vendredi 24 octobre 2008

Riverside School Board: “An injustice which I and many parents included feel has been committed”

(Incident similaire à celui déjà déploré de la Commission scolaire des Affluents à Repentigny il y a quelques jours : Des commissaires tentent de museler des parents et leur avocat.)
« On October 21st I was supposed to present to my school board an appeal to the decision that my child could not be exempt from the ethics and religious culture course. However, I was not able to present it because the lawyer I had brought with me to present the legal part of my argument was not allowed to express himself. It is unfortunate that we as parents have little to stand on in order to defend our rights and those of our children. I still wanted to share the contents of the letter with those parents who need help with arguments to sustain their will to exclude their child from the ERC course.

Gina Petrozza

A letter intended for the Riverside School Board

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am here today to plead my case with you on an injustice which I and many parents included feel has been committed. The ethics and religious culture course is not adapted to my child or any child for that matter.

I have seen two presentations from the Ministry of Education so it's not that I did not give it a chance.

I am the mother of five children, I am not a psychologist but I can assure you that a second look at the program can make one wonder, why such a program and why should it be taught to young kids. My child is a physical and spiritual being…PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL. If we want to argue with that then we can go on for a long time and maybe this is where some of us may diverge. Certainly, by the looks of this course,
the government does.

I, as the parent of my child am in full realization of this and therefore take responsibility to guide my child as to form a complete whole being. A whole being that is ,which will, yes, have had the proper academic education administered by the state, whose needs as far as proper shelter and nutrition have been met and also, a set of values by which to live by.

These set of values are my responsibility as a parent towards my child. Furthermore these set of values are deeply tied in with my faith, something I transmit to my child. For I truly believe that we can set as many laws as we would like but our deep set knowledge of what is good and bad is tied in with our vision of who we are, where we came from and what happens after its all over.

Yes, I happen to be Catholic, not in a minority as some may wish to believe and belief in God guides my actions towards my fellow citizens more so than any man-made laws, rules or regulations.

As a bonus, when things turn sour and there seems to be nothing to hold on to I have something real to give me hope. I have my faith in God. A very specific God with a history, a story, a personal relationship.

This is not a religious pep talk. It is an explanation of what I'd like to transmit to my child. A set of values based on the reality not the probability or theory that God exists. A concrete testimony of my faith. It is essential, I hope you will agree, as essential as providing for my child in every other way.

I am not ready to give up this task to the state. You may argue that all this course will do is teach my child to be aware of other religious beliefs which will further help him or her understand, get along and deal with their neighbour. I argue that the end does not justify the means.

Rather by introducing our children to various ideologies, all that we are doing by the process of simple logical thinking is neutralizing all religion. The idea that nothing is good and nothing is bad and all is equal cannot be applied to a belief which is supposed to anchor a person for life.

Permit me to give you an analogy. Nancy's mom says to her one day. "Dear Nancy I have to tell you that you are my child but I am not sure who your Dad is really; could be Harry, Bob, John, Jack and I still can't remember the other guy's name.

In conclusion, my child needs one certainty, one truth. The way in which this course suggests open mindedness it plays with empathy in such a way that the mind fogs the line between acceptance of another religious culture with belief in another religious culture. I can pay testimony to this because as I was there sitting for the whole hour and a half through the education minister's preacher I could feel myself being lulled into a neutral state of mind, uncomfortably close to confusion.

Now, I've been around for a lot longer than my child whose only in grade 4. She can't help but wonder why I'm teaching her one thing at home and it sounds so different at school.

Therefore I can do what I like at home and even through church programs but the group therapy followed at school nullifies all. This may sound funny now but I worry for the future of all our children who will be led to believe that there is nothing out there that is real or can be taken seriously enough. A void is what is being created and a spiritual void can hurt as much as physical ailment and even more so for there is no pill for the pain. Or maybe the government has provided here too, with something new on the pharmaceutical market maybe.

Let me add that tolerance acceptance of others is learned at home. If parents criticize and put down any other group the child learns and imitates no matter what is taught at school. On the other hand it does not work with matters of faith because any religion is accepted on faith and strengthened by the faith of others around not by a constant remitting in question of an already abstract idea. This is what constant exposure to other religious cultures registers as, in a child's mind.

My second argument for the refusal of the ethics and religious culture course to be taught to my child is that the government has ruthlessly violated the charter of rights and liberties of the people.

Article 41 used to say that as parents we have the right to demand that in places of public education our children receive religious and moral education in conformity to our convictions.

Today the article 41 reads as the parents having the right to ensure religious education in conformity to their convictions only if the rights and interests of their children are met.

In other words the child's rights as a minor and of course unable to judge for himself precedes parental authority. Conclusion: our children are no longer under the guidance of their parents but now under the government's tutorial in matters of religious and moral instruction.

In addition the government abrogated article 20 in the public instruction law which once permitted a teacher to have the choice in not teaching certain contents which entered in conflict with their own convictions. Now, all teachers are forced to teach all contents of government programs such as the ethics and religious culture course.

No other country takes away the right to parental authority over their children. We should seriously ask ourselves why this one does and in by which interests it is motivated.

I still ask myself what was wrong with the choice of 75% of parents in Quebec when they ticked off Catholic instruction for their child and that at the same time the faiths of the rest of the population was respected by giving moral instruction. Finally the majority is not happy because their child is introduced to a mish mash of ideologies and the second group finds itself with an imposition of all kinds of religions. Confusion is on the agenda for both parents and children.

I love my country and the liberties and freedoms which I enjoy by being part of it. I can see that we have taken for granted those liberties and freedoms. I can see that things are changing and that if we don't stand up for our rights they will soon disappear, first in a subtle fashion and then with enforcement. The law which takes away my right over my child's wellbeing touches me personally. My right over this being entrusted to me by God will have to supercede my loyalty to government.

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