Re: Brampton father fighting with Catholic school board should consider public school, Oct. 25, 2013
Rosie DiManno’s recent opinion on non-Catholics exercising their right to an exemption from religious studies in publicly funded Catholic schools was breathtaking in its ignorance, arrogance, and irony.
The Education Act states pretty clearly that anyone attending a Catholic secondary school who is qualified to attend a public secondary school – which is everyone including Catholics – can opt out of the religious programs. It is the law in this province – and a whole lot less objectionable than the law that awards one supremely favoured faith with a segregated sectarian school system denied to every other faith – but paid for by all.
Catholic schools do not have higher expectations with respect to academics or conduct. Those are pretty universal system wide. When a Catholic school does outrank a nearby public school on standardized testing, it is frequently because they have lower numbers of special needs students, English language learners, immigrant children, and children whose mother tongue is not English. Test results include such contextual data to allow real apples to apples comparisons. According to the 2001 Census (the last long form Census to have credibility), Catholic Ontarians also suffer lower unemployment and enjoy a higher level of educational attainment than Ontarians at large. Catholic schools typically have a whiter and more socio-economically advantaged population than their public counterparts and the usually slight differences in test results often reflect that.
It is supremely arrogant to suggest that a non-Catholic parent should move his children down the road to a truly public school if he wants them to have a non-sectarian education. A consequence of Ontario’s fractured school system is that hundreds of thousands of children are bused past their nearest publicly funded school every day to attend another one farther away. Many are bused to distant communities. All schools are open to Catholic children, so they need only suffer such inconveniences voluntarily. Non-Catholics, on the other hand, often have no choice. Where they do have a choice – at the high school level where “open access” is supposed to apply – having the right to withdraw from the overtly sectarian components of the program is a small consolation for having to attend a sectarian school in order to be educated in their own community.
It is ironic that a Catholic schools apologist like DiManno would speak of “entitlement, privilege and prerogative” when deriding a non-Catholic parent who only wishes to have his kids receive a good non-sectarian education near their home. There is no greater “entitlement, privilege and prerogative” in Ontario than that granted to Catholic Ontarians exclusively in the form a wasteful and discriminatory sectarian school system, but DiManno would instead demonize a man trying to mitigate the consequences of that privilege on his family. Missing the forest for the trees, she is. Our Charter of Rights effectively prevents the award of real privilege to anyone other than Ontario Catholics, whose publicly funded sectarian schools are exempt from the force and effect of its equality provisions.
What lessons does Ms. DiManno believe are taught by giving segregated school “rights” to the members of the Catholic faith exclusively? Love thy neighbour as thyself? No. It teaches otherwise good Catholic children that some animals are more equal and more entitled than others – and that “love thy neighbour” is a slogan to be used only when you are getting the short end of the stick. That is a lesson she might want to teach her children, but not one I want to teach mine.
president, OneSchoolSystem.org, Ottawa