The province of Ontario was founded with two schools system. It's incorporated into the constitution; it's part of the very fabric of the province.
The two original school systems were both Christian -- one was Protestant, the other Catholic. Since the Protestants were the majority, the Catholic system was viewed as a minority system, and the Protestant one was viewed as the dominant or "public" school system.
The "public" school system may not have been officially and legally incorporated as a Protestant Christian system, but there was no doubt it was Protestant in fact if not in name -- it reflected the culture of its day.
I can remember, as a boy, beginning each day with the Lord's Prayer. It meant absolutely nothing to me. I was not a Christian. My parents were nominally Christian, but faith was neither mentioned nor taught in our home. So students like me just went through the motions and recited it.
But, there it was. A stake in the ground. A symbolic representation, in spoken words, of Ontario's founding culture. Ontario was a Christian culture. And Christianity was the dominant ideology that would provide moral light to Ontario's citizens.
I remember a Protestant minister once visited one of our grade-school classes. He made a deep impression on me. I was still not a Christian.
I remember that, in grade nine, we had to study one of the books of the Bible. It was part of the curriculum requirements. We were still reciting the Lord's Prayer. I was thinking about girls, basketball, and the Beatles, and was still not a Christian
The Lord's Prayer was removed from Ontario schools in the name of multiculturalism and plurality. Secularists have since seized upon the removal of such Christian trappings to proclaim that Ontario is a secular province, and Canada a secular country (as if this were always so).
But it wasn't always so.
Today, a debate is raging in Ontario over whether the government should extend funding to all religious schools, and not just the remaining legal stump, the Catholic school system.
Toleranct, multicultural, diverse Ontarions are showing an aversion to doing this that amounts to an intolerance of religion bordering on bigotry.
Don't get me wrong.
I'm not necessarily against a single, unified school system used to propagate the beliefs and values of a unified, unitary culture. But this is not what Ontario is about. Like other provinces, and Canada as a whole, it has embraced the multicultural ideology that embraces all kinds of cultures, beliefs and values.
If that were true, the province would presumably embrace multiple school systems, just as it claims to embrace multiple cultures. What is more characteristic of a culture than its educational philosophy and practices?
Yet, letter-writers argue that in order to promote glorious diversity Ontario must have a single, state-controlled school system. They suggest that religious instruction breeds intolerance; they suggest in effect that religious persons who spend their own hard-earned cash to educate their children according to their religious faith are anti-social, and bad for society. So much for embracing diversity; scratch a diversity-lover beneath the surface and you have someone insisting on conformance by everybody else to his or her beliefs and values.
The problem with demanding that persons of faith fund a secular school system and send their kids to it (unless they can afford to "pay twice") is that secular public schools are neither faith- nor morality-neutral. They have a distinct world-view, and it is one that is antithetical to the worldview of Christians who believe in a loving God who should be embraced in all aspects daily life, including (no, especially,) the education of one's children. (For example, in the name of Tolerance, Canadian school children cannot be told that there is a kind God who loves them, but must be told that homosexuality is a perfectly splendid practice -- so much for moral or religious neutrality.)
Another point has to do with public funding. Letter-writers are against "public funds" being used to finance religious instruction (but they don't seem to have a problem with "public funds" being used to promote functional atheism).
Here is my response to the secularists who oppose the use of "public funds" for religious education:
"There is really no such thing as public funds. All there is is pooled money that has been taken from private individual sources. As much as you may dislike it, persons of faith are just as much members of the public as anyone else. Yet you confiscate their funds and use it to fund the school system of your choice. Those same funds should be available to them, either by voucher or allocation, to educate their children as they see fit.
By all means be in favour of a single public school system -- that is a legitimate position to have. But drop the claim of being in favour of multiculturalism and diversity too."
And that's the way the Ball bounces.