by Marlon Davis
It appears the arguments to stop funding Catholic schools are getting weaker and weaker. While I am not surprised that there are those who want to end public funding of Catholic schools (there always will be), I was perplexed that our territorial Greens decided to make this a major platform addition for their coming campaign.
I have (or have had) great respect for the Green Party platform. They have always been a viable party to consider since I have lived here: strong candidates, a platform that I can generally get behind, and prudent fiscal policies with a special concern for environment. But I cannot get behind this new policy.
It is fair enough to suggest that Catholic schools should not be publicly funded. Anyone is entirely free to try and persuade others – that is what political life is all about: persuasion. But frankly, the Green Party’s arguments are hardly persuasive (see Kristina Calhoun in the May 25 edition of the News).
Let’s start with the first argument: the very existence of Catholic schools creates division and shrinks diversity. I would argue the exact opposite. The existence of religious schools, charter schools, or music schools (ie. Suzuki) ensures the true diversity of our nation. Children educated in different ways – with different focuses, lessons, and even values – ensures that we don’t end up with a society that all speaks and sounds the same way, which is what it sounds like the Green Party is advocating.
This obsession with shaping little Canadians who will all receive an identical education resembles Orwell’s 1984. In that book, the state’s obsession with identification and control works toward eliminating the existence of familial connection or small community identification.
Thankfully, our charter imagines and upholds a society where denominational and separate schools are preserved and multicultural heritage protected.
No. 2: “If we can’t fund them all, we shouldn’t be funding any.” Ah yes. Equality and fairness are so important that the outcome will be a totally homogenous society. Why have a French school then (incidentally my daughter will be entering the Francophone school in the fall and my oldest goes to a Catholic school)? Isn’t that a “bubble” as well? But it’s not politically savvy to question that, and the Greens are well aware. So back to the Catholics.
Let’s be reasonable. In Ontario, they have the tax base that clearly supports Catholic schools. In Yukon, I suspect there is similar support, even by those secular parents who, year after year, choose our Catholic schools deliberately for their children. If similar support exists for funding of other faith-based schools (supported by real enrolment), then why not? But I suspect the demand and public interest isn’t there at this time in the Yukon.
Ultimately, the many fine administrators and teachers we have in the Catholic school system in the Yukon have not created a “bubble,” but rather a distinct learning environment that reflects Catholic values, often with a special focus on social justice, faith-life and community.
No. 3: Catholic schools negatively affect climate change. Do I even need to address this argument?
Faith-based or not, parents will always want some choice, where possible and within reason, in where they send their kids to school. Why? Because education is an intensely personal and familial thing. Up until the last few hundred years, most education of society’s children and young adults was a familial affair and perhaps that sense still remains with parents.
Where our children spend up to six hours a day or more matters, and while most schools and teachers do incredible work, parents still want to find the best match for their children. For many, this choice remains the Catholic school.
Marlon Davis lives in Whitehorse.