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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sharing is the heathen way. Somehow I can't believe that stealing would be the Catholic way.

A friend who doesn’t live in my community asked a reasonable question: What’s so bad about giving up a school for two years?

Putting aside the logistical nightmare of emptying a school and displacing 500 students instead of 250, the truth is that many people doubt it would only be two years.

I don’t think people would be digging in their heels this way if not for the things that were said in the past. YCS’s overcrowding problems are not new, and their board made its first pitch to take over a YK1 school ages ago.

The YK1 board refused to give up a school, but offered to share space. YCS refused to share space. They even placed inserts in an issue of the local paper to explain their position and denounce the minister of education for not letting them take over a YK1 school. In fact, “denounce” might not be a strong enough word: Steve and I couldn’t believe that they had actually put these thoughts on paper, much less paid to put them in the newspaper. And that’s where the issue stalled until the fire, when the boards were forced to share space.

If these things hadn’t happened, we might see this as a temporary, unwelcome but ultimately acceptable solution to a bad situation. In context, we see this as a move to take over a school permanently, using a bad situation as the excuse.

It’s also worth noting that from what I’ve seen, the majority of YK1 parents don’t want two public school boards. There has been a lot of talk about the duplication of administration and the needless competition between the boards. I don’t know what YCS parents think of this idea, but I know that it is completely unacceptable to their board: they believe that they have a completely different mandate and could never agree to combine resources. At Wednesday’s meeting, a few parents suggested that one school board and administration could oversee both Catholic and non-Catholic schools, but I don’t know if this solution would be acceptable to anyone else.

This might be a crazy idea, but I really don’t mind if a bishop wants to bless my local school. Come on in, toss your holy water around and do whatever you need to do to make sharing acceptable to you. If you want to put crucifixes up in your classrooms, go ahead. I promise they won’t burst into flames when they touch our heathen walls. Put your religious books in the library. It’s totally OK with me.


Seriously Frivolous said...

From my experience with religious schools, you can tack up all the crucifixes you want, make the kids pray as much as you deem necessary, and perform your religious hooey till the cows come home... at the end of the day, the school is just as secular as any other and the education is exactly the same. It's just a label.


Cin said...

Sorry, but the Catholic board is right about that one thing -- that one board would mean that Catholicism would have to exit the schools.

I lived in a place where the Catholic schools were absorbed by the public board. Within 10 years, there were no more Catholic schools.

It has to do with two things, really: 1. sex ed (and I am one of those parents who believe that anything beyond human sexual anatomy ie. sexual values and morals should be taught by me, although I encourage the school to teach about the vulva and penis and clitoris in a healthy way, with no shame for the good bodies God gave the kids)and 2. the Eucharist. If a child cannot be taught in school that the Eucharist is Christ's actual Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, and if that fact of Catholic belief cannot be freely discussed, then the school is not Catholic.

And Megan, of course all the Yk1 parents don't see a problem with combining the boards! I never thought I'd say this to you, but please don't be naive. It's not their religious beliefs that would be suppressed in that arrangement. And Catholism would be suppressed -- look at the history in Canada and elsewhere. My goodness, just look at Newfoundland lately.

Catholic parents who care about their faith DON'T send their kids to Catholic schools because it's "quality education" (although it better be anyway.) They send their kids to Catholic school so that the faith at home is supplemented and enhanced in school, so they speak the name of Jesus freely in any class, and often so the Eucharist can be taught and discussed.

Now, are all the Catholic schools in Yellowknife fostering a truly Catholic environment? Uh, no. Are all Catholic school parents sending their kids to YCS for the faith? Uh, no.

Is it a Christian act to try to muscle another school board out of a school? Uh, NO!

The solution is one of the following, IMO: either a tuition-based Catholic board, or limiting enrollment in Catholic schools to baptised Catholic children. Kind of a no brainer.

Steve & Megan said...

Excellent. Debate is good. I agree with most of the things Cindy has said, although we disagree on some of the details when you really start mucking around with what this all means.

Does anyone else want to weigh in? Any famous people, for example? :)

Torq said...

I am certainly not famous, nor am I in any way impacted by these events, I'm not even really following them! However, the idea that having a Christian school merge with a secular school with the assumption that it wouldn't seriously damage the mission of one or the other is unfortunately more than a little off base.

I am afraid that the issue runs a bit deeper than just sex ed. It would really impact everything. From my experiences in the US public school system, and the Canadian system may be different (I can't really remember), it is pretty clear that when a school is public they want to take religion, or Christianity at least, completely out of the picture. The Blueberry Princess has to carefully select her music lessons on wheather or not their is an obvious Christian message or not. The difficulty caused by this is that obviously a very great deal of music was written expressly for the church. If I were to teach philosophy in a public school I certainly could not make the statements that I have about ultimate causes (even though they are philosophically sound) because if I did I would be immediately fired.

On so many issues, many more than you would think at first, either one or the other would have to be officially condoned. Really every school has a propagandist mission because they allow or disallow the presentation of certain information.

Steve & Megan said...

I think part of the problem is that the schools were never all that Catholic until the last year or so. I mentioned this briefly in the very first post about this issue, but I haven't gone into it since then.

It's common to hear parents say things like "No, it's not really a Catholic school. My kids go there because the programming is excellent. We're not Catholic."

Now, parents seem unsure about how to deal with this new direction. Their kids are in a CATHOLIC school??? That's not what they wanted!

Then, of course, you have the parents who are thrilled about the new direction, because the schools weren't Catholic enough for their liking before. I will call them a "sizable minority" -- they are certainly not the majority, but there are enough of them that their wishes shouldn't be immediately discounted as the fringe.

This opinion will not be popular with the sizable minority, but I think that if they want a religious school, they need to fund it themselves and really make it a religious school. Do whatever you want in your private school. Let the bishop run it, restrict membership in any way you want and make your own rules about who can set the guiding principles.

This would cut their enrolment significantly. Everyone in the school would be there because of the religious content instead of being there for French immersion (or one of their other excellent programs) and tolerating the religious content.

Of course, this would mean that they would have more space than they needed, and they would gladly give YK1 one of their extra schools.


Anonymous said...

Meg, I have to agree. Catholic schools should be Catholic in content. It would certainly send parents uninterested in true Catholic education back to public schools.

BTW, Yk1 runs some fine scools. Why would anyone choose overcrowded St. Joe's over Sissons is beyond me.


Anonymous said...

I have 2 non-catholic students over at St. Joe's and you couldn't pay me enough to send them to YK#1. I have first hand experience with that board and personally, I wouldn't trust them to run a pay toilet, let alone be involved in governing the education of my kids.