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An educational “buzz saw” in US politics: parents do know best

In which weird society does a candidate for political office declare that parents know nothing about education so they should stay away from the education of their own children in schools? I am not talking about Canada, but the “elephant” next door in the USA. Brace yourself; what happens there usually spills over. It started in Virginia – parents had had enough.

On Tuesday, electors in the USA pulled off what can only be described as a political tsunami against the cancel-culture movement: the defeat, or the near defeat, of comfortably established politicos of the “woke” persuasion conveniently ensconced in the corridors of power under the umbrella of the Democrats.

Judging by post-event Press and Media commentary, it would be an understatement to say that their world is in a tizzy of “woe is me”, “how could this happen to us” navel gazing. Yet, nothing is ever clear cut. New York City elected its second Black mayor, Eric Adams, a former police officer pushing back against the “defund the police” wokeists. Boston selected a Taiwanese American (protégé of senator Elizabeth Warren), its first female mayor and person of colour for that office.

In Virginia, a political neophyte, Glenn Youngkin beat political heavyweight, and former governor, Terry McCauliffe for the governorship.

The main issue, or the one that galvanized the public across partisan spectrums was education. Even more specifically, who, in the education system, should make decisions about the appropriateness of both the learning milieu and the curriculum for their children.

It did not help McCauliffe that schools’ policies, driven from above, appeared to be oblivious to reality in their rush to implement “transformative” practices. Parents had been complaining about this when tragedy in the form of sexual assault struct not one but two girls, in two different schools.

The alleged perpetrator was a biologically male student who identified as trans to gain access to a female washroom. “He” then proceeded to sexually assault a female student. Once discovered, the solution was to ship the perpetrator to another school, whereupon “he” repeated the act against yet another female victim.

It may have been a case of unforeseen/unintended consequences, but “inclusive” initiatives began to quickly fall into disrepute. Parents virtually everywhere have been calling for purging school administrators and their boards of woke representations. Youngkin rode that discontent to victory.

In Ontario, the erosion of education rights is taking place by stealth. Every parent can choose among the following educational opportunities for their children: home schooling, private school, or public school.

In the latter case, the Constitution affords Catholics (about 33% of the population) their own [separate] schools where the government can deliver its state curriculum in a Catholic environment, where Catholics values and principles are taught and promoted. Catholics are not obliged or compelled to send their children there.

Those who do so choose are protected by the Constitution, by the Charter, by the Education Act, by the Human Rights Charter among others from interference with their choice. In other words, only the magisterium – pope ex cathedra (in council) – can determine what is Catholic theory and philosophy.

The Minister of Education is legally bound to respect that. Trustees elected by Catholic electors, regardless of their moral fibre and intestinal fortitude, are obliged by law to protect the denominational rights of those electors in the educational system – no matter what they themselves may believe.

No matter what other political considerations were at play in Virginia and elsewhere in the USA last Tuesday, the fundamental rights of parents to be involved and determinant in the education of their children were reasserted when Youngkin defeated McCauliffe.

It may be time for parents to take similar action here in Ontario. Catholic electors can begin to take charge of what is rightfully theirs.

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