If a teacher wants a Catholic school sex club, trustees must not be allowed to intervene
The grave and mutual misunderstanding between people who believe in God and those who don’t was vividly on display in Alberta last week at a general; meeting of the Alberta Teachers Association, i.e. the teachers’ union.
The association passed a resolution urging Roman Catholic school boards “to recognize and respect the right of their teachers to exercise their own individual professional judgment with regard to religious instruction and the permeation of religion in the planning and teaching of lessons.”
An accompanying note explained: “The purpose of this policy is to make clear that teachers working in Alberta’s Roman Catholic separate schools have the same professional rights and obligations, whether in the context of religious instruction in religious education classes or when providing a religious perspective in other subject areas and activities.”
Now to the provincial executive council of the ATA, which proposed the resolution. all this does nothing more than recognize a teacher’s right to hold and express to her students her personal principles, ideas, beliefs and persuasions. These teachers are all “professional people.” What could possibly be wrong in allowing them every right to express things that they hold dear? Such, no doubt, is the thinking of the executive council.
And why not? To them, as to most modern people, religion is a “personal thing.” Religious teaching is not a matter of right-or-wrong, true-or-false, good or bad, but of one’s personal inclinations. If a teacher “feels” that while Jesus Christ was certainly a good man, the suggestion that he was somehow God Himself reduced to human terms, well surely such notions have outlived their usefulness, so why should she not be free to express her honest viewpoint? The idea that Jesus’ death had a cosmic dimension that in some way related to lives and deaths of all human beings, these are “lovely ideas,” but surely in today’s world we have long ago journeyed far beyond such primitive superstitions. Could a teacher in a Catholic or any Christian school hold such views? Why not? They are certainly the views that most of the general public hold. These, one must assume, is the position of the ATA’s provincial executive council.
However just to make sure that this resolution was not interpreted as an assault on the right of Catholic schools to teach the Catholic faith, the provincial executive council preceded the controversial resolution with another, avowing its continuing “support of constitutionally established denominational education and support the legitimacy and value of denominational education provided by Roman Catholic separate school boards as a vital component of Alberta’s education system.”
In other words, the executive has taken a new course. Prior to the new resolution, it was in favor of everything the Catholic schools did in this regard. But now it wants to make a change. Any teacher within the Catholic system, who flatly disagrees with Catholic teaching on certain controversial issues, must be given an unrestricted right to express and teach them within Catholic classrooms, implying they had the full authority of the Bible, the Church, and the school behind them, which they do not.
How the Catholic school trustees will react to this curious request, I can only guess. But I’m pretty sure they will see in it the implicit abolition of the whole Catholic school system. Catholic moral teaching comes from the Catholic Church, just as Lutheran moral teaching comes from the Lutheran Church, and Evangelical moral teaching from the Evangelical churches. It is rooted in the Bible and in the works of great Christians in past ages, and has gradually evolved over many centuries. The idea that some provincial government in some country called Canada in some century numbered the 21st should order what Catholic schools within its jurisdiction will teach about morality and theology is, of course, preposterous.
Moreover, Catholic Christian parents send their children to a Catholic school because they want their children taught Catholicism, not Ms. Puffheimer’s personal version of God. And if, as is implied by the resolution, all the teachers in any given Catholic or non-Catholic Christian school were teaching what amounts to “my religion,” the whole point and purpose of any Christian school, Catholic or Protestant, would be lost.
Nothing could express this better than did the ATA’s provincial council itself. Elaborating on its explanation of the resolution, it said: “A relative example would be the right of the individual teacher to choose whether or not to use the PRISM resource developed by Alberta Education and the Alberta Teachers Association. “*
Yes, it is a very good example. The PRISM “resource” presupposes that we are living in a society that has given unreserved and inhibited acceptance to numerous forms of sexual conduct which not that long ago were considered utterly depraved. How can the Catholic schools ratify such a premise by adopting as a model the sexual world portrayed by PRISM. They know full well that this would be to part all company with Christian sexual morality. They can’t approve of it, and one trusts they won’t.
To those with the mindset of ATA’s provincial executive council, however, such obstinacy is incomprehensible. Times are changing, they say. Values are changing, the law is changing. We could cut off your funding, you know. Well as a matter of fact they couldn’t. And in the meantime, this NDP administration is well on the way to establishing itself as the most sex-obsessed government in the history of Canada. If they could just get their minds off genitals and on to jobs, everybody would be a whole lot happier.
*There is an unintended disclosure here. When PRISM was first released, it was emphasized that it did not represent governmental policy, but only that of the ATA. It is here described by the ATA as a joint development, meaning that its contents may now be regarded as expressing the official view of the Department of Education.
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century. a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered. You can order both copies here.