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Replacing religion Quebec's schools.

The Proulx report's new "perspective

The long-awaited Proulx report on the place of religion in Quebec's schools was released on Good Friday, March 31. Laicite et religions Perspective nouvelle pour l'ecole quebecoise (Religion in secular schools: A new perspective for Quebec) is everything it was expected to be: a shameless product of advocacy research, made to order for a government whose stated preference is for public schools without religion. The chair of the Task Force, Jean-Pierre Proulx, is a University of Montreal professor with a long personal and professional history of supporting deconfessionalization.

Removing religion

Twenty years ago, Proulx-who is Catholic-was among a group of parents who sought to revoke the Catholic status of the school his children were attending. He has since written several academic papers which favour a secular school system, as has another member of the committee, Micheline Milot.

Other members of the Task Force are all professional educators, except for Yves Lafontaine, a lawyer whose background is with the Quebec Human Rights Commission. Missing from the Task Force were any representatives of parents' organizations, or of religious denominations or associations. Clearly the mandate of the Task Force was not to evaluate the "Place of Religion in Quebec's Schools" at all, but rather to facilitate the replacement of religion in Quebec's schools. The eight members of the Task Force did so unanimously.

In brief, the Proulx report recommends that schools no longer maintain their confessional status and that religious instruction cease. Instead, the report recommends the study of world religions from a cultural point of view, a study which for Catholics or other Christians only has value after students have first thoroughly studied and grasped the teaching of Christianity.

The authors also suggest that religious instruction could be offered after school and that a school could provide "common religious and spiritual support services". The first would come at the expense of parents and Church and be resented by the students who see their classmates at play. The second seems to mean a kind of secular "chaplaincy"-that would be the worst of all hypocrisies.

The "pluralism is secularism" syndrome

The Task Force assumes that Quebec's educational establishment must respond to the growing pluralism in the province. Once again we see secularists use ethnic and religious pluralism as a tool to introduce moral and religious relativism.

First, outside of the greater Montreal area, such pluralism barely exists. Indeed, 86 percent of all Quebecers identify themselves as Catholic, albeit many are not practising. Nevertheless, the vast majority of parents choose Catholic religious instruction for their children, although for many years they have had the option of "morals" education even in Catholic schools.

In the Montreal area, there are many so-called Protestant schools, which for decades have been secular schools in both English and French. Currently, these schools offer three courses in the field of morals: Catholicism; moral religious--Protestant; and moral--Secular.

Of course, a simple solution would be to accommodate other religions in the schools with their own courses where there is demand. However, the Task Force prefers the opposite approach: instead of adding options, let's remove Catholicism.

Suppress Catholicism

The Task Force recommends that the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms be amended. Section 41 currently states:

"Parents or the persons acting in their stead have a right to require that, in the public educational establishments, their children receive a religious or moral education in conformity with their convictions, within the framework of the curricula provided for by law."

The Proulx report is not about school reforms to respect minority rights. It is a cultural struggle for control of young minds. It is a battle for the souls of our children. At issue is who has primacy over the education of our children. Catholic teaching about this is very clear. It assigns this primacy to parents and neither government nor even the Church has a right to usurp that authority. Section 41 of the Quebec Charter reflected that time-honoured principle, as do sections of the Quebec Education Act which permit homeschooling.

Promoting individualism

The Proulx report favours the primacy of the individual. It assigns to the individual, even children, a number of rights which it places in opposition to those of the parents. Then it demands that the state protect these fights. "If children have interests that are independent of those of their parents, they must also be given independent rights, to ensure that their interests can be satisfied."

Those interests are described as follows:

"Children have, with regard to education, primordial interests that must be guaranteed by the state. These primordial interests, in addition to the development of general cognitive skills, are expressed in the right of children to prepare adequately for their future lives as citizens in a liberal democracy. Education of this type must include the development of personal independence and critical thinking, the ability to reason, a capacity for tolerance, an openness to diversity, and a sense of belonging to the community."

For many people, the idea that the state would guarantee these rights is ridiculous. In the twentieth century, states have been the usual oppressors and suppressors of freedom of thought.

For Catholics, these educational objectives can only be met within a strong faith context. They are skills developed only with personal and spiritual maturity.

The Task Force also argues that secular schools are neutral and are not anti-religious because they would tolerate after-school activities, religious garb, and accessories. But we all know that in today's world "neutrality" means attacking and undermining religious traditions and principles. Turning to almost any of the more than two hundred and fifty pages of this report reveals a strong secularism which is divorced from Christianity and which, in effect, is a pseudo-religion itself. If the recommendations of the Proulx report are accepted, Quebec will simply be replacing the religion of the people with the religion of the hedonist state.

Regina Farrell, mother of five children, lives in Montreal and has been following the demise of religous education in Quebec on behalf of Catholic Insight.
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Author:Farrell, Regina
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Jul 1, 1999
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