When a Catholic Education is Your Only Option… April 24, 2011

When a Catholic Education is Your Only Option…

Last time I wrote about the lack of secular education in Morinville (in Alberta, Canada), parent Donna Hunter was on a mission to get at least one secular school in the area to combat the four Catholic schools. The school board rejected her request in January, but they were conducting a survey (read: stalling) to see how many other parents felt the way Hunter did.

There’s an update to this story, but it’s not a great one.

Hunter is selling her house and getting the hell out of Morinville.

“We need to protect our kids,” Hunter said this week. “We shouldn’t have to move. But for me, my life has been this struggle. And I see my children and the education they’re receiving and I just need to put them in a place where they’re receiving a real public education.

She says she’s not giving up, though:

“I want to see this through,” Hunter said. “I want to be everything I can for the parents who aren’t in a position where they can move.”

“The fact that our public school board can still say ‘No, you’re not allowed a secular education,’ is ridiculous,” Hunter said.

“The bottom line is they’re a public board. If there’s a secular option desired by parents, there’s an obligation to provide it,” [Education Minister Dave] Hancock said this week. “How you provide it obviously depends on the number of students involved and what options are available from that.”

Hunter’s doing what she has to do to get her kids a proper education. I don’t blame her. But it is tougher to care about whether Morinville gets a secular school when you’re not directly affected by the decision. Here’s hoping other parents can carry the torch and keep fighting for an education not tarnished by Jesus and religious rituals.

(Thanks to Kirby for the link)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Nakor

    Damn. It really sucks that someone should have to move just to have their children get a half-decent education. It makes me downright ill, really.

    Alberta really is our backwards province. Be part of the collective. If you look at current election predictions, most provinces have some mix of parties, but Alberta reads conservative nearly top-to-bottom, with only one dissenting district out of twenty-eight.

    (I’m not saying it’s terrible to vote conservative in Canada mind, in fact I’d say the parties and leaders are about equally inept; I’m just saying that such a level of unanimity is shocking, and leads one to wonder how much individual thought is being put into voting — or anything else for that matter.)

  • Miko

    “The bottom line is they’re a public board. If there’s a secular option desired by parents, there’s an obligation to provide it,”

    It’s interesting to compare this sentiment to the one recently expressed on this blog regarding the necessity of providing a Jehovah’s Witness with a bloodless organ transplant. There, it was suggested that the majority of the population was fine with a standard operation and that there was no reason to support the other operation except for individual religious preference, which shouldn’t guide public policy. Thus, the other taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to do something hugely expensive just to satisfy a religious minority.

    So: If the majority of the population in the area is fine with a religious education, then the secular school would probably be poorly attended and thus a huge expense. Also, it’s just a matter of religious preference to have a secular school and thus shouldn’t be a public policy concern. Given this, is it really fair to ask all of the other taxpayers to do something so hugely expensive just to satisfy a religious minority (i.e., atheists)?

    I would suggest that there is no good argument that explains why one should oppose the right of a JW to get a bloodless transplant at public expense while championing the right of nontheistic parents to have a secular school funded at public expense.

    It’s sad to think that, had the community not been forcing her to pay for the public schools, Hunter would have easily been able to pay for a private school education for her children and thus not been forced to move. This is, of course, one of the many reasons why as little as possible should be done at public expense.

    Edit to add: Of course, an even more obvious parallel would be to the lack of religious public schools in the U.S. Many atheists would fight any such schools (and probably try to dodge the issue by mumbling about the 1st Amendment instead of considering issues of justice). But if a key feature of justice is perspective-invariance, shouldn’t we be just as concerned that those who want a religious-themed education are able to get it?

  • Shells

    Because public schools are paid for by the taxpayers no matter what, and don’t have to cater to what people actually want, they’re going to be slow to change. Having public schools at all stifles a competitive market that could otherwise thrive and provide every type of religious or nonreligious school imaginable.

  • David

    If Alberta is such a terrible place why did Naheed Nenshi get vote to be Calgary’s mayor. In my travels rural BC has much higher percentage of religious nutters with Ontario being a close second.

  • bigjohn756

    What do you expect if you live in a town called Moronville?

  • Angel

    The town is Morinville. Not Moronville.

    Miko – No one has asked them to build separate schools. One of the options that was presented was that children not get religion taught in regular classes, and then get an opt-out for religion classes (as they are currently able). The school board and schools said that there was no way that they could remove religion from the classes themselves. It would have meant hiring a few extra teachers at most, and asking teachers to refrain from mentioning the Bible in certain classes at the least.

  • Richard P.

    @ Miko
    Are you seriously comparing a completely unnecessary medical procedure to an educational system? The absurdity of that is beyond the pale.

    A non blood transfusion is purely a preference of choice. There is no medically necessary reason for this except in the rarest of circumstances. Therefore, this is purely a frivolousness request with no medical validity at all.

    The other is forcing an inferior education on a child that will suffer the consequences their entire life. They are coercing children to accept unfounded beliefs, that evidence has shown to be incorrect. This is not only in the science classes but permeates the entire educational curriculum. It’s a waste of the precious little time we provide for preparation to enter into the adult world. Children should be taught in our schools not indoctrinated.

    Your argument is pathetic, your simply trying to confuse issue.

  • Rainne

    I would like to make one point which will probably be unpopular.

    There is a difference between a religiously-tainted education and an inferior one.

    I attended religious schools (Catholic and Lutheran) through 8th grade. When I transferred to the local public high school, I discovered that I was already light-years ahead of my peers academically. Today, as a graduate student, I remain light-years ahead of some (not all) of my peers.

    Education in a religious setting does not automatically have to be inferior to secular education; in fact, in many cases, it CAN be superior.

    All of that being said, I do agree that Ms Hunter has every right to demand secular education for her kids; at the VERY least, they ought to give her kids an opt-out from the religious portion of instruction.

  • Richard P.

    Rainne, I do accept that there general education programs can be excellent. I agree with you that in some cases the education and the atmosphere is superior to the public schools.
    That being said, they do lack in areas beyond general education. They lack in teaching critical thinking and effective problem solving, in many cases. They teach to accept authority over evidence. This leaves children gullible to all kinds of nasty things like dogma and bigotry. The cost of this ignorance is almost incalculable.

    It’s not that I believe that a superior education can only be had in a secular setting, it’s just nice to remove the mud that’s there from the waters.

  • Demonhype

    @ Richard P:

    Thank you. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    I’d also add that in one case it’s an individual making a frivolous and medically unnecessary request, and in the other case it’s the religious yet again trying to force their beliefs onto other people’s children (and as you said, negatively affect their education and what sorts of opportunities will come from such an inferior education). No one is forcing their views on liver-transplant-woman, no one is forcing her to go through with the procedure against her will, while the other woman is having other people’s religious views forced on her children against her will–while being forced to pay for it. An individual makes a personal choice and demands that others pay for it vs. an overprivileged majority abuses their power to oppress others and force them to pay for their own oppression and somehow these two are equivalent? Bullshit.

    Not to mention that liver-transplant-woman is asking for special treatment and special privilege while this woman is asking for her basic right to fair treatment. Once again, somehow a Christian asking for special privileges is equated with an atheist asking for equal rights and representation. Go figure.

  • Vanessa

    @Richard P.

    They lack in teaching critical thinking and effective problem solving, in many cases. They teach to accept authority over evidence.

    I don’t know, this sounds like most public schools as well.

  • Kevin S.

    Richard P., I’d kindly ask you not to paint with such a broad brush. While I know this is not the general Catholic-school experience, it was my time in high school that I was taught critical thinking and problem solving, that I was taught evidence over authority. There was absolutely no infusion of religious dogma onto academic subjects – evolution was taught exclusively in biology, world history didn’t treat the Bible as a source, etc. Even the religion courses were taught from an academic perspective (Documentary Hypothesis, evidence of when the gospels were actually written).

    If there’s evidence that a Catholic school doing what you’ve accused them of, by all means call them out on it. But don’t call them out on it just because they’re a Catholic school.

  • Richard P.

    Vanessa, I’ll conceded that, but it doesn’t help to add religion and invisible authority figures into the mix.
    I do have some great stories about battles fought with my sons schools because of authority over evidence issues.

    Kevin, I apologize for seeming harsh and broad with my brush. However, it is an education system that holds, as a core of it’s doctrine, the belief in god and jesus and the resurrection of a man and so on. I have seen a few liberal catholic schools and know compared to many other places, Canada’s are very liberal and I agree they follow our public school criteria, as they are forced to by our laws. I do know creationism was discussed in the class as a comparison at my sons school.

    The core of there belief system is belief in things without evidence. Maybe you excelled in-spite of the influence, maybe in your school it was very minimal. I agree it is minimal in a lot of cases. Yet by it’s placement as an educational provider it supports and encourages the suspension of critical thinking, this in itself is why religion should be removed from our educational system. Our schools should be places of learning not places on indoctrination. Lets leave that to the preachers on Sunday, if we must do it at all.

  • Richard P.

    I also want to add, I wouldn’t move or fight to remove my children from a catholic school, I feel that the core of critical thinking should be taught by the parents. I had no problem with the religious influences that my kids dealt with. I taught my kids to think for themselves and religious influences were only practice.

    So to be clear, although I do think the removal of religion from schools is a good thing I also think it you teach you children well, it will have minimal influence one way or another.

  • Richard P.

    I think you said it better.

  • Pedophiles still infest Catholic schools.

    In April 2011, just a month after Philadelphia became the newest city to be exposed for child rapists in its churches, they catch one in one of its schools

    Every parent should read the first 6 pages of the grand jury report released in February 2011 at http://www.philadelphiadistrictattorney.com/images/Grand_Jury_Report.pdf to find out how horrifying it STILL is.

    You can’t fix the church, but you can save your children.

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