Public schools have a relatively straight forward mandate: To educate their young charges in a manner that respects the diversity that defines a “public” school system.
The idea is to ensure that in a system where funding is drawn equally from all British Columbians, no one group is given priority over another.
That mandate is reflected in the provincial School Act.
It’s also reflected in the Chilliwack Board of Trustees’ own Code of Ethics. No. 13 states “As a Board of Education Member I will represent the entire District rather than individual electors, patrons, or groups.”
So it should come as little surprise that when challenged, the Chilliwack School District agreed to rescind a policy that allowed religious material from one particular faith to be distributed through all its public schools. Granted, that distribution required parental consent. But even the manner in which that consent was sought was a cause for concern.
To many of the Christian faith this policy hardly seems an egregious crime. The Bible has been a source of inspiration to millions and lies at the foundation of Western culture.
But that’s not the point. The fact is public school districts must act within the confines of their mandate. They are not here to foster one religion over another. And since providing equal time and attention to all religions is as impractical as it is unwanted, the answer is simple: Leave the dissemination of religious material to the churches, and leave education to the schools.
Our teachers have enough challenges dealing with dwindling resources, an increasingly complex educational environment and demands that push them well beyond teaching the Three R’s. They don’t need the added distraction of a debate that has no place in a public school system in the first place. If parents want Bibles for their children, they can find them; if they want them to have a faith-based education, that option is available.
“We believe that student literacy, academic achievement and social development are fundamental to everything we do,” says the Chilliwack School District’s mission statement.
It’s time the district got back to that.