September 1, 2010

Off to high school

Yes, technically it's high school. Or Grade 7 or Sec. 1 as it's called here in Quebec. High school starts in grade 7 and runs through grade 11 in Quebec in the public systems. This means Louis is starting at a new school, with new friends (many from his elementary school), a locker, a bit more freedom, a cafeteria and more sports opportunities. He's excited and so are we. We decided on the public school because there really are not many options for special education programs. There is one school in Montreal, however, they are still reviewing applications for 2008. Having Louis in the community is just as important for now.

Education in Quebec is different. Some things we like and some things we don't. Of course, every student needs to take French and a lot of it -- even if they attend an "English" school like our kids do. Another interesting class that all students take throughout their education is called "Ethics and Religious Culture" or ERC for short. It doesn't matter if it's a public or private school, Catholic or not, everyone takes this class. We were recalling when we toured this public school for Danielle back in August 2008 and they were preparing the classes for the first day of classes. We walked by one classroom and there was a box of Bibles outside the room ready to be loaded into the class. We were all "Huh? Not that we have a problem with this, but isn't this a public school?" We were told of course it's public, but the Bible is used in literature classes. We were fine with that.

I attended a Catholic high school in Tucson. My first real exposure to reading the Bible (remember, back in the 70s we didn't necessarily read the Bible) was Genesis in Humanities World Literature and the Book of Job in another Humanities class. It was not part of religion as I recall unless it was the history part. I thought it was interesting and frankly, since we didn't really study the Bible as Catholics, it was good to pick it apart, line by line.

So this ERC curriculum is interesting. Louis brought home his course outline....

The two main objectives of the Ethics and Religious Culture Course are:
  • the recognition of others
  • the pursuit of a harmonious society

Under the heading of Ethics education, the students will be able to:
  • reflect on values and social prescriptions
  • appreciate different views of the world and humanity
  • have a well-thought out perspective on moral and ethical issues

Under the heading of Religious Culture education, the students will be able to:
  • familiarize themselves with Quebec Religious heritage
  • be open to religious diversity
  • have a well-thought out perspective with respect to religions and new religious movements

The course competencies are:
  • Reflects on ethical question
  • Demonstrates an understanding of the phenomenon of religion

We're fine with the class. It's a good thing to have open and honest discussion of ethics and religion -- all religions. When we went to Danielle's curriculum night last year and the ERC teacher was going over details of the class, even we were shocked at first. There were getting into some very controversial subjects. In fact, Danielle had to do a debate last year DEFENDING the use of child labor. Of course, it was debate and someone had to be on the "other side" and unfortunately for Danielle it was her. It was difficult for her (because she did a good job). She hated defending something she did not agree with, but at the same time, it was a very valuable experience.

Would this type of curriculum fly in the the US in a public school? Would it make Glenn Beck cry tears of joy (without Vick's VapoRub)? Well, the word Religious is in the title. But, the phenomenon of religion verbiage might throw him off -- although he seems to think everything related to him is a phenomenon, including a bunch of Canada geese flying over his lawn concert. We had Canada geese every October and November flying over our house in Naperville and we called the flyover an alarm clock. Whatever.

Not everyone in Quebec is happy about the ERC curriculum by the way. And when Canadians are upset about an issue -- they can make some noise.  We're okay with it. It's what makes the our kid's education in Quebec unique. It gets us talking at the dinner table. It exposes the kids to dialogue about religious thinking outside of Christianity. What matters most is the dialogue at home anyway. That's where you start to restore honor...or honour.

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