Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (EIE) is meant to shape the entire educational system. Last month we showed how EIE disregards children’s social and emotional needs. This month’s critique continues with the some of the strategy’s implications for moral and spiritual development.
Jesus told us how carefully we are to guard the purity of growing children. “He said to His disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin’.” (Luke 12: 1-2)
False parallels with antiracism
Ontario’s 1992–93 antiracism and ethnocultural equity guidelines were largely a necessary step. Under EIE that approach is uncritically extended to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” While same-sex-attracted students should not be subjected to bullying and associated achievement gaps, the solution isn’t just to expand multicultural appreciation.
Teaching about homosexuality needs to include careful distinctions between person, inclination, and act. Former Ontario education minister Kathleen Wynne intended nothing of the kind, though, when she stated: “Embracing diversity and moving beyond tolerance to acceptance and respect will help us reach our goal of making Ontario’s education system the most inclusive in the world.” The province’s view of affirming the individual mandates affirming a gay lifestyle.
Exalting and distorting the image and likeness of self
Inclusive education is taken to mean that students “see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected.” Rather than drawing students out of themselves into relatedness, the contemporary overemphasis on demographic representativeness instead fosters narcissism, which is already rising alarmingly in the next generation.
Then, too, the reflections offered to same-sex-attracted students are LGBT-identified. Unless they are provided authentic role models, students of any sexual inclination who are committed to chastity will remain marginalized.
In what we term “colliding political correctnesses,” we see the (public) Toronto District School Board simultaneously providing an alternative school classroom for gay and lesbian students and sex-segregated spaces for Islamic prayer. Each of these initiatives can be expected to provoke reactions that will generate further inclusiveness remedies. These in turn will lead to further fragmentation and spiritual isolation. Under the Safe Schools strategy, students and staff who express non-conforming beliefs may be accused of bullying and subjected to progressive discipline. Meanwhile, under the self-perpetuating EIE system, more and more groups will request specific accommodation. The best Catholic school curricula recognize what EIE lacks: before we teach diversity, we need to teach what it means to be human.
Social utopianism before the dignity of the human person
Central to EIE is the Character Development Initiative: “The deliberate effort to nurture the universal attributes upon which schools and communities find consensus.” (Deacon Doug McManaman, a high school teacher, observes that “attributes” is a euphemism for “virtues.”) Ostensibly without “taking over the responsibility of parents and families” or “seek(ing) to indoctrinate,” the province hopes to prepare students “to be citizens who have empathy and respect for others within our increasingly diverse communities.”
As the recent British riots suggest, teaching “the universal attributes upon which diverse communities find common ground” is preferable to not mentioning values at all. Yet the same phenomena show the miserable consequences to children of a culture which particularly sidelines Biblical morality.
EIE starts from the goal of an inclusive society that welcomes all kinds of diversity, and puts in place mechanisms to steer students towards appropriate attitudes and behaviours. A Christian worldview, by contrast, starts from the intrinsic dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God, and its ideals of social organization emerge organically from its understanding of human nature.
Sterile banality versus sanctity
Christian parents seek to offer their children the best formation possible: to facilitate their radical trust in God and freely willed surrender of their joys and sufferings in a spirit of contrition, forgiveness, and self-denial. As Servant of God Father John Hardon explained, “the true purpose of education is to teach people the purpose of their lives here on earth.”
At best, in the secular public schools Ontario’s Character Development Initiative will involve students in a social contract inevitably demanding compromises based on majority opinion. It “is about a process of engagement in which communities come together to build consensus on the values they hold in common.” The result will be an emphasis on respect, fairness, and caring – based on justice and charity but subjectively determined and presented without the necessary hierarchy of values.
In practice, successful faith-based moral education teaches the capital virtues: the cardinal (“hinge”) virtues of prudence, fortitude, justice, and temperance; and the theological virtues – faith, hope, and love – that bring the former to perfection. Against these are contrasted the capital vices: pride, avarice, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth.
Without great care, character education as such may serve to “flatten the mystery” of the Divine by interfering with children’s innate spiritual sense of awe and wonder; in the words of Professor Anthony Esolen, “to remove from the child the possibility of praise – to rob him of any intimation of the Being that lends existence itself to all things that exist – would be like confining his mind to a room with a low ceiling.”
Ontario’s EIE puts unnecessary obstacles in the pathway of students striving for what is good, true, and beautiful. The strategy may produce tidy citizens who grow up to put their condom wrappers in the correct bin, but it won’t form them well for love. It won’t guide them towards sanctity.
Alan Yoshioka, a former gay activist, and his wife, Theresa Yoshioka, are representatives of Reclaim the Rainbow – Toronto, a policy group of Toronto Catholics who have experience of same-sex attraction, either in themselves or among their loved ones, and who are loyal to the Magisterium. Resources related to this article can be found at the group’s website, http://reclaimtherainbowtoronto.org