Program puts home and school at odds

J. FRASER FIELD

To make mandatory in the schools a program whose catechism is diametrically opposed to the understanding of most traditionally religious people, let alone most parents, is an outrageous challenge to the rights of the citizens and means that what many parents are teaching their children at home is being directly contradicted and undermined by what is going on in the classroom.

Madeleine and Fraser Field

I have this nagging sense that my rights are gradually being taken away from me by the government of the day in British Columbia. One of a number of factors contributing to this feeling is the heavy handed approach taken by Paul Ramsey, the minister of Education, with respect to the Personal Planning component of the CAPP program now offered in all public schools in the province.

In spite of Mr. Ramsey's rhetoric about how much 'choice' there is in public education in B.C., the highly controversial CAPP program is now mandatory for high school graduation, leaving no options for parents, or students for that matter, who have reservations about the content and direction this program takes.

Aside from the obvious objections stuffy parents might be expected to have to grade nine discussion groups on the virtues of petting and mutual masturbation as acceptable alternatives to sexual intercourse, mixed class instruction in how to put on a condom, and the establishment of homosexual sex as a norm on a par with heterosexual sex there are some even more fundamental problems with the program.

Whether the NDP likes it or not, a substantial proportion of the population of B.C. still holds traditional religious values. Traditional religious wisdom challenges us to overcome our selfishness and conquer our pride; it urges us to meet our own needs within a context of loving service of God and others and promotes values of self-sacrifice and self-denial, of duty and responsibility. The philosophy underlying the CAPP program pushes in a very different direction.

The dominant concern of the CAPP program is the drive for 'personal autonomy.' One gains personal autonomy, according to CAPP, by gaining 'personal power' — the ability to get what one wants or to do what one wants. Absent from CAPP is the nurturing of any noble idealism in our children. The idea of 'self-sacrifice', the word 'love', the notion of caring about something or someone beyond ourselves, are ideas completely foreign to the CAPP program. In addition, CAPP encourages students to identify and eliminate every 'pressure' which might restrict their freedom of choice. Students must learn to be independent of any moral standard in making choices about what is right and wrong.

Now isn't that just what we need in B.C., teenagers who are more autonomous, more concerned about taking care of their own needs, teens who have learned how to disregard the expectations of parents and their own traditions in making up their minds about what they are going to do.

To make mandatory in all schools in B.C. a program whose catechism is diametrically opposed to the understanding of most traditionally religious people, let alone most parents, is an outrageous challenge to the rights of the citizens of this province and means that what many parents are teaching their children at home is being directly contradicted and undermined by what is going on in the classroom.

It needs to be known that by declaring CAPP mandatory, the provincial government violates a number of fundamental principles of public education.

Because public education means that parents have delegated their own authority for the education of their children to the state, it has always been understood that the curriculum must be as "neutral" as possible in highly contentious areas. For public schools to remain “public” they must enjoy the wide-spread support of the community; they must be accountable to a wide variety of views. If a particular curriculum, like CAPP, meets with wide-spread concern, it follows that that curriculum has no place in public education.

Just as non-religious parents expect that their children will not be indoctrinated by religious teaching in the public schools, those parents who hold religious views ought to be able to expect that their children will not be indoctrinated with views that contradict their own deeply held religious beliefs.

Another point is that in declaring CAPP mandatory the NDP has violated the tenets of its own goal of 'multiculturalism.' The laudable goal of an authentic multiculturalism is that cultural and ethnic diversity should be respected in all their forms. The 'radical' multicultural approach now being promoted in B.C., on the other hand, is prepared only to respect and acknowledge the beliefs and cultural practices of those groups the NDP designates as worthy.

This government needs to be reminded that its duty is to serve and represent all the people of this province, even those of us so out of date that we believe educational policies which limit the moral vision of students to a notion of 'personal autonomy' and 'self-esteem' actually deprive them of the moral energy and moral context they need to develop into men and women of real character.

If our educational system is to fairly represent the cultural differences of a diverse population, (which surely it is meant to do) parents from different backgrounds and perspectives need much more input into the development of these programs, and the right to either opt out of existing programs, or the choice of optional programs which better match their own philosophies.

In the meantime, traditional religious people in this province are nervously reading many different signs coming out of Victoria and wondering whether we are not now entering a new era of religious persecution, one in which traditional religious voices are to be increasingly and aggressively marginalized and stifled by the provincial government.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

J. Fraser Field. “Program puts home and school at odds.” Vancouver Sun, 4 July 1997.

Reprinted with permission of the Vancouver Sun.

THE AUTHOR

J. Fraser Field is Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 1997 Vancouver Sun




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