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Education, a Parents' Responsability

Written by Louis Even on Wednesday, 01 December 1954. Posted in Education

The State cannot legitimately replace or discard the parents. — Education without religion is incomplete. — Education and the public school. — The case of confessional schools. — Minority rights, democracy and justice.

A Function of Parents

No power on earth can lawfully change the natural order. Violation of the natural order is unquestionably disorder; and no institution, economic or political, no Government under any name can justifiably exist to initiate or condone disorder.

The first responsibility to provide for the child's wants rests with the child's parents. This is so since the first parents bred the first child.

But the wants of the human infant are not confined to the material plane. The child is more than a young animal. He is entitled, for the development of his mind, to the same parental help as for the development of his body. The parents' responsibility then extends to the education of their child, to a fitness of his mental as well as physical faculties that will prepare him to be a sane member of the society of his epoch and environment.

This responsibility cannot be wrested from the parents. Not even by the State. The proper function of the State is never to substitute its action to the action of individuals, of families, of free associations of citizens. Whatever is relevant of the individual, or of an association of individuals, and can be done by them, must be done by them, not by higher governments.

Governments have only a suppletory function in cases where the responsible individual cannot or refuses to discharge his duties properly. The State may rightfully help where help is necessary, but not assume a function which is not his, still less hamper the action of citizens assuming their own responsibilities.

Why Schools?

Just as there are cooperatives, or other similar organizations, to faciliate for the individuals the pursuit of some common aim, to benefit by association of efforts or capital — thus, also, parents may well look for some pooling of their means, in order to facilitate the discharge of their duties towards the education of their children. There we think can be found the idea at the origin of the school system.

Parents would individually have too little time, or insufficient personal competency, to give their children even the minimum amount of instruction necessary to meet the conditions of the modern world. The school is the answer. One qualified individual may, at the same time and in the same place, impart knowledge to a score of children, and do it efficiently, the parents thus being left with more time to wait upon other occupations.

But, as in the cooperative, the association does not suppress the member, and it only exists to serve the member better than he could serve himself isolately. No cooperative can conceivably be instituted to go against the desire of the cooperator, forcing upon him a scorpion when he wants a fish. And the cooperator remains free to contract out, to quit the cooperative when he prefers to go without its benefit rather than continue to support it; free also to enter another organization of his own choice. This, to the greater degree possible, should also be the right of the school rate-payer.

The Hand of the State

Unfortunately, in most countries today, the State has taken over the complete control of education. Not only extending a helping hand, not only exercising its proper suppletory function where necessary, but governing directly the whole school system, making every taxpayer support it, even if he dislikes the system to the point of paying elsewhere for the education of his own children.

The parents' authority in matter of education is trampled on, which is both antidemocratic and against the natural law.

C. H. Douglas, the founder of Social Credit, has rightly said that "Education is ultra vires of the State.” But most Governments have made it ultra vires of the parents and intra vires of the State.

The State, as a guardian of the common good, may legitimately require that a certain degree of instruction be given to the children, to fit them for orderly citizenry. But this remains a function of the parents and their accepted associate, the teacher. And nothing in the training of the child should go against the legitimate will of the parents.

Religion in Education

Education of the child cannot be fully adequate if it does not comprise religious teaching and training.

With a very few exceptions, all Canadians — Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, or faithful of any other Christian denomination, or Jews, or Mohamedans if any believe in God and the immortality of the soul. And they surely appraise an everlasting good far above transient wealth of any size.

Unless blurred by an overgrowth of materialism, parents cannot indifferently suffer to see their child deprived of a good notion of the great truths in which they themselves believe. The child's interest being for a good decade of years concentrated on his school life, it should be every responsible parent's deep desire that religion, the way he sees it, were part of the curriculum in the institution where his child is educated. And if father and mother were in a position to hire private preceptor for their child, they would doubtless expect the preceptor to give him the religious training in which they believe, along with the teaching of grammar, mathematics, science and arts.

Plurality of Creeds

But a difficulty arises where parents of different beliefs must entrust the education of their children to the same one school, the public school of the community. This may explain, and perhaps justify the neutral character of the public school, the elimination of religious matters from the program of studies. In order to avoid hurting feelings which are at variance, no religious teaching is given in the place where the child learns all the rest. Even if this is deemed wise in the circumstances, it leaves a gap of first magnitude in the education of the child.

Some will perhaps retort that religion may be totally absent from the school and taken care of at the church where the family belongs. But this is squeezing religion in a corner, training the child to allocate religion a small part of his time and forget it most of the time, whereas it should permeate all human acts.

But the dificulty of doing better remains, apparently insuperable, as far as the unique public school is concerned.

The Confessionnal School

When, therefore a certain number of families in a community are ready to relinquish the benefits of the public school, and get together to establish a school of their confession, where, along with their religious creed, the general curriculum will be taught as efficiently as in the public school, the State should only rejoice to see those citizens solve themselves a problem which cannot be solved by the public school system.

Of course, if these families assume themselves the financial charge of the separate school, they should not have to support at the same time the public school, which is relieved of the care of their children. Or, alternatively, if its found impracticable to collect the school rates otherwise than through a single channel, the State, or the chartered local Board, should take from this common fund and remit to the confessional school a sum reflecting the percentage of the children of the community taken care of by the professional school. This is only strict justice.

If a difference in degree must be looked for between two equally efficient schools, one neutral, the other confessional, it is all in favor of the second, where education is only more complete.

A Glimpse on Quebec System

This particular feature of the public school system seems to have been democratically and satisfactorily dealt with in the province of Quebec.

The province has no Minister of Education. But there is a non-Cabinet Department of Public Instruction. This Department is under the direction of a Superintendent appointed by the Government, with a Council comprising two committees: one made up of Catholics (all the catholic bishops of the province plus an equal number of laymen), the other made up of Protestants. The Superintendent is ex-officio member of both committees, but votes only in the committee of his own religion.

Joint interests in school matters are under the jurisdiction of the Council as a whole. But school questions affecting the special interests of Catholics or the special interests of Protestants are decided by the committee representing the belief concerned.

Each committee makes his own regulations concerning the programs, qualification of the teachers, text-books, etc.

But the functioning of the system is decentralized. In each community, a school municipality must see to establish and support the number of schools necessary to answer the needs of the population. This is done by elected school commissioners.

In places where the population is partly catholic and partly protestant, the majority sets up the School Commission. The minority has the choice between two alternatives:

1) Get their children educated in the same school as the majority, and pay their rates to the School Commission;

2) Set their own corporation of school trustees and pay the school rates to this their corporation only.

Moreover, if they have chosen the first alternative, they may in the month of June of any year thereafter give public notice that they will set their own corporation for the next year. They will then, after the election of their trustees, cease paying rates to the commission of the majority.

This is a fine example of a "contract-out clause", which is essentially democratic.

The School Law contains also clauses to the effect that, when a former minority becomes the majority, its corporation becomes the School Commission; its elected members are now the School Commissioners; whereas the former School Commission becomes the Corporation of School Trustees, unless the new minority prefers to adopt the No. 1 alternative above.

A Wish and a Hope

The school system of the province of Quebec is thus respectful of the minority rights. We only wish that the same could be said of all the Canadian provinces — which unfortunately is not the case.

There is presently much talk about the unjust and unsatisfactory situation made to schools established by Catholics in British Columbia. These Catholic families remain bound to pay full rates to the public schools which they do not use, while not receiving one cent of the money to support the schools where they send their children.

A party labeled “Social Credit” has now been in power for two years in British Columbia. The school situation denounced here does not arise from legislation passed since government is in their hands. It is an inheritance from their predecessors. Will it be remedied?

The Social Credit philosophy emphasizes freedom of choice by the individual. It refuses to see in democracy the rule of the majority. It insists on full recognition of the rights of minorities. It recommends the contract-out clause in all public schemes.

If then the party now in power in British Colunbia is really imbibed of at least an appreciable dose of the philosophy which its name would suggest, it will surely set itself, without further delay, to settle the school question the democratic way. It would be, after all, just bare justice, not privilege.

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