In the ongoing battle to preserve some shred of Christianity in the public school system, one Ontario family decided it could no longer sit back and watch.
David and Muriel Clarke of Waterloo gathered concerned friends and neighbors – about ten in al – to form Parents for a Christian Public School in the spring of 1989.
Valueless school system
In a telephone interview, Mrs. Clarke explained the frustration which led to the group’s formation. “We were very concerned with the loss of the Lord’s Prayer. We found our backs up against the wall…dealing with a valueless school system, [with] pluralism and we felt that the children were getting nothing or getting used. That’s when the idea came. It really did start in our home,” she told The Interim.
Comprised of parents from a variety of denominations, the original committee of ten made their first goal the establishment of a Christian, elementary-level public school – funded by the Waterloo Board of Education. Needless to say, support from the Board was sparse. However, Waterloo trustees did eventually send a letter of inquiry to the Ministry of Education, requesting that:
– a significant number of persons in the community believed they had a right to a Christian education for their children and
– that other alternatives to the present public system should be found
While it may appear that Parents for a Christian Public School are breaking new ground, Mrs. Clarke acknowledges that three publicly funded alternative schools are already operating within the province. Her group’s growing membership – currently set at 1600 individuals – is proof that parents need and want alternative Christian schools.
Assisting the fledging group in meetings with Ministry officials is Gerald Vandezande, public affairs director of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). At present, discussions with government officials have been put on hold while the new NDP administration settles in. Meanwhile, group organizers are in the process of hiring a curriculum consultant to evaluate course material in an attempt to “marry it in with our Christian philosophy,” Mrs. Clarke explains. The end result will be a sample curriculum for perhaps one grade, prepared for presentation to the Waterloo board.
According to Mrs. Clarke, an alternative Christian school would differ from the average public school in its emphasis on Christian principles. It would not be a rigid, narrow-minded center for student indoctrination – the usual media caricature of the Christian school.
“I think people get the idea we would also teach Creation Theory as well because both need faith. We would teach…critical thinking and not wipe out what Christianity has brought to history. [In public schools today[ that’s what’s happening. Christianity is just being erased completely.”
A Protestant system?
While traditionally Ontario has enjoyed both Protestant and Roman Catholic school systems, many critics of public schools are convinced a Protestant system no longer exists.
Mrs. Clarke agrees. “There’s always a religious base to a school – whatever it may be. Ours in the past was a Protestant school system and now it has become secular [and] humanistic.”
South of the border, in Illinois, Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly agrees with Mrs. Clarke but goes one step further. Mrs. Schlafly, in her group’s October publication, states that educational lobby groups have an anti-parent bias. The National Education Association (NEA), an American version of a variety of Canadian teachers’ unions, continues to pressure legislators for many of the same demands as their Canadian counterparts.
Compulsory kindergarten for children as young as age 3, opposition to parental choice in education, and sexuality classes for all grades are just three areas where the secularist interests of the NEA and Canadian associations of professional educators coincide.
The daughter of missionary parents, born in Africa and raised in a Christian home, Muriel Clarke points to the consequences of abandoning the rich Christian heritage as enjoyed by Canadians. “As a nation built on Christian morals and standards, when we turn our backs against God, it’s going to be [far] worse for us than a country that never knew Him. There’s never a neutral zone. If you’re not God, you’re teaching that there is no God.”