John Tory's platform of funding religious schools is just about the most harmful thing our society could do to itself.
Superficially that would be "fair", but don't turn your brain off just yet, for there are more significant consequences that, with a little thought, are fairly obvious.
The public school has been essential in evolving our relatively nonviolent and tolerant liberal democracy. Failing to realize this is equally depressing and shocking.
I am the product of nine years of primary Catholic education, and I can honestly say that experience was almost irrelevant to establishing my personality and values.
For some reason, even as a child I decided that actions are more important than beliefs, images, and words. I noticed that even though my father and step-grandfather did not go to church, they were the most considerate and moral people I knew. Naturally, I tried to imitate these heathens.
My children now attend a public school, and I think it is one of the best schools in Hamilton; public, private, or faith-based. Not because of the results of standardized test scores (which are mediocre at best, and who really cares?), but because of the quality of people involved: the teachers, other students, and concerned parents come together to make it an excellent, tolerant learning environment.
Modern public schools are very open to and tolerant of minorities. Sadly, this is a fairly recent development. Perhaps it may have been accelerated if there was not a Catholic / Protestant split established long ago.
If you have some desire to pull your children into isolation, that is, a private or faith-based school, I have to ask: do you realize that you will expose them to ridicule from others and a toxic, boring sameness devoid of exposure to other cultures, socioeconomic groups and religions? Could anyone dream up a better form of torture for teenagers than to deprive them of exploring differences?
Isolating children in this way is a lose-lose scenario. You are asking for your child to be ignorant of and poorly integrated into the larger society in which we live. For teens, you invite rebellion. And because of human nature, some people in the larger society will view your children as freaks. It isn't right, but it is reality.
Minority faith and cultural differences, gently integrated, make our society richer. The same cultural and faith differences, if excessively isolated from the mainstream, lead to ostracism of the minority and a more homogenous, deprived society.
Funding of religious schools invites crossing that line into excessive isolation.
Sadly, some of the most surprising supporters of this terrible idea come form the Jewish community. I am surprised because it is well established that members of the Jewish faith are generally small-l liberal, well educated and very successfully integrated into mainstream culture.
Some fine children at my children's school are Jewish, and I think the integration of religion and culture from peer exposure is much more positive and educational for all of our children than any textbook could manage.
If you support the funding of faith-based schools, you might want to think again. The consequences for your children and for society might be completely opposite to your intentions.
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