Boreal

Teach Your Children Well

Introduction to the Bill 21 Edition

Teach Your Children WellAt this writing (Autumn 2019), Québec is being pilloried for passing a law which restricts public servants from flaunting their religious affiliation when at work. The main opposition to An Act respecting the laicity of the State coming from self-absorbed teachers who insist that the Canadian Charter of Rights gives them the “right” to parade their faith in front of a captive audience of children, a sanctimonious English-Canadian media and provinces that have not gone as far as Québec in accommodating a religion which brooks no equal.

As to the ever-present accusation of racism, that Bill 21 disproportionately affects visible minorities: it does not! Christians in general and Catholics in particular, if they ignored their scriptures’ admonition to give Caesar his due*, would be the most affected. Islam will not acknowledge Caesar’s role, except as a subservient in the management of human affairs.

It is a self-serving accusation designed to obscure the fact that the fight over An Act respecting the laicity of the State is about whether religion has the right to be omnipresent everywhere and the State has no say in the matter. Those who refuse to grant Caesar his due would have you believe that it is a matter of human rights. It isn’t! It is a matter of jurisdiction.

Bill 21 could also be considered an attempt by the government of François Legault to curtail the damage done by the Liberal government of Jean Charest when it reintroduced, in 2008, the teaching of religion in the public school system in response to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission’s report on so-called reasonable accommodations**.

Almost a decade after the introduction of a mandatory religious study course in the primary and secondary grades, alarms are being raised about its deleterious impact on students' intellectual development. Many of the concerns expressed can be found in La face cachée du cours Éthique et culture religieuse (The Hidden Face of the Course Ethics and Religious Culture – my translation). The book brings together academics and others who have firsthand experience of the impact of indoctrinating teens and pre-teens under the guise of teaching tolerance of other religions and cultures.

François Doyon, a college professor of philosophy, writes about the “deplorable effects” of a course in which “ignorance is disguised as tolerance [and] we teach to believe without proof and act without thinking.” The professor goes on to explain that the children raised on the new curriculum think very differently than their predecessors, not caring, when they get to college (i.e., CEGEP), to debate what their faith or the faith of another might deny.

Daniel Baril points to the “educational materials” as contributing factors: “twenty manuals or so which elevate religiousness at the expense of non-belief, atheism, humanisms, a life without religion which are not mentioned anywhere.” He worries about what this means for the future of a secular school system, and rightly so.

Sylvie Midavaine argues that such courses are “Trojan horses meant to facilitate the takeover of the secular by the religious” She makes another comparison which is similar to one I made when the program was first introduced, that the ultimate goal is selling religion to a captive audience.

Of the fifteen contributors to La face cachée du cours Éthique et culture religieuse, André Gagné, a religious scholar at Concordia, makes the most alarming observation about how such a program makes children more susceptible to radicalisation.

It is only by teaching children to question the validity of scriptures that we protect them from being influenced by fundamentalist doctrines. It is precisely the lack of critical thinking (when it comes to scriptures) which leads to radicalism.

Many of the observations quoted here will not be unfamiliar to those who have read Teach Your Children Well (2009), my response to the Bouchard-Taylor’s report on religious accommodations and the Charest government's ill-considered compliance.

Radicalization will be facilitated across Canada if a recommendation by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is ever implemented. The Parliamentary committee was tasked with substantiating the accusation made by Ms. Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for the riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills, of rampant Islamophobia, i.e., fear of Islam among Canadians. While the Committee found no such widespread phenomenon, it did make 30 recommendations to combat what it calls “systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” The most insidious, recommendation 25, has the potential to see a program like Québec’s mandatory religious study curriculum implemented across Canada in one form or another.

25. Recommends that the Government of Canada work in collaboration with the provinces and territories to develop educational materials about different religious and cultural practices as a means to foster cross-cultural and inter-faith awareness and understanding.

The more reason for revisiting Teach Your Children Well.

In this edition, I have replaced appendices dealing with material in the Koran that is totally unsuitable for children (instead, I invite you to read Children and the Koran – The End of Empathy, Boreal Books, © 2017) with three equally thought-provoking additions.

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* Mathew 22:21 "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's". This phrase defines the relationship between Christianity and the State as two separate jurisdictions, unlike Islam which makes no such distinction. And there's the rub!

** Official name: Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Difference.