A Catholic Education?

September 10, 2011 at 7:50 pm (Uncategorized)

Hey, how do you get Canadians out of a swimming pool at closing time?

Ask them.

And so goes the stereotype of Canadian “niceness” and “accommodation.” 

Part of this must surely go back to the conquest of New France by the British in 1763. After the defeat of the French on the Plains of Abraham, the British found themselves in control of a country in which they were a minority. In fact, French speakers were to outnumber Anglos until the 1930s.

As a result of linguistic and religious differences, two school systems were set up – an English school system for the Protestants and a Catholic (sometimes called separate) school system for the French.  This was thought to be an intelligent compromise; after all, the alternative was the Acadian solution where the French were expelled from Nova Scotia and made their way down to Louisiana, but this would be on a much grander scale..  

Flash forward to the 21st century, and while many provinces, even largely Catholic one such as Nova Scotia, have a single school system, others such as Ontario have two: Both English speaking, both public funded, one nondenominational, one Catholic. (a French school board still exists but it is tiny by comparison)

Many have wondered why there are two such systems. During the last provincial election in Ontario, Conservative leader John Tory argued that public funding for religious schools should be extended to all faiths, an idea which proved to be hugely unpopular and one of the many reasons his party was defeated.

The notion of public funding for sectarian beliefs continues to be touchy, especially since many Catholic school boards seem to have no trouble taking the money, but have some difficulty in dealing with issues such as sexuality and of course gay students. (Some officials have justified their opposition to gay rights with the claim of freedom of religion, and of course any bigotry or lunacy is made saner if prefaced by the phrase “in my religion…”)

In last Tuesday’s Globe and Mail, journalist Kate Hammer wrote an article on the increasing number of non-Catholics, and especially Muslims in  Catholic schools – discipline, modesty, shared Abrahamic values concluded the article was the reason for the sudden attractiveness of non-Catholics in Catholic schools.

The following day, a letter appeared in the paper from Rev David Reilander, a priest in Owen Sound, Ontario. Reilander wrote:

In Owen Sound, a regional centre for Bruce-Grey, my schools are half non-Catholic. If it were not for the non-Catholic students, it would be difficult to justify a Catholic educational presence here.

Huh? A Catholic school board which is only viable with the support of non-Catholics. You don’t have to be a communist, or even a leftist to wonder about that. (Of course a few years back one prominent leftist organization in Ontario supported the establishment of sharia courts for the muslim community so you never know)

Everyone knows that famous remark by Marx about religion being the opium of the people, but for me the most interesting part was the following part where he argued religion was the sign of the oppressed creature. In other words, the continued existence of religion was evidence of  oppression in society. Organized religion though, is a business, a bureaucracy, a racket. No less so than many secular institutions. It remains a curiosity though that a seemingly modern state would continue to promote this one particular bureaucracy.

On the other hand, as a friend of mine once remarked about his own experience with Catholic schools, everyone went in a Catholic, but thanks to the priests who ran the institution, few came out that way.

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1 Comment

  1. A Catholioc Education (part 2) « Notes from Underground said,

    […] couple of weeks back I posted a piece about Catholic schools in Ontario and their apparently reliance on non-Catholics to justify their existence. Well, here’s part […]

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