National Affairs Rory Leishman

As originally conceived by Egerton Ryerson, chief superintendent of education for Upper Canada from 1844 to 1876, the publicly funded schools of English-speaking Canada – Protestant, Catholic and secular – were outstanding. But do these schools still provide a suitable education for most Canadian children? Most definitely not.

Over the past 50 years, Canada’s publicly funded schools have succumbed to a degree of moral and intellectual corruption that Ryerson and his contemporaries would have denounced as astonishing and intolerable.

Ryerson was a man of deep learning and strong conviction. In his first report as chief superintendent of education, he avowed that the new public schools would seek to provide all students, regardless of income, with an efficient system of instruction that fosters the full development of their physical and intellectual faculties as well as “the proper cultivation of the moral feelings.”

Ryerson emphasized that a practical education includes religion and morality. He explained: “By religion and morality, I do not mean sectarianism in any form, but the general truth and morals taught in the Holy Scriptures.”

In conformity with this policy, Ryerson undertook to assure that the public schools would inculcate in all students an understanding of the principles of Judeo-Christian morality, while avoiding all discussion of the theological differences dividing Protestants and Catholics. To this end, he largely succeeded. In his final report as chief superintendent in 1872, Ryerson observed with some justifiable pride that “as Christian principles and morals are the foundation of all that is most noble in man, and the great fulcrum and lever of public freedom and prosperity in a country, it is gratifying to see general and avowed recognition of them in public schools.”

Ryerson added: “It is delightful to think that, (although in some few instances, this duty may be unworthily performed yet) from so many humble shrines of learning the prayer for Divine wisdom and guidance goes up with faith to Him who has promised to give ‘liberally’ to them that ask Him and to upbraid them not.”

Today, a pro forma prayer for Divine wisdom sometimes still goes up in the Ontario Legislature, but never in any of the province’s public schools. And the same generally goes for every other province. Any teacher now reckless enough to offer up a sincere prayer for guidance to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in a public school could be summoned before a human rights tribunal and ordered to apologize for violating the alleged equality rights of students to an entirely Godless and secular education.

In Ryerson’s day, students in the public schools were taught to respect the commandments “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not kill.” They were made to understand that sexual intercourse outside of marriage between a man and a woman is wrong and that abortion is an evil that can never be justified.

Today, students in the public schools are routinely taught that there is nothing inherently wrong with virtually any kind of consensual sexual intercourse between heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual persons, and that a mother has an unbridled right to abort her child for any reason.

Moreover, teaching in most publicly funded Catholic schools is not much better. Consider the reaction of Catholic school trustees to the revised curriculum on “sexual orientation,” “homophobia,” and “gender identity” that the McGuinty Liberal government has been trying to impose on the publicly funded schools of Ontario. Following a lively debate on this issue on August 31, the Toronto Catholic District School Board voted down a straightforward resolution reaffirming that teachers in the Catholic schools have an overriding duty to “promote personal conduct or a lifestyle that is consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Given the unredeemable intellectual and moral corruption of today’s publicly funded schools, what should conscientious parents do? The answer is plain: if they hope to have their children receive the kind of sound education advocated by Ryerson, they must boycott the publicly funded schools in favour of either home-schooling their children or entrusting them to a good independent school that still upholds the fundamental truths of Judeo-Christian morality which are knowable by reason and affirmed in the traditional teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.