By Patricia Pearson, Toronto Star, December 5, 2010
In the month of December, future anthropologists will note, the city of Toronto famously gathered its children together to ritually observe salted snow and the appearance of small oranges from South America.
Really, how far have we drifted from the point of multiculturalism in one of the most multicultural cities in the world? Our children may not be racist, but I'll tell you what they are becoming: religiously illiterate, because they're not allowed to acknowledge there's any point, whatsoever, to the holiday traditions of the citizenry.
We have been so caught up in our fear of imposing a dominant religion on one another over the past 20 or 30 years that we have managed to throw the entire subject of human spirituality overboard. That's quite a feat.
And, it could legitimately be argued that this is a Canadian feat, of monumental proportions. Deference to all has come to mean respect for none. It is not that we have to be ashamed of a faith tradition; it is, rather, that the public schools are not to be used as vehicles for the prosletyzing of any faith.
And surely, an assembly that includes faith traditions, presented sequentially, respectfully, and without bias would go far toward helping the children realize that different faith traditions really do matter to people everywhere.
I once recall teaching a summer school Grade Eleven English class in Don Mills Collegiate, in which there were 15 different 'native' (or first) languages, with students from 22 different countries, including one lone Caucasian born in Toronto. On one particular day, an American hostage was released in Iran, and the story covered the front page of one of the Toronto dailies. Since I was the real learner in this situation, having never taught such a diverse group of students in thirty years, I opened the conversation with the front page topic. From the Islamic students were heard a point of view; from the Greek students another; from the Jewish students a third; at the "break" the lone student born in Toronto of "Canadian" English parents, came to the desk with his eyes wide in amazement. " I never realized that all of this stuff means so many different things to different people from different places." He had remained silent throughout the conversation.
If my daughter were enrolled in a Toronto public school, I would expect her to be both shown and offered the opportunity to participate in dramatic presentations appropriate to her level of learning, to her age and from a variety of faith cultures. And I would also expect that that dramatic presentation would include readings from the poetry and the short stories from various cultural and historical backgrounds.
And I would also expect that that tradition would continue for all twelve years during which she was a student.
Failing this opportunity would be and is to sanitize the student's experiences, in order merely to protect the school system. And the education system has a doctoral degree in sanitizing both learning and human experience in order to fit politically correct parameters. And the public should be challenging the sanitizing process, everywhere, and always.
For example, when the school system introduces courses under the banner, "Applied Learning" the real target is male students, but because they do not want to "target one group of learners by gender" they cover their intentions with an anonymous marketing "brand". Here is another of the politically correct manoeuvres by which students are kept innocent of the system's motives, intentions and thinking process.
Little wonder there is considerable detachment by the public from the educational process.
Little wonder Patricia Pearson is quite amazed, and perhaps even appalled, at the removal of all faith tradition expressions from the students' experience in the public school system, and the removal of all notions of spirituality from the school experience.
If that is the default position of the public system, then the Roman Catholic system has free access to any parent wishing to enrol his/her child in a system which, at least, pays attention to the notion of a faith tradition. Seems like a complete withdrawal of responsibility in the public system, and a sell-out to the Christian tradition as operated by the Roman Catholics, who are under no obligation to demonstrate the differences between their approach to faith questions and all other faith traditions, including the protestant Christian tradition.
And the public monies flow to both systems. Is anyone going to ask for some changes and soon?