Letter: Dissatisfied parents respond to satisfied parents

Editor’s note: The following letter to the editor is in response to Satisfied parents respond to Morinville school issue. The writer has chosen to respond point by point to the letter to the editor of yesterday. Original letter portions are blocked for clarity.

Dear Editor:

Let’s break this down:

Emotion aside, the facts need to be paramount to this discussion. Many people have made a conscious decision to choose Morinville and Legal as their home.

Not expecting the entire public school division to run under a Catholic mandate.

In order to accommodate such a diverse group of people, our Public/Catholic system clearly “Welcomes students of all faiths and traditions.”

So long as you acknowledge permeation of Catholic doctrine throughout the instructional day.

This does indeed make our system unique.

Because it breaks the law.

Although religion classes are offered and the majority of families chose to participate in them (60-70%),

Actually, [GSACRD Superintendent] Keohane stated 60% were in religion class at Vanier elementary, 48% at Notre Dame elementary, 47% at Primeau middle school and 13% at Morinville high school (even though 29% of high school students are Catholic) families can also choose a Health option instead which is still permeated with Christ centered learning – Veggie tales.

Many students participating in the religion classes are not identified as Catholic. What permeates the school day is children developing a sense of personal responsibility and respect for one another.

What permeates the day is and I quote from the 2010 notice to parents of religious permeation and the 2011-12 Morinville public school registration form: “All of the schools in the Morinville and Legal Wards are Catholic Public Schools. As such, Catholic theology, philosophy, practices and beliefs, the principles of the Gospel and teachings of the Catholic Church, are made accessible to students, including in the curriculum of every subject taught, both in and outside of formal religion classes, celebrations and exercises. Every course of study and educational program, all instructional materials, instruction and exercises will at all times include subject matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion.”

Tolerance and acceptance of others is also evident in the daily instruction of the children as taught by both CATHOLIC and NON-CATHOLIC staff.

It is not tolerant and accepting to deny parents and students exclusion from a religious education when they request it in writing and in light of the School Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is illegal, intolerant and exclusionary – get with the program or get out is the message delivered.

Academic achievement and self assessment are promoted and the children are encouraged to “let their precious light shine.”

The schools teach that students should live through Christ and this is THE belief system.

Survey results from our schools are deservedly and consistently very high and award winning.

Non-faith based schools are also capable of producing very high and award winning results.

Our schools follow the Alberta Curriculum

Catholic version

AND we are fortunate to have our childrens’ education enhanced with teachings of “Human”

“supposedly exclusively Roman Catholic”

values such as mutual respect, moral integrity, honesty, charity, responsibility, friendship, family and community

and intolerance, avoidance, dismissal, superiority, arrogance, intransigence, narrow-mindedness, segregation, bullying, intimidation.

As for the ACSTA’s recommendation for changes to the School Act, there is a clause that GSACRD recognizes the unique position of the Morinville and Legal schools and their desire to serve all families.

This clause is NOT in the ACSTA submission, a letter was sent to the Minister of Education after Thomas Kirsop called out GSACRD for supporting the ACSTA submission. The board told the minister they have policies in place to ensure non-Catholics would still be able to join school council and they would continue a faith-based Health option class instead of requiring attendance in Religion class. Considering that the board has formally denied parents exclusion from religious permeation which they are required, by law, to do, I do not accept that a “clause” or policy in place for the ACSTA submission will continue after the School Act is changed to state a public board that claims a Catholic mandate may exclusively represent only families who acknowledge a Catholic education as they define it. GSACRD made no mention in their letter addressing Kirsop’s concerns in the ACSTA submission of their continued agreement with getting rid of section 50-2 of the School Act which allows parents to request exclusion from religious instruction. They made no mention of the ACSTA’s request to amend the Alberta Human Rights Act so parents could not file a complaint if the board refuses to allow exclusion from religious instruction.

A major consideration that has yet to be discussed is the cost of providing an Alternative school (K-12).

Ah yes, lets make this about money instead of human rights or Canadian law. I do remember a quote from David Keohane upon creating a Catholic separate board in Stettler: Stettler wins Catholic schooling Western Catholic Reporter.

Whenever you start a new Catholic school in the community, you get some people feeling that you are dividing the educational community by establishing two school (systems) and splitting up resources,” said Keohane.

“We believe that by exercising our right to a Catholic education we are providing choice and choice is a good thing.”

Keohane also believes the project is actually an economic opportunity for Stettler in that “we will encourage more parents to relocate (to Stettler) because they know there is a Catholic school there.”

Has consideration been given to where funding for this will be coming from?

How about from the public school board that is elected to represent all its electorate and provide an education inclusive to all and ensuring their rights are upheld?

Will it be coming out of our childrens’ classrooms?

As opposed to those other children who do not choose a Catholic education?

What impact will this have in our childrens’ classrooms? Who will be giving up their school and moving their children to another so as to accomodate alternative education?

Imagine!!! accommodating a secular public education – what a crazy notion in 2011!

We know that our school division will experience a 1.2 million dollar shortfall in education funding for the coming year. What programs will need to be eliminated to do so? At this time, we should be focusing our energy on improving the programs and maintaining our high quality of educational programming.

Because creating a secular education program and upholding Canadian law would not be “improving” our educational programming at Morinville schools?

It is also a matter of fact that hundreds of students have received education through this current model and they have gone on to realize personal, academic and professional success.

Just as they would have from a public secular education.

They were in no way ‘harmed’ by exposure to faith-based education.

Our children are coming home declaring they are Catholic, they are wondering if they are bad people for not attending religion class, they believe the Catholic belief system is THE belief system – even though parents have given written request for their children to not receive a religious education.

Lastly, as parents, educators, and community members, we are to set an example for all concerned as to how to relate to one another, to respectfully discuss issues, and not to exaggerate, bully, intimidate or threaten others to make our point of view heard.

The example set by the GSACRD board and administration has been ignore, dismiss, grudgingly listen and then emphatically deny. They refuse to communicate publically at a forum or with the community at large. We have been told to move, suck it up, learn tolerance through discrimination, what’s wrong with us for not wanting the Catholic God as the guiding belief in Morinville public schools, we should have known public education in Morinville meant Catholic education, Catholics will not be something we are not at a publically-funded public school system – you must be something you are not.

We applaud the town for following their municipal governance guidelines and not getting involved in a “School Board” and “Education Act” issue.

The town’s municipal governance guidelines expect municipal elected officials to “respectfully discuss issues (as the authors put it)” that are of concern to their electorate. Three councillors and the mayor have refused to do so. Just as the GSACRD board of trustees has refused to do so.

It is our position that our communities should work within the parameters of the “Provincial” guidelines for education when discussing this matter.

Yes, let’s refer to the provincial parameters – School Act section 3, 50-2, Alberta Human Rights Act section 4, 11.1. How about the national parameters – The Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 2

Donna Hunter
Morinville, Alberta

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

comments

About admin 6852 Articles
The Morinville News is an online daily and bi-weekly print publication serving Morinville and surrounding area. Our print publication is distributed on the first, third and fifth Wednesday. You can also follow us online on Twitter @MorinvilleNews and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MorinvilleNews

12 Comments

  1. Thorough analysis. It’s unfortunate that implementing change to accommodate people always boils down to money. GSACRD has a deficit, Sturgeon says they would only offer a program if there were enough students to warrant a program, the Minister encourages a change as long as the numbers are viable.

    Donna, I am a Catholic and I support Catholic education but I also understand your point of view. I would be very interested in knowing how you literally see this change happening logistically? What exactly do you want to see happen beyond “allowing for a secular education in Morinville”. Do you want to see GSACRD designate a secular school? Do you want to see two separate streams running through all schools with an optional religion program at MCHS?

    Where are you registering your kids for September?

  2. Wow Donna! It’s almost as if you researched the facts about this subject instead of just relying on nostalgia and fear to make your argument. Well said.

  3. I find this rhetoric quite interesting – on one side you have a letter from one parent asking if there is anything wrong with exposure to faith-based education…and another from a parent who clearly wishes their kids to not be raised in any kind of faith based education.

    My question to you both is which one of you is being narrow minded?

    Ms. Hunter & Mr. Kirsop – What if you took your kids out of their current faith-based education and put them into public school only to have them decide that they wanted to go back to the catholic school? Would you “tolerate” that or is the next step to home school them with your own values?

  4. When it’s only one faith that the kids are exposed to every single school day…the answer is pretty clear.

    Do you have the right to your religious beliefs? Absolutely. Do you have the right to teach your children those religious beliefs? Yes. Do you have the right to constantly expose your religious beliefs onto my children? Well, that is what my public school is doing to my kids.

  5. @ Hmmm

    You forgot the “In a public school part”, you forgot the “against my express written directive” part, and you forgot the “in violation of legislation and the human rights act” part.

    We do teach our children about religion in the home infact my wife specifically bought a childrens book about many different religions to help our children understand that there is more than just the path the education system in Morinville. When she read it to them, was when my 5 year old, with all the conviction of a five year old, told her mother that “all those other people are wrong” and that the belief system she learned in kindergarten at a public school was “right”.

    My kids are have been registered with Sturgeon in Namao for next year. My five year old cried (but got past it when she saw the music room). However I am responsible as a parent to see that my child is prepared to fit in with a diverse population as an adult, and given what she has taken away from the Morinville Public Schools I do not feel that goal is being attained.

    I have the views of my parents. I will educate my children to a variety of choices as they grow. When they are old enough to objectively approach the subject matter, understand the responsibilities and obligations, and should they decide a particular path to follow, I will respect their choice as my parents respected mine and the choice of my sister, who incidentaly is Roman Catholic.

    However I have said before, so long as “My” (by geographical location and division boundaries) public schools refuse to recognize the rights of ALL the public, well then you and I are going to continue to have these conversations.

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

  6. The reality is that a secular education is not a neutral education. There is no such thing. The Catholic world view can only be removed by replacing it with another.

    I certainly hope that those who oppose a Catholic environment in schools are not simply doing so on the basis of principle alone, but because the strongly disagree with the values upheld by the Catholic church. Of course, this requires that they are well educated as to what these values actually are.

    I am not Catholic. And though I do not completely agree with all the values of the Catholic Church, I believe that these values are overall beneficial for the development of our community’s young people. Yet, it seems to me that the minimal presence of the Catholic world view has little if any effect on the students.

    I have attended school in Morinville and I can guarantee that the “pressure to be Catholic” that some parents are concerned about, if it exists, is nothing compared to the peer-pressure students experience. The fact is that the time your child spends at school will shape them, and you will probably disagree with many of the things that influence your child and you will never be able to control most of it. If you actually think that the catholic environment is poisonous then do what everyone who loves their kids and distrusts public schools does–homeschool your kids. But I don’t blame you for trying to make schools the way you think they should be.

    If your children are becoming little catholics behind your back it’s because the schools are more involved in their spiritual lives then you are. If I were a parent, I would certainly be teaching my kids to challenge what they were taught at school if I knew it wasn’t true. Narrow exposure is not an excuse.

  7. I am not Catholic and when I moved to Morinville and registered my son for school I was not surprised by the Catholic Schools in town because I did my research BEFORE I moved to town! I chose the town based on what I was comfortable with and I do not expect the Town to change based on my religious beliefs, why did others not do the same research?

  8. So, one should always research to make sure that public schools operate as public schools, like they do everywhere else in Canada. Wow…what’s the point of establishing separate schools if faith is permeated in public schools?

    One would think that public schools would operate accordingly, to the law…

  9. We moved here 3 years ago and at the time our son was 10 months old. Of course we checked all important information out on the Morinville website but really because he was not school aged we did not look much further into the school system. You trust that in a province like Alberta you will receive all the options that you are entitled.
    Don’t know about the rest of you but I have been sepnding the last 3 years teaching my children about choices. Really hard to be a good role model when the choice of which school to send your child to does not exist. Considering we are just starting out with many tough choices and decisions throughout our children’s lives, my heart kinda sinks…….Should be worrying more about not breaking down in the parking lot first day of Kindergarten.

  10. I have to chuckle, then grimace, when I see people write “you should have done your research” about schools before moving to Morinville. If you have a child with special needs, then I agree totally that parents need to do their homework. However, you shouldn’t have to do research to find out if your public school is truly “public.” Ask any of your military families (about 1/3 of the town’s population) that have lived outside the province of Alberta – when you send your children to a public school in the rest of Canada, you won’t see a crucifix or Virgin Mary at the door unless you enrol them in a separate Catholic or private school.

    As a non-Catholic (not anti-Catholic), I take offence at the Superintendent’s comments that it is the (Catholic) faith that makes Morinville schools stronger and achieve higher results. Many public schools across the country achieve equal or higher results without faith. I think that is a myopic, slanted view.

    I didn’t know about the incident in Stettler, but isn’t it amazing how bringing in a Catholic school there will “enrich the community and make people want to live there.” But when the metaphorical shoe is on the other foot, suddenly education quality would suffer and needlessly split tax dollars by establishing a non-faith based “public” school. Wow. That is about as two-faced as you can get.

    Reading the WCR article, Donna Gamache hit the nail on the head, “I think a Catholic school is very important especially for small children who are being formed in their faith.” The last part, “being formed in their faith” is critical. Both religions and dictatorships throughout history have long recognized the tabula rasa, or blank slate, that children’s minds are and have sought (and fought) to win those young minds over to their cause at as young an age as possible. That is one of the many reasons why we have public, non-faith based schools.

    The faith-based curriculum, the crucifixes and Virgin Mary should all be removed from the foyer and put in a room devoted to optional religious studies while the rest of the school gets on with a non-denominational, non-faith based curriculum. Either that, or the Catholic school board should set up their own separate schools. It works in the rest of Canada, now including Stettler, so why not in Morinville? What if the Catholic schools are struck down and have to move to make way for public, I bet bussing is no longer an acceptable option. St Albert isn’t that far away… The choice is supposed to be public or go your own way to a separate school. Morinville’s schools are Catholic not public. It is time to put the name “public” back into the names and curriculums of Morinville’s schools. Keeping fighting Donna, you are doing the right thing.

  11. If you have a child with special needs, then I agree totally that parents need to do their homework. However, you shouldn’t have to do research to find out if your public school is truly “public.” Ask any of your military families that have lived outside Alberta – you won’t see a crucifix or Virgin Mary at the school door unless you enrol them in a separate Catholic or private school.

    As a non-Catholic, I take offence at the Superintendent’s comments that it is the (Catholic) faith that makes Morinville schools stronger and achieve higher results. Many public schools across the country achieve equal or higher results without faith. I think that is a myopic, slanted view.

    I didn’t know about the incident in Stettler, but isn’t it amazing how bringing in a Catholic school there will “enrich the community and make people want to live there.” But when the metaphorical shoe is on the other foot, suddenly education quality would suffer and needlessly split tax dollars by establishing a non-faith based “public” school. Wow.

    Reading the WCR article, Donna Gamache hit the nail on the head, “I think a Catholic school is very important especially for small children who are being formed in their faith.” Both religions and dictatorships throughout history have long recognized the tabula rasa, or blank slate, that children’s minds are and have sought (and fought) to win those young minds over to their cause as early as possible. That is one of the many reasons why we have public, non-faith based schools.

    The faith-based curriculum, the crucifixes and Virgin Mary should all be removed from the foyer and put in a room devoted to optional religious studies while the rest of the school gets on with a non-faith based curriculum. Maybe the Catholic school board should set up their own separate schools. If it works in Stettler, why not Morinville? What if the Catholic schools are struck down and have to move to make way for public, I bet bussing is no longer an acceptable option. Morinville’s schools are Catholic not public. It is time to put “public” back into the names and curriculums of Morinville’s schools. Keeping fighting Donna, you are doing the right thing.

Leave a Reply