Monday, July 23, 2007

John Tory promises more segregation in Public Education in Ontario

John Tory's policy on handing out public funds to private religious schools continues to annoy me.

Today, Tory announced that former PC Premier Bill Davis will help to set up the policy if Tory forms a government later this year. I guess Davis' moderate credentials are meant to ease concerns over this badly-conceived idea.

Today's announcement is the unfortunate end result of a bad promise Tory made in the heat of the 2004 Ontario Tory leadership race.

Tory clearly made the promise partly to defuse some of rival Jim Flaherty's divisive appeal amongst the far right of the party. Flaherty had introduced truly offensive private school tax credits in 2001 when he was Finance Minister under Mike Harris. At that time, the Tories saw no problem handing out public funds to parents who sent their kids to Upper Canada College or to religious private schools, even though those schools weren't teaching the province's curriculum, participating in standardized testing and hiring accredited teachers.

Premier Dalton McGuinty wisely kept his promise in 2003 to cancel this bad policy.

Today, John Tory says his policy will provide public funding directly to the private religious schools instead of to parents. It also rules out sending public funds to non-religious private schools like Upper Canada College. Only those religious schools that promise to teach the province's curriculum, participate in standardized testing and hire accredited teachers will get funding.

No mention is made in Tory's policy whether religious schools will be required to hire teachers of different faiths, like Catholic boards must. Tory also doesn't mention if these private religious schools will have to adhere to Ontario's human rights laws and anti-hate laws. It's entirely possible that that an extremist Muslim school where students learn that homosexuals or Jews are going to hell or that women are inferior to men could get public funding under John Tory's scheme. They'd only have to ensure their students were also taught basic mathematics, wrote standardized tests and that their teachers were properly accredited.

The whole thing will cost at least $400 million per year when fully implemented if all private religious schools come online, Tory says. That assumes private school enrollment levels don't jump as a result of public funding. It remains to be seen how many religious schools will accept Tory's conditions for public funding. Most, I'm sure, will lobby John Tory very hard to ease some of those conditions.

Through this policy, Tory reportedly wants to ensure that Ontario's schools reflect the province's diversity in the 21st century.

I wrote about this subject last week in this post in which I described my experience going through the publicly-funded Catholic school system. Essentially I found my Catholic high school educational experience to be almost indistinguishable from those in the public system. The only significant difference was that I was denied access to students of other faiths and backgrounds during my formative years. The whole thing left me quite sheltered from Ontario's diversity. It was only after I left the segregated Catholic system and went to a secular university did I gain access to other types of people for the first time.

I completely agree with the comments published today by Liberal Education Minister Kathleen Wynne on Tory's policy: "The end result of this poorly thought out policy is gutting the publicly funded education system in favour of private religious schools...Our publicly funded schools bring together all walks of life. This kind of politics of division is what the Conservatives trade in."

Tory can call upon his old friend Bill Davis all he wants to make this appear more "moderate" and "reasonable". The truth is - Tory's policy will lead to the permanent balkanization of Ontario's public education system. It truly stinks.


mezba said...

Your quick example of picking out a Muslim school example where it is taught homosexuals or Jews deserve to be murdered or that women are inferior to men alarms me to say the least, and incorrect, as I don't know of any Islamic school in Canada that does teach those things.

Yes it IS taught that homosexuality is a sin, and Jews are unbelievers and will go to hell if they do not convert to Islam (but that is the viewpoint of all religions where everyone else is damned).

You also did not examine the issue that we already fund faith based schooling (i.e. Catholics) and it is discriminatory to deny funding to one and fund another from the same public purse.

Matt said...

As a homosexual, I don't want my public tax dollars going to schools that openly teach that I am a sinner. When you teach someone is a sinner, you tacitly give your students the right to take action against those sinners. When you fund that education through public dollars, the state is giving approval to this terrible message against some of its equal citizens.

All religions do not damn non-believers to hell. Only extremist religions seem to do that. And that is why all extremist/fundamentalist religions are terrible and poisonous, in my opinion.

As I said in my previous post, I never heard a Catholic teacher once say "homosexuality is a sin". The Catholic system is so neutered by public funding that it's indistinguishable from the public system.

Do private religious schools plan to make themselves pretty much secular in order to get funding?

mezba said...

Matt, if you don't know that Catholics teach homosexuality is a sin then you don't know Catholic teachings - the Pope is one of the biggest opponents of same sex marriage and you only need to read Michael Coren of the Sun to validate my viewpoint.

As a homosexual, I don't want my public tax dollars going to schools that openly teach that I am a sinner.

That is of course your opinion, but public schools do that nowadays in world religions. I learned that Catholicism considers so-and-so cousin relations to be incest and sinful, whereas in my culture that was fine.

When you teach someone is a sinner, you tacitly give your students the right to take action against those sinners.

Complete bogus. Thou shalt not commit adultery, we all learned while growing up, yet I do not feel the need to take a hammer and hit anyone snogging his unmarried girlfriend on the street.

All religions do not damn non-believers to hell. Only extremist religions seem to do that.

Under this definition Islam, Christianity and Judaism would all be extremist religions. All these religions teach you have to join and believe what they believe in order for eternal salvation. I see nothing wrong with that. Freedom of religion.

Matt said...

Mezda, my point was there's little difference b/n the amount of homophobia on display in Catholic high schools vs. public high schools, in my experience.

Most Catholics don't believe much of what the Pope preaches, don't you know that? Michael Coren does not represent most Catholics' viewpoints.

When it comes to saying someone is sinful, I guess I was speaking from the homosexual experience, where it's not been uncommon for teenage boys misguided by their bigotries and with the apparent approval of their church to go and attack gay men. Are you denying that religious homophobia plays a role in inspiring gay bashing?

I am most certainly describing fundamentalist Christianity, Judaism and Islam as extreme religions and poisonous, yes. Only moderate/reasonable expressions of faith which take into account all humanity, not just those of man-made, Earthly faiths are valid, in my viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

As a heterosexual couple in the babyboomer years that never had kids - I don't mind paying the portion of taxes in my property taxes to help educate our young people.

I resent having to pay taxes for someone's religious beliefs which include that homosexuality is a sin. These kids have family and their churches/synagogues/temples/mosques, etc. to learn and practise their religions.

I can't imagine how much extra this would cost.

John Tory is doing this for the ethnic vote obviously.

What about atheist taxpayers - should they be forced to pay for someone else's religious beliefs.

DPW said...

There is a sad irony in Tory's choice of Bill Davis to implement religious schools funding.

In his first campaign as premier (1971) one of the hottest issues was the extension of funding for separate schools to include grade 13. Davis and the PCs vehemently opposed the Liberal promise to extend funding. The PCs and Davis, of course, won and extended their long run in office.

Now Davis would seem to be on-board for more religious schools while the Liberals are opposed. As the province turns.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Book "Infidel" in which she tells us that the Dutch govt allowed faith-based schools and found that most of the younger generation have great difficulty in inter-acting with their fellow citizens and that most of them were racists. Canada should learn from their mistakes. As the Prime Minister said "We inherited the Catholic School System and we should keep it that way". It would be in our best interest to increse school funding to better help the already established public and Catholic school boards to function better and help our youth grow.