Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wingnut Education In Alberta

I have a problem with these "Lifestyle Covenants" that Christian Schools seem to be in love with.

It is not that these schools are publicly funded, although I do consider it a gross abuse of public resources for them to be used in this manner which so clearly flies in the face of both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial Human Rights Codes.

My primary objection to these covenants is that they reach far beyond the walls of the school itself.  It creates an environment where both students and staff are subject to constant surveillance.  If they are seen by a classmate, staff or faculty member engaging in something "unseemly", they become subject to arbitrary sanctions in their education and professional lives.

While traditionally, students are held to a certain degree of propriety outside of the school in general (e.g.  students who are caught vandalizing the neighbourhood in which the school exists may find themselves suspended or even expelled from a school), it's far from the kind of restrictions that these covenants impose:
All teachers will uphold the sanctity of marriage, defined as that between a man and a woman, and abstain from homosexual relations and sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage. 
All teachers are expected to regularly participate in the corporate worship, fellowship and ministry of their church.
Think about these.  Both are very open ended, and place what I would consider to be unbounded constraints on the staff.  The definitions used are extremely vague, and are subject to arbitrary interpretation - something which should render them invalid to start with.

For students, they impose similarly arbitrary constraints and objectives which require interpretation:
To develop the "mind of Christ" toward godliness and sin, and to teach the student how to live an overcoming life through the exercising of self-restraint and consideration of others. 
To encourage the development of self discipline and responsibility in the student based on respect for and submission to God and God ordained authority. 
To help the student develop for himself/herself a Christian world view by integrating life and studies with the Bible.
One can well imagine that this creates an environment where the student lives in perpetual fear of being "caught" doing something "wrong", and being harshly judged for it by the school, their parents and their peers.

I take great exception to these schools exercising this kind of religious control over their students and teachers outside of the school walls.  This is ultimately teaching students nothing constructive except fear and control.

Should these schools have the right to create and enforce these covenants?  If they are a privately held school, funded by tuition fees paid by the parents, then I can (to some extent) look upon these covenants as private agreements between the parties.  I may believe that they set up an environment which is fundamentally abusive to the students and unreasonably invasive in the lives of staff at the school, but the participants in the agreement are free to enter into such agreements.

However, when public money is involved as it is in the two cases recently revealed, then it is my opinion that these schools should be held accountable to the human rights legislation in Alberta and Canada.  Failure to ensure that the schools abide by the same rules that other publicly funded organizations are held to creates double standards that are profoundly troubling.

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