lundi 14 septembre 2009

Cheering Big Brother dangerous

By John Carpay, Calgary Sun, 2009-09-13

Columnist Michael Platt incorrectly claims some parents in Québec want to keep their children ignorant about other religions. ("Pinheaded? Believe it," Sept. 6.)

In August [on the 31st] , the Québec Superior Court rejected the demand of parents to exempt their children from a course called "Ethics and Religious Culture" (ERC).

In 2008, this course became mandatory for all students from Grades 1 to 11. Before the ERC course was imposed on public and private religious schools, children in Québec were already being taught about other religions. But parents had a choice to enroll their children in Catholic or Protestant religious instruction – or non-religious moral instruction. Parents objected to the removal of this choice, which triggered the court action. Québec's parents are not against their kids learning about the world's religions. Rather, parents went to court because the course trivializes religion as mere folklore and teaches the relativist notion that there is no truth. It is also opposed by the Québec Secular Movement, because it violates the freedom of conscience of atheists and agnostics who don't want their children presented with religious information they're not equipped to handle. Children are not all the same. Some children can learn about sensitive topics like religion and sexuality at an earlier age than others.

Why should politicians and bureaucrats have the right to determine the age at which all children will be forcibly exposed to facts and ideas about sex and religion? Shouldn't parents be able to determine what information goes into the minds of their own children, and at what age, and how it's taught?

Platt's "government-knows-best" attitude has existed as long as modern public education. Prussia in the 19th century was the first country to force children ages five to 13 to follow a national curriculum to instill respect for authority and following orders. Prussia's goal was to produce obedient citizens who would understand the King is always just and right. As German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte said: "The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will."

Dictators through history have tried to use a mandatory curriculum to impose their ideology on youth. This is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the prior right of parents to choose the education given to their children. Parental rights are one of the cornerstones for preserving a free and democratic society. Family autonomy and freedom of conscience are rights that protect atheists and agnostics as much as religious people from government coercion and intrusion. Few things are more coercive and intrusive than Big Brother imposing its ideology on your kids, teaching them the opposite of what you teach at home — especially when it comes to religion and sex.

Platt accuses parents in Québec and Alberta of being "willfully ignorant" zealots for not wanting other people's sexual and religious values imposed on their children. If Platt wants to educate his children in his beliefs (be they religious, secular, agnostic, atheist, progressive, traditionalist or relativist) he should be entitled to do so. But insisting his own attitudes towards religion and sex be imposed on all children through the public education system is just plain wrong. It's always tempting to cheer for Big Brother when he imposes your values on other people. But once Big Brother acquires that right, nothing stops him from imposing other people's values on you.

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