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No more religion in Quebec schools

Since the elimination of denominational schoolboards in Quebec in 1997 in favour of linguistic ones, Roman Catholic and Protestant instruction in public schools has been on the decline. Already, such instruction was optional; students not participating could take a Moral Education class instead. This was seen as a fair compromise on a sensitive issue, though it created scheduling headaches for the schools.

Now, it’s been announced that it will be phased out entirely by 2008.

In sharp contrast to the controversy stirred back in 1997, most people in Quebec seem to be backing this new plan, with polls showing about 75% in favour of the elimination of instruction and replacement of it with a “culturally inclusive” course about religion in general. Quebec is a fairly secular society these days, and it seems most people are inclined to accept that education belongs in the classroom and religious instruction belongs in the home.

As it happens, I agree. Ironically perhaps, since I’m a product of religious school myself.

Many Americans are surprised to know that religious instruction still exists in public schools here. It’s admittedly not been a huge issue since most of Quebec outside Montreal is overwhelmingly Catholic by denomination, even if their level of adherence to the religion varies. The Protestant schoolboards were mostly English and that was where most of the Jewish kids went if they weren’t attending private Jewish schools. By the time my generation attended, they were fairly secular and the religious aspect was mostly nominal.

But the system still created awkward situations. And in some cases even the new linguistic system as it stands can ostracize kids if they’re the only ones opting out of religion classes. That’s not cool. Montreal is a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic city, and even if this diversity isn’t reflected province-wide, schools that offer only Christian instruction are really limiting when we consider how many religions coexist among the student populations.

Religion doesn’t really have a place in public schools, in my opinion. But parents should still have the option to send their kids to (heavily subsidized) private schools if they feel religious instruction is important. That’s what a large portion of the Jewish community does. I think we’ll be seeing more private Christian schools cropping up after 2008, to fill a need that the phasing out of such education in the public system will create. And that’s okay too.

It’ll be interesting to see whether this gets more press in the coming days, or how people will react.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • John Palubiski 05.05.05, 4:53 PM

    Ok, we,re really gonna chew the rag here!

    Why does this province have the continent’s highest suicide rate among teens and young people?

    Suicide, as Emile Durkheim so clearly and conclusively demonstrated, is a symptom of moral anomie. Québec’s youth no longer have a Catholic moral framework.

    Therefore, reason numéro uno for keeping religios instruction in the public school systeme

    The rampant moral anomie is driving people to embrace cult figures and authoritarian world views.

    Some 8,000 (mostly young) Québecers have embraced Wahabbi Islam. Those who havn’t gone that route are usually found kissing Raelian butt!

    Both groups aren’t just screwed; they’re downright dangerous!

    Reason numéro duo for keeping religious instruction in schools.

    Hmmm….it’s lunch-time! Like Arnie says; “I’ll be back”

  • Ikram 05.05.05, 11:15 PM

    Sari wrote:

    But parents should still have the option to send their kids to (heavily subsidized) private schools if they feel religious instruction is important

    Why? Or, why heavily subsidized? I’d argue that subsidization is a good way for the gvt to control the curriculum of private treligious schools and force integration. But I’m pretty sure that you don’t support subsidizing religious schools on these grounds.

    Right now, I believe only Jewish schools and greek schools get taxpayer money — is that right? I’m pretty sure Muslim schools don’t. Why should any sectarian segregated schools get government funds?

    And politically speaking, won’t the PQ pull the plug on subsidized private schools next they they get in power?

  • DaninVan 05.06.05, 12:24 AM

    Is this like, deja vu, or what? Didn’t we have this conversation only a short while ago? Sari, could you just repost the previous discussion and we can all give our thanks for not having to retype everything…
    Also, I need to be reminded which side of the argument I was on. (maybe I should take the other side this time)

  • segacs 05.06.05, 1:56 AM

    I think you’re referring to this plan which was pulled by the spineless Charest government thanks to massive public opposition.

    The subsidization that currently exists for private schools is for the secular portion of their programs. Any religious education – of any religion – could still be private, but the schools themselves should get funding for their secular programs.

  • Ikram 05.06.05, 5:23 PM

    Yes — I remember that part. But even subsidizing the secular portion of a segregated sectarian school still leaves you with a segregated sectarian society.

    Why should Jewish kids and Muslim kids go to separate schools, learn separate value systems and come out at 18 hating each other? That’s a recipe for turning Montreal into Beiru, circa 1970.

    If parents want their children to get moral education in school, why not allow it to take place ad one class (or one hour a day) in an integrated, non-sectarian school.

    As far as I can tell, the current segregated sectarian system has done nothing good for ethnic harmony in Montreal.

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