of policy of standards. All are negative influences.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

She accepted all of the faith nonsense and religious instruction as the price to be paid for going to a school that was demonstrably better in practically every respect than the public alternatives.

The Catholic system does have the reputation of offering a more solid education. Perhaps more discipline. Not sure.

liberal supporter said...

Davis was from a generation of similar age to my mother, who was routinely called a heathen by the Roman Catholic kids in the 30s.

Since then, they are a lot more tolerant of others.

I support full funding of the Roman Catholic system, mainly because the RCs are about 50% of the population. I think it should be more open to non-RCs to attend, with the understanding that you "do as the Romans do" if you attend, but that does not affect my support of such a system given the demographics.

Red Tory said...

Joanne — It wasn’t discipline in this case, although the Catholic school in question was considerably more regimented and formal than the public equivalent. There were a lot of other factors at play. For example, more modern and lavish facilities (it had a pretty respectable little theatre of its own, fully wired, up-to-date computers, new textbooks, etc.) and a focused teaching environment with fewer distractions (it was almost quite literally in the middle of nowhere situated outside of town amidst empty farm fields) and a teaching staff that seemed more committed to what they were doing, at least that was my impression. The public high school was a fairly shoddy, down-at-the-heels kind of affair by comparison.

Kelly said...

Red Tory; Things must have changed considerably from when I attended Catholic school back in the, "gasp", '70's. I went to both public and catholic schools and the catholic school was really behind in equipment and a decent building. The public school I attended had electric typewriters, while the catholic school was still using manual ones. Sounds like your daughters school was great. Hopefully that is the norm now.

Red Tory said...

Kelly — I have no idea how representative that is. It just happened to be the case where we lived in Amherstburg. I'm sure you could find communities where the roles are reversed completely.

liberal supporter said...

Before the government extended full funding in the 1980s, the separate system went to Grade 10, I think. For the higher grades, most students would move to the public system.

So when full funding came in, you would see a significant shift of students in the upper high school years. At the lower high school years you would see a shift as well, since now you know your kid can get all the way through high school at the same school.

Plus, when googling, I found a mention that Davis' funding formula had an error so the separate system also got a windfall.

The new money would cause more of the new construction and upgrading to happen in the separate system, hence the better facilities mentioned by RT.

Candace said...

AB has had separate systems at least since the 60s (when I was in elementary), and yes, Red Tory, there are separate schools in BC as well, or at least there were in Vancouver & the Lower Mainland.

In AB, school boards are funded by property taxes (you check off on the form which school board you want to receive your share). Also, the province kicks in based on performance on provincial wide exams (gr. 3, 6, 9 & 12). So schools compete for # of students (per capita funding from the boards) and quality of teaching (provincial, although this might be distributed by the boards, I'm not sure).

There are non-Catholic religious-based schools as well; I suspect they are funded out of the public school board funding.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Also, the province kicks in based on performance on provincial wide exams (gr. 3, 6, 9 & 12).

What a great idea!