Thursday, June 12, 2014

Should Catholic schools be publicly funded?

This was written by Zander Sherman who is the author of The Curiosity of School.

by Zander Sherman

Today is election day in Ontario, and as the three major political parties appeal to voters, debating the issues that have made for a competitive race, the provincial Greens have argued a contention so contentious it could have only come from a party that has nothing to lose: namely, that our public and Catholic school boards should be merged.

The reason, they say, is twofold: that having a single (bilingual) school board would save us over $1 billion annually, and that it’s unfair of the government to fund just Catholicism and no other religion or religious denomination. The first point isn’t really an argument but an observation, and the second would seem to imply that all religious schools should be publicly funded. John Tory said this 2007; it nearly ended his political career.

More fundamentally, Tory’s position represents the backward argument that two wrongs make a right. We shouldn’t single out the Catholic school board for special treatment, this line of reasoning goes, so we should specially treat every other religious school in the province. But if we shouldn’t single out the Catholic school board for special treatment, surely a more natural conclusion is that we should stop funding it with the public’s money.

The reason taxpayers fund anything is because we believe that doing so will improve the public good. We give money to hospitals because health is important to us. We fund mail service and snow plough removal and public parks for the same reason—because we believe in the social usefulness of communication and mobility and green space. When we fund public education, it’s with the understanding that doing so will lead to happiness, innovation, good governance, and all the other things that are socially beneficial. We want these things for ourselves and others, so we say yes.

But Catholic schools have a private agenda whose ideals are not socially or universally beneficial. For instance, Catholic school students are taught that homosexuality is unnatural. Homosexuality is not unnatural. Homosexuality exists in nature, and whatever exists in nature cannot be called unnatural. Here and elsewhere, Catholicism is wrong. By teaching things that are wrong, Catholic schools not only fail to meet the criteria of a public good, but are actually detrimental to it. Their students will be steeped in divisive knowledge that is rooted in scripture, not science, and faith, not reason. Rather than becoming more knowledge in the world around them, and more inspired to contribute to it, they will grow up believing that women are subservient to men, that homosexuals are more sinful than heterosexuals, and that their own religious denomination is better and purer and more righteous than any other religion or religious denomination.

These are beliefs, not facts, and those who take them in will become ignorant, not educated. 

If our hospitals made people sicker, not better, we would surely stop funding them. If our mailmen, snow-plough removal operators, and gardeners hindered our communication, made our roads impassible, and sullied our green spaces, they would be doing the opposite of what we hired them to do and we would surely stop funding them as well.

Why should Catholic schools be any different?


  1. I very much agree with this post and wish thoughts like this were more widely spread and understood.

    I am currently an Education student and we had this discussion in one of my classes. I was the only one arguing against Catholic schools. Most people seem to believe that since anyone has the OPTION of going to a Catholic school (whether Catholic or not) it is acceptable to teach only one faith.

    I find it extremely frustrating that people are forgetting that school is about Education and Church is about faith. Can't we keep these ideas separate?

  2. I couldn't disagree more with several of the contentions of this post. The public education system was once considered the protestant system, opposed to the separate Catholic system. The very fact, arguably, that we have public education is, for the most part, due to efforts of the Catholic church, beginning with the scholastic movement of the Middle Ages. Saying that a secular system is solely based upon reason and science, opposed to an ignorant "faith based" system is ridiculous. You are simply blind to the faith that you have in the assumptions of secularism and humanism, which are each fraught with unsubstantiated assumptions. I will not get into the discussion about homosexuality, because it is a complicated topic. Suffice to say that the liberation which is incipiently espoused here is not true liberation, is enslavement. Much of the agenda espoused by the social theorists of our education system is covert enslavement. St. Augustine said that you have as many masters as you have vices, and the Marquis de Sade said in his 120 Days of Sodom that to enslave a people, promote immorality.

    You state that the public system does not have an agenda, but exists solely for the "public good"? Is this a bad joke? What about enculturing children to blindly and unquestioningly accept authority? And hospitals (and doctors) kill thousands of people in this country, and we still fund them, because we blindly accept the authority figures that tell us that the system, governed by a corporate agenda, is the best one for us.

    Thus I think the public system is the one blindly based upon an unexamined faith, and the Catholic one now more than ever leads us to question the status quo.

  3. Although I do not particularily agree with either view point, I will say this. It does not matter what worldview you bring to school, whether it be as a teacher or as a student, it is part of your education. Let us never forget that education is much more that the three R's. Social mores are engrained into our current curriculum, and I don't see them being removed anytime soon, and I question whether it is even possible.So as much as the Catholic system has an agenda, so does mainstream public education. Do our governments have the best interests of their people in mind in their mandated curriculum, or even other policies outside of education? This will always be debated by different people groups.

    To me this argument is simply about which religous group should get publicly funded education. From that perspective, I ask the question, if one is funded, should they not all be funded? From tax payer perspective, would I rather have the government fund all religious schools, or just fund one model of public school?


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