For those of you who aren't in Ontario, on October 10th we're having a Provincial election.
I always vote. But, I don't always have a strong opinion on an issue. I usually have thought it through, but usually my vote is based on a number of issues along with the person running. For instance, if I really really like Howard Hampton I may vote NDP if I didn't majorly disagree with something. I've also been known to vote against someone I can't stand.
But, this election is confusing me - and it's all over the faith schools issue.
Let me fill you in briefly - the Conservative party wants to make faith schools part of the public system - and that involves about $500 million dollars going to these schools as long as they follow the Ontario curriculum. The Liberal party (their opposition) is standing firmly against this issue saying that public schools should represent the public and that all religions are welcome.
Here's the problem. I see both sides of the issue so very clearly that I'm not sure how to vote. I went to a "faith school" for 8 years. It was a wonderful experience. And, I am extremely grateful that I attended that school. However. It was a very strict Christian school. There were strictly enforced rules there that would never have been enforced in the public system. We said prayers, recited Bible verses and yes, learned creationism. And, the school also had the right to expel students if they were not living up to the standards or acting in a way that was inappropriate. In short, my Christian School education was very very different from the 6 years I spent in public school.
But, at the same time I'm choosing to send my son to public school. Why? First of all because I want him to have a public education. The school is by our home. I want him to experience growing up with kids from all faiths and backgrounds. I think that's the beauty of the public system. And, if I want him exposed to religion (which I do) I will bring him to church.
And, this is the thing - church is free. I mean, yes you are asked to tithe (just like in most religions, if you are a member of a congregation you give money to support the place), but if you want your child to get to know God you can send your child to Sunday School and not have to pay. To me, going to a faith based school is additional. I'm not sure why it should also be free.
More than that, I believe that we have created a public system for kids no matter their faith. And, the more money tax payers put into it the more resources we are going to have. To take $500 million out of the system is a lot of money - and I guess I'm worried that the resources are going away. I'm not sure how that will benefit people. And I worry that in the end we'll just pay more taxes to get these resources everywhere.
My other thought, and my big concern, is the issue of separating kids so much. Yes, I think there is a place for faith schools. And, yes, I think that parents should have the right to send kids to these schools. But, I think that if you open it up so much and announce that you're going to pay for kids to go to whatever faith school they want, you're going to segregate kids a whole lot more.
I'll be the first to admit that I knew nothing about the Muslim or Jewish faiths growing up. It amazes me and impresses me when Matthew comes home singing the Dreidel song or telling me about a new food he tried at daycare. I love that he's learning about different cultures and faiths at such a young age. And, living in a country that's so multicultural I'm not sure that I understand saying "okay, let's let our kids hang out with kids of only their faith." Across the Board - it's a scary notion.
But the thing is, I also don't think it's right to say that kids can only access faith based schools if they have the financial means. There are some grants, but certainly not enough. So, maybe it should be extended. I just don't know.
What I do know is that this should not be an issue to hang an election on. I realize that it would still be a vote in Parliament ... but still. If enough people are voted in it could get through.
I really disagree with some stuff the Liberals have done. I hate that right when we had no money we suddenly had to pay for eye exams. I hate that he said he wouldn't raise taxes and then he did. This certainly isn't a pro-Liberal blog.
I just think it's really scary to go down this path. I don't know.
And, the ironic thing is that I have all these questions for the politicians, and yet not one has come to our door to discuss it. Nor have I seen them at the GO station. I actually know someone working on the John Tory campaign. So, I think I'll send her this post and ask for her thoughts. I'm curious - is it just me, or is anyone really debating this issue?
PS Despite saying I disagree with McGuinty, I have to say that when I was a 1st year journalism school student I was at Queen's Park for radio class and I was taping a broadcast. I had no idea how to "plug in" and I was all alone. A really nice guy came and asked me if he could help. He actually showed me how to make it work and then helped me understand how the whole day would work, scrums, etc. I introduced myself at the end and he introduced himself. I remembered his name (Dalton McGuinty is pretty memorable) and a couple of weeks later I actually found out who he was. His kindness that day was really cool - and it was before there was any sort of election going on.