By Patrick B. Craine
QUEBEC CITY, Quebec, December 16, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Sovereigntist Parti Quebecois, the opposition party for the province, is calling for a major revision of Quebec's new Ethics and Religious Culture program (ERC), following the release of a new study lambasting the highly-controverted state-mandated curriculum.
Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne has indicated she has no intention of reopening the debate, however.
The new curriculum, mandated by the Quebec Ministry of Education as of September 2008, has sparked a loud outcry from numerous sectors of the province, including secularists, nationalists, and religious believers. Spanning grades 1 to 11, the relativist course aims to promote an "absolute respect" (as one course developer described it) for the spectrum of religions and ethical choices. It replaced a previous religious education program that allowed parents to choose between a Catholic, Protestant, or secular curriculum.
"This is not a course in religious culture. It is a course in multiculturalism," said the new study's author, Joelle Querin, a sociologist and researcher who works with the Institut de recherche sur le Québec (Institute of Research on Quebec). "All conceptions of life are considered valid," she says. "The only thing presented as indisputable is the way to cope with this ethical diversity. There stops the relativism, since children must 'select privileged actions that promote coexistence,' that is to say, acting in accordance with the doctrine of pluralism."
"As parents seek to inculcate certain values to their children of six to eight years of age," she says further, "[the children] learn in school that these values are relative and that they are free to develop their own ethical life."
The curriculum, for example, presents homosexual families as normal. In grade 1 and 2 the course has the goal: "to bring children to explore the diversity of relationships of interdependence between members of different types of families."
Pauline Marois, leader of the opposition Parti Quebecois, said she was distressed at the revelation that the program is promoting a multiculturalism that is contrary to Quebec's own identity. She called today for a new commission to evaluate the program and institute appropriate reform. "We have reservations following the publication of analyses that seem to suggest that the course has deviated from its original goals," she said.
Marois said, however, that she does not agree with the fundamental critique of the program, instead insisting on her party's support for the principles of the curriculum. She noted that it was her party that initiated the deconfessionalization of Quebec's schools in 1998.
At the same time, the Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) party has gone one step further, renewing their call for a moratorium on the course, in order to conduct a complete overhaul. The party advocates "implementing a moratorium, taking a time out to ask what we want to teach our children, what heritage we want to leave them with this course," said ADQ leader Gerard Deltell.
In the curriculum for grade 8, he pointed out, "a questionnaire asks a student: are you a boy, a girl, or do you not know?"
"We have gotten to there. What is this?"
The ERC curriculum, Querin explains in her study, was developed methodically over several years as a "key" part of "a vast enterprise of social transformation." Motivated primarily by political, rather than pedagogical ends, she says the course aims to "indoctrinate" the province's youth into a relativism, pluralism, and multiculturalism.
Such an approach exalts the province's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1975, over Quebec's cultural and historical identity, she continues. "Under the pretext of gathering students by teaching them the foundations of our common culture," she writes, "the ERC course consecrates a conception of Quebec as a strictly civic nation, defined not from its history and its cultural specificity, but only from its Charter of Rights."
Thus far, the Quebec Ministry of Education has received over 1,700 requests for exemptions to the program, but has refused every single one. In August, Catholic parents from Drummondville lost a court case in which they sought exemptions for their children. They have since filed a motion to appeal that decision.
Even private schools are being forced to implement the course, such as Loyola High School, a private Catholic boys' school which currently awaits a court decision on their petition to opt out of the program.
According to Barbara Kay, in an article today for the National Post, "[ERC] is a creepy state foray into social engineering. Disguised as multicultural feel-goodism, the program is in reality the utopian Quebec Left's strategic plan for societal transformation."
"Their tactics," she says, are "the appropriation of parents' natural and rightful authority over their children's religious upbringing; the willful erosion of children's pride in their Quebec patrimony; and the slow suffocation of students' inherent curiosity and intellectual autonomy."
"If Quebec does not wish to end up in the sick ward of Western cultures," Kay concludes, "[ERC] must be excised in the operating theatre of popular resistance."
See the study (in French).
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Quebec Considers Proposal to Take Even Greater Control of Private Schools
Quebec Family Files Appeal Motion for Exemption from Mandatory Relativism Course
Quebec Bishops 'Concerned' With Compulsory Course in Relativism, Will Continue 'Monitoring'