I have seen a lot of debating going on around the new anti bullying legislation going through Ontario's parliament and its provision that all schools must allow Gay-Straight alliances, including the Catholic schools. Some people ask if we could win this debate, or are we bound to lose it. My position is this: we lost this debate thirty years ago when we accepted full funding for our schools.
Even back then, when I was in school myself, I knew this was a disaster. When you accept funding from Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Buddhists, Atheists and homosexuals to pay for a school system, even a Catholic one, or anything else for that matter, then you must accept that Hindus, Jews, Muslims Protestants, Buddhists, Atheists and homosexuals etc and will have a say in that school system, even if it is Catholic, or anything else for that matter. It is called democracy, and we live in one.
The funding was put in place incrementally, and I was one year behind the funding, and when I finished grade ten I went on to a public high school. My experience in the Catholic school system is that the little bit of religion they taught was useless at best and wrong at worst. They taught us nothing about the faith, (my last teacher, a habitless nun, taught us that the most important expression of our faith was to boycott companies that had practices contrary to the ideals of social justice) and did not equip us with the capacity to understand our even defend our faith when attacked by others on the outside, and gave us no answers when challenged by the believers of other faiths or atheists. Because the students had no answer, they came to believe that there was no answer. I had several friends who continued on to private Catholic high school on their parents' dime. All of them, without exception, are now evangelical atheists. They hate their former faith, or, more accurately, what they believe their old faith to have been, which is something quite different. Perhaps it is now time to discuss whether it is even worth having a Catholic school system, as it stands.
Is the current school system even remotely Catholic? McGuinty is telling the bishops it is not, and with my experience in the schools I have difficulty arguing against him. I believe it could not be destroyed from without if it has not already been destroyed from within.
Should we fight? Yes, I believe we should. We should stand up for what we believe, and fight to take back our schools and get off the public dime so that they cannot ever again have a say in what is taught at our schools. We should stop electing useless trustees who know nothing and care nothing for the faith, and only seek to have the Trustee expense account, or who want the position because it looks good on a resume for their future political aspirations. We should be like those who came before us, and be prepared to skimp, save and sacrifice so we have the wherewithal to buy what is truly important to us. Or we should give up, accept that this is the way it is, and stop pretending that Catholic education matters. I repeat, for as long as we take money from the public purse for schools, the public, in the form of our democratically elected government, will tell us how those schools will be run.
One last word to the wise in case there are any Muslims reading this blog: I understand that a few years ago, some Muslim groups were looking for money to fund their own schools, claiming the precedent of the Catholic schools. I would advise you to look at what happened in our case, and reconsider.