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Proulx Report (Gary Caldwell responds).

MR. WEINSTOCK TELLS US HOW HE AND the other task force members considered the republican and communitarian solutions to the so-called discrimination problem. The choice between the two is the following: the first consists in abolishing discrimination on religious grounds by banning all religions from schools; while the second consists in allowing all religions to have access to schools for religious teaching, according to the composition of the local community (where numbers permit). He then admits that in his mind only the republican solution could be envisaged, the communitarian solution being "merely a logical possibility, not one that we would seriously consider ... we probably did not dwell as much as we should have on its injustice."

In our protagonist's mind the only "just public school" system is one in which all schools are the same for everyone: the communitarian solution would constitute injustice if there remained a single pupil who was not of the faith being given access to school time for religious instruction, but was rather exempted from such instruction, being thus stigmatized and marginalized. For this reason, we must rather submit everyone to an obligatory universal neutral school.

Justice requires no less -- no matter that such a public system exists nowhere that we know of, especially not in the mother of all modern republics, France, nor in the greatest, America. In passing, I suggest that the last remaining dissident pupil in the logical extreme of the communitarian dispensation, marginalized in the library because the others were in religious education classes two hours a week (to invoke the current Quebec case), would probably emerge from the experience with more character and personal autonomy than most of the products of a republican solution.

Our republican protagonist goes on to argue that to free young Quebecers from religious intolerance and hatred -- scions of a society so intolerant that in over two centuries there is not a single recorded incident of an individual's having suffered bodily harm for reasons of religious persecution -- we must teach them tolerance via the "common religious heritage of mankind." It is not enough that they live and practise religious tolerance by experiencing cohabitation in the same schools (as is indeed the case in many English high schools outside of Montreal and Quebec City where Protestants, Catholics and Jews had their separate religious classes in the same schools). No, the practical experience of tolerance is not the way to go, it must not be allowed, in order to give the state-trained and appointed bearers of "humankind's shared religious heritage" the occasion to transmit tolerance pedagogically.

As for "humanity's common religious heritage," to which he refers repeatedly in his text, where is one to find it? In which book is it set down? Has anyone ever encountered it? This is of little concern for our philosopher protagonist; what is important is that it be taught to each and every schoolchild in Quebec, who, upon receiving it, will cease his or her religious intolerance and hatred ... allelulia!

The success of this program will be assured by a "neutrality" in public schools subjected to state control, thus ensuring the separation of state and ideological doctrine. In this neutral state-structured space no doctrine will prevail except that of the new all-inclusive "sense of citizenship." As the state will be able to impose doctrinal neutrality in the social space that is the public school, no one will be proselytized into the new civic religion!

And this neutrality in which the common religious heritage of mankind will be so pervasive that young people will come to believe that article 41 of the Quebec Charter of Rights, according to which (I quote in French)(1) "les parents ou les personnes qui en tiennent lieu ont le droit d'exiger que, dans les dtablissements d'enseignement publics, leurs enfants recoivent un enseignement religieux ou moral conforme a leurs convictions dans le cadre de programmes prevus par la loi," does not exist. Indeed, in Weinstock's text, there is no hint that it exists; or that the authors recommended its abolition in their report. And if some marginalized dissident were to read the 1979 Quebec Charter and discover that it indeed exists, it would be explained to him that this is an aberration from the period when religion had importance, before the fathers and mothers of the new republic decided, in their wisdom, to recommend that it be abolished in order that all could be included in the new "open and inclusive" citizenship.

And finally, if the new obligatory neutral state-run schooling system fails to educate -- as is conceivable, because it has never been implemented as such elsewhere -- at least the technocracy will transmit their democratic wisdom to their progeny in the private schools of Sillery and Outremont. May we, the plebes who sef4d our children to public schools, be thankful for the blessings conferred on us by those who know better than we what is in our best interest. "Thank the state" -- the expression "thank God" having been expunged from the language to ensure neutrality!

(1) As constitutional hereditary rights, the right to Catholic and Protestant schools, have, in the new dispensation, become "privileges," I hasten to use French where pertinent, before a modern-day republican, such as those at the University of Calgary, decides that its use is also an anachronistic "privilege" to be contested.
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Author:Caldwell, Gary
Publication:Inroads: A Journal of Opinion
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Proulx Report (Daniel Weinstock responds).
Next Article:Time to say goodbye: the case for getting Quebec out of Canada.

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