Friday, August 24, 2007

Ontario: Fund Everybody's Schools

Those who like history to repeat itself (whether farcically or otherwise) will be happy to see the next Ontario election is going to be fought over the funding of religious schools. Somewhere the shade of George Brown is chuckling.

American readers may be a bit starteld to know that Ontario publicly funds Roman Catholic schools and those of no other religious groups. This arrangement is constitutionalized, and reflects a time when the public schools provided non-denominational Protestant instruction for the province's majority, and the only religious minority were the Papists. It is beyond dispute that them days are over: the public schools teach only the sub-Marxist mush popular in education faculties, unappealing to those who take their Protestanism seriously, and there are now other religious groups with their own insistent demands.

John Tory, of the eponymous Progressive Conservative Party, has proposed to remedy this situation by providing equival funding for evangelical, Mormon, Sikh or Muslim schools on the same basis as currently provided to those in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. The Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty decided to come out swinging this week in total opposition, referring to it as "segregation", "regressive," and contrary to multiculturalism.

In support of the "farce" idea, it turns out McGuinty is himself a product of the "regressive" and "segregated" Catholic school system, and his wife works in it. Moreover, his one plausible argument -- that a common public system is necessary to assimilate Muslims and wingnut kids. The trouble with this argument, though, is that as long as Ontario isn't going to ban home schooling and private schools, it isn't going to get at the people you most have to worry about. Those who abide by the public funding rules will necessarily be taking a move into the mainstream. Further, the public schools already teach the toxic stew of victim identity politics.

More fundamentally, it is just wrong to require parents to put their kids in schools that teach things they abhor if they want to take advantage of their own taxes. It is impossible NOT to teach some sort of religious view in schools, and the "religion of progress" is just as much a matter of faith as young earth creationism.

I suspect McGuinty's position will hurt the Liberals electorally -- if not right away, then over the next generation. He is taking on the most demographically dynamic groups on an issue they are likely to care much more about than anyone else. And the hypocrisy of his position in favour of his own religion can't be dodged.

If the Catholic hierarchy is serious about religious freedom, it should distance itself from McGuinty.

No comments: