"The Old Order Changeth, Yielding Place to New"
(Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
by Graham Jackson,
President of the Protestant Committee
Over the ages there have always been differences of opinion as to the proper way to be educated. Even Aristotle, in his Politics VIII, 2 , posed the question, "Should studies be regulated more with regard to intellect or with regard to character?" Today the debate continues as to the things young people ought to learn. Different segments of society hold different views and therefore it is right and proper that the curriculum be continually studied and reviewed. Once again, reform is the operant word for the mandarins directing Québec education.
Protestant public schools in Québec provided education for the children of Protestant tax payers for over 200 years. From its very beginning, Protestant education was multi-confessional, a true reflection of the multi-denominational nature of the Protestant population, since Protestantism is a movement and not a religion per se. The tradition has always been concerned with the total development of children. Though the schools may not be the principal agents for raising the moral standards of the community, it has been generally accepted throughout our system that they have an important responsibility for the development of good character and responsible citizenship as well as providing knowledge and skills. Meeting the needs of a wide spectrum of pupil abilities has consistently been a prime Protestant aim by providing a stimulating environment not only for students’ intellectual growth but for their personal development as well.
Obviously, important changes are presently taking place in our educational system and, as a consequence, this is the last article I will have the privilege of writing for this informative publication. With the advent of Bill 118, the Protestant Committee, which has faithfully served Protestant education in this province for 125 years, has been abolished and is replaced by a Comité sur les affaires religieuses. We, the members of the Protestant Committee, hope and pray that this committee, under the guidance of the Secrétariat aux affaires religieuses, which replaces the Associate Deputy Ministers for Catholic and Protestant faith as well as the Directions de l’enseignement catholique et protestant, will continue to concern themselves with the development of the whole child. The spiritual aspects of the human personality remain an essential and enduring dimension.
As we enter the twenty-first century, the established Protestant traditions which have stood the test of time need to be maintained. The values which have been and continue to be central to Protestants are:
Protestants would like to see the non-confessional religiously diverse schools in Québec continue to incorporate these values into their mission statements and educational projects. As Lois Sweet concluded in her book entitled God in the Classroom (1997):
"I hold to one hope: That it will be possible for all of our children – Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Jews, secular humanists, and so on – to play together in the school yard and to study together in the classroom without fear of either religious compromise or religious harassment. Accommodating religious difference within a public system through teaching about it, acknowledging and honouring holy days and respecting religious symbols are important steps towards mutual understanding, healthy equality and integration."
Is our Québec public education system capable of fostering religious literacy among all our children? Only time will tell whether the baby was thrown out with the bath water when "the old order changeth yielding place to new"!
Panorama • Volume 5, Number 3 • November 2000