Bringing soft totalitarianism into the classroom

FATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA

Who decides what children get taught when it comes to moral and religious questions? Parents or the state?

These questions are being asked in Alberta, as a result of the provincial government's proposed new Education Act. The bill incorporates the Alberta Human Rights Act into the law governing schools and education, presumably giving aggrieved students, parents and teachers the right to file complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission (HRC). Why the government of Alison Redford would wish to bring the thoroughly discredited bureaucratic apparatus of the human-rights commission into the education system is baffling.

The Alberta HRC was the kangaroo court exposed by Ezra Levant when he was prosecuted for more than two years for publishing the Danish Muhammad cartoons, and which ordered a Christian pastor in Red Deer never to speak about homosexuality again — including in private correspondence — because someone complained about his letter published in a local newspaper.

The real courts slapped the human rights commission senseless on that one, but not until the accused had been comprehensively abused by the one-sided process. Freedom of the press, freedom of religion, fundamental legal rights of due process — none of these carry much weight at the human rights commissions. Sensible people around the country are endeavouring to have their pernicious scope restricted. Alberta's government, on the other hand, seeks to expand their purview so they might be able to harass every teacher in every classroom in the province.

Which led to an odd protest at the legislature here on Monday by several hundred home-schooling families, worried that the new Education Act's drafting would expose parents to human rights prosecutions if determined activists didn't care for their religious and moral teaching. The protest was odd because the education minister showed up at the rally himself, saying that his proposed law would do no such thing; and affirming the principle that the parents were advocating, namely that the parents' right to teach their children should not be impeded by the state's various bureaucratic arms.

But sweet words are no match for a determined bureaucrat of ideological zeal. Alberta's parents — home-schoolers and otherwise — are right to be vigilant. Ill winds are blowing across the land when it comes to parental rights, religious liberty and education policy.

Quebec's new "ethics and religious culture" curriculum aims to promote religious tolerance by teaching that religious differences don't matter. If you are a Muslim parent who wants to teach your child that Islam is superior to being an atheist or being a witch, the education system will be undermining that view in class. Quebec will brook no exceptions to the new groupthink: No child is permitted to be exempt from class when the teacher instructs her that her pious parents are teaching her falsehoods. The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed this soft totalitarianism last month, saying in effect that parents ought to get with the program and get over their religious, moral and cultural obligations to instruct their children. That is the narrowing of liberty to the point of eliminating it; everyone is free to teach his kids what he wants at home, just as long as the state gets to teach the little ones the opposite at school

If you are a Muslim parent who wants to teach your child that Islam is superior to being an atheist or being a witch, the education system will be undermining that view in class.

In Ontario, a battle is going on between the province and Catholic school boards and various private schools about bullying. The province's position is that stopping bullying in the schools requires that schools sanction the view that their moral teaching about sexuality, especially homosexual acts, is wrong. The schools' position is that if you want to stop bullying, then teach the children not to bully each other, and sanction them when they do. But the bureaucratic state is never satisfied with merely proportionate measures. So Ontario proposes, in effect, forcing schools that exist for a religious purposes — whether Catholic or otherwise — to compromise that mission on the diktat of the education bureaucracy.

It's a battle that will only grow more intense in the years ahead. Education policy has for several generations now been creeping into ever more sectors of civil life. Having done such a bang-up job of teaching little Edith to read and write and do algebra, the education bureaucracy is eager to ensure that she has proper eating habits (first graders sent home shamefacedly when they bring brownies rather than celery sticks for snack time) and the correct ideas about social policy (high schools facilitate access to birth control but make bottled water contraband).

And those parents who do not wish to lazily hand over the formation of their children to the state? They now have to fight to discharge the duties that are properly theirs, as they did here in Edmonton on Monday.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Bringing soft totalitarianism into the classroom." National Post, (Canada) March 8, 2012.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.

THE AUTHOR

Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 2012 National Post




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