What Americans can learn from the Canadian school system

By: 

The recent United States Supreme Court decision regarding religious schools brings to mind a basic difference in philosophy between this country and Canada. The Canadian view makes good sense. The American approach does not.

First, set the stage. While it is a parliamentary democracy — a robust and free democracy — in Canada a majority in parliament chooses the head of government. Americans have a slightly different system, in which American voters elect the super-citizens, called the electors, who actually put the executive, or the president, in office.

Canada also is committed firmly to the separation of church and state.

This having been said, Canada proceeds to the question of educating its young with these two basic principles. Basically, fundamentally and essentially parents have the obligation to educate their children in the manner that the parents see as best. With this responsibility comes the rights of parents to form decisions, and to act upon them, regarding the education of their own children.

Next, the general society, acting through, and with, the resources of government — such as funds accumulated from taxes — has the solemn obligation to assist parents in their task of education. Of course, some problems can intervene. If a school’s curriculum is so poor that children are taught that two plus two equal seven, the government can set standards to protect the children from being taught error.

Religion, however, is out of bounds. Parents have the right to educate their own, and not even parliament can tell a parent that his or her religion is out of bounds in schooling. Parents, being citizens, have the right to believe as they prefer, and they have the right to pass their beliefs onto the children, in the thought that their beliefs best will guide their children in their lives.

Such is the parents’ solemn and obvious right, obvious if you follow the Canadian way of thinking.

In this country, our government long has said that parents are responsible for children, and the public authority is required to assist by providing public schools, but parents lose the right, or it is curtailed, not by them voluntarily, but by the intrusion of government when religion enters the picture.

Thus, if parents choose to make religion a part of their child’s upbringing, the American system says they must go it alone. If the parents create schools in which their own beliefs are stressed, then the government not only leaves the scene but obliquely often cripples the religious school by denying it any support.

Canadian thought would call this an outrageous affront to the rights of parents. No one says that every aspect of Canadian schooling is perfect, but it is much more in keeping with the goal of recognizing the rights of parents, as citizens, in this regard at least.

 

The judgments this summer by the Supreme Court expressly regarding non-public, denominational education are in the right direction, although many a long day probably will pass before public aid to religious schools will be seen in this country, or before a majority of Americans will see such need as absolutely appropriate and indeed required by our Constitution and fundamental political philosophy.

Public schools have a long history in the United States, but they did not exactly come over on the Mayflower. When they truly bloomed, they met resistance. Some critics today would call them “socialism.” Parents have the obligation to educate their own, but they have no responsibility to provide schooling for anyone else’s child.

As a priest, I have no children, but I willingly pay taxes that support public schools. Why? A well-educated population is good for all, and all have the obligation to assist in educating the next generation.

This is the primary goal that should apply. Pursuing it, as is the case in Canada, without penalizing parents who think that religion is vital in education, hopefully, one day will guide American policy.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Opening the Word: The inclusive kingdom

Friday, September 18, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley How seriously do you take Jesus’ final words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Go, therefore, and make disciples... Read More

Fasting for justice an invitation to address many types of social sin

Wednesday, September 16, 2020
By: Dennis Sadowski CLEVELAND (CNS) — Bishop Shelton J. Fabre’s recent call to fast in response to racism on the feast of St. Peter... Read More

A little help from our friends: Building up your domestic church

Monday, September 14, 2020
By: Dr. Greg Popcak Every day, in the CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission) Facebook discussion group, Catholic families from around the world are... Read More

Opening the Word: The Disease of revenge

Friday, September 11, 2020
By:  Timothy P. O'Malley When our society speaks about punishment, we often mean inflicting revenge upon another person. If someone sideswipes... Read More

Profit over safety, especially in pandemic, ‘unjust,’ says Labor Day statement

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
By: Mark Pattison WASHINGTON (CNS) — Given the “somber” realities imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, for companies to put... Read More

A willingness to sacrifice everything

Monday, September 7, 2020
By:  Msgr. Owen F. Campion If we think that we have it bad, standing 6 feet apart and wearing masks to offset the coronavirus, we might... Read More

Opening the Word: For the sake of charity

Friday, September 4, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley One of the obvious effects of the Fall is the bitterness I experience in my heart when corrected by my spouse, my friend or... Read More

God has not abandoned us, even in this never-ending storm

Wednesday, September 2, 2020
By: Scott Warden Maybe it’s the result of having to work under constant, strict deadlines for the past two decades, but most who know me... Read More

With no blueprint for charity, be creative in living the Gospel

Monday, August 31, 2020
By: Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board At the beginning of May, on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Pope Francis offered this prayer at Mass:... Read More

Opening the Word: Letting go of control

Friday, August 28, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley It is natural for us to want to be in control. We are, after all, precarious creatures. We are born into a world naked, we... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!