Monday, November 05, 2012

One Public School System

I had an opportunity to argue with someone via Twitter with regards to funding of the Catholic school system in Ontario.

I took exception with her assertion that it was atheists pushing for it's dismantling, and that it was atheists who were bullying Catholics for having the desire to maintain a separate public school system.

My debate partner's argument essentially boiled down to the following point.
I choose to direct my taxes to support the separate school system, therefore I'm the only one who should have a voice in how my tax money is spent.
To which, I tried to rebut.

I do not believe someone should have the ability to direct their taxes to specific programs or initiatives. The same way we do not have separate police forces, fire departments, armed forces, transit, roads, or health care, we should not have a separate parallel public education system.

If I directed my tax dollars (for roads, for example) away from anyone who supported the separate school system, I'd likely own a couple of potholes outside a couple of houses. But, that's not right.

Similarly, electing to send your tax dollars to another parallel school system sends support away from the public school system to a public school system that is not inclusive. It's a government-subsidized private system. It's unfair.

I do not hold any disillusion about any major shift in the political winds to remove the Catholic separate school system any time soon, but the more often we talk about it, the more it will become evident that it's the right thing to do.

Some additional information:
  • Ontario Catholics are a minority within the province. There are more identified Protestants than Catholics; "no religious affiliation" is a sizable minority as well.
  • Catholicism is not endangered in the province nor would private Catholic education be disallowed.
  • The United Nations condemned Canada for allowing Catholic separate schools in 1999 and again in 2006. Canada cannot be a beacon for promotion of education for others when we still fund segregation.
  • While the Constitution provides the "right" to receive public Catholic education, the Canadian constitution can be amended in this regard. Ontario can hold a referendum on the question (as Newfoundland & Labrador did).
Updated: My original opening line was mysteriously missing.

4 comments:

doconnor said...

Residential education property taxes, which is the type that can be directed, only funds a small fraction of the school system, especially since they where slashed in 1998.

Also directed taxes allows rich people (or people with valuable property) disproportionate influence over government, which is undemocratic.

Perhaps atheists are most vocal about Catholic school funding because we object to government schools teaching kids falsehoods, while religious believers don't see it as bad as that.

James Calder said...

I'm an atheist too (have a big A on my blog to prove it).

I think there's an argument outside of using public funds to teach religion as well.

It's not just atheists pushing for it to be shut down.

Mark said...

Not sure if you are aware that there is an organized movement advocating for one school system in Ontario:

One School System Network:
http://www.onessn.com/

The above link is for an umbrella organization, that has many member organizations. You can also go back to your friend, and tell them that one of the OSSN member organizations is the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity:
http://progressivechristianity.ca/prc/

James Calder said...

Appreciate the link; thanks, Mark.