Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Schooling in Canada

Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Schooling in Canada


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The education provided by Canada’s faith-based schools is a subject of public, political, and scholarly controversy. As the population becomes more religiously diverse, the continued establishment and support of faith-based schools has reignited debates about whether they should be funded publicly and to what extent they threaten social cohesion.

These discussions tend to occur without considering a fundamental question: How do faith-based schools envision and enact their educational missions? Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent offers responses to that question by examining a selection of Canada’s Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic schools. The daily reality of these schools is illuminated through essays that address the aims and practices that characterize these schools, how they prepare their students to become citizens of a multicultural Canada, and how they respond to dissent in the classroom.

The essays in this book reveal that Canada’s faith-based schools sometimes succeed and sometimes struggle in bridging the demands of the faith and the need to create participating citizens of a multicultural society. Discussion surrounding faith-based schools in Canada would be enriched by a better understanding of the aims and practices of these schools, and this book provides a gateway to the subject.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781554588411
Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Publication date: 02/07/2013
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Graham P. McDonough is an assistant professor of education and an associate fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. He has published articles in Catholic Education and International Studies in Catholic Education. His book, Beyond Obedience and Abandonment: Toward a Theory of Dissent in Catholic Education, is forthcoming.

Nadeem A. Memon is the director of the Islamic Teacher Education Program, a collaboration between Razi Group and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. He also teaches courses in equity and education and Muslim studies at OISE/UT and Wilfrid Laurier University.

Avi I. Mintz is an assistant professor in the University of Tulsa’s School of Urban Education. He has published articles in Journal of Religious Education, Studies in Philosophy and Education, Educational Theory, and Journal of Philosophy of Education.

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Shooting in Canada edited by Graham P. McDonough, Nadeem A. Memon, and Avi I. Mintz

From the Introduction

The 2007 Ontario provincial election brought educational questions of faith-based schools and social cohesion into high relief. The Progressive Conservative Party, under the leadership of John Tory, campaigned with, among other things, a promise to extend full funding to all faith-based schools (pre-kindergarten through high school) in Ontario. A heated debate ensued and featured a variety of concerns, including a question of whether public funding for these schools would divert tax dollars from the current public school systems. The main focus of the debate, however, became a concern that faith-based schools are a threat to social cohesion. For instance, Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal premier, said that when he travels around the world, people ask him,†Why have I not seen on your television screens what I have seen on the streets of London, Germany, Paris, the Netherlands? Why is there not more strife, struggle, and controversy?†He reported his reply to these questions: It's because we bring our kids together in the same classrooms. †1 But to many observers, McGuinty's comment seemed to reveal an element of Islamophobia that is unfortunately common in the post-9/11 discourse on faith-based schooling. As Andrew Coyne wrote: all of the examples cited London, Germany, Paris, the Netherlands are places with significant Muslim populations, and significant Muslim unrest not to say terrorism. The only thing standing between them and us, McGuinty suggests, is our public school system. †2 Coyne called McGuinty's stance on the issue of faith-based schools fearmongering†and demagoguery,†and others in the media were quick to pass similar judgments. 3

Tory's proposal resurrected more than simply the debate about Ontario's current public funding model for faith-based schools. It also raised fundamental questions about the place of faith-based schools in Canada: What really are the aims of these schools? How do they nurture religious belief and culture? How do they understand good Canadian citizenship? In the 2007 debate, there was a lack of meaningful engagement with questions of the nature and practice of secular and faith-based schooling. This did not serve the public well, regardless of one's final opinion on Tory's proposal. What was clear in the debate in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada is that faith-based schools are often discussed in only superficial ways and are sometimes viewed with suspicion, if not hostility. While it is often the case that public discourse lacks the nuance and depth of academic scholarship, in the case of faith-based schooling in Canada, anyone who turns to academic scholarship would not find much help. The majority of such work in Canada has focused on its historical significance to Canada’s early development, the issue of public funding, important legal challenges, and the way in which religious pluralism is accommodated within secular public schools. 4 The current scholarship has generally neglected to consider what Canadian faith-based schools actually aim to accomplish, how citizenship is broached in them, and how controversies are addressed in classrooms. Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent provides a starting point for understanding how some Canadian faith-based schools develop educational visions that seek to cultivate both members of a faith community and members of the broader Canadian society. Before we continue to describe the purpose and scope of this book, it is worthwhile to reflect on the political negotiation in Canada that has made faith-based schools so controversial.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

Introduction Graham P. McDonough Nadeem A. Memon Avi I. Mintz 1

Part A Aims and Practices

1 The Jewish Day Schools of Canada Seymour Epstein 25

2 The Distinctiveness of Catholic Education Mario O. D'Souza 45

3 Between Immigrating and Integrating: The Challenge of Defining an Islamic Pedagogy in Canadian Islamic Schools Nadeem A. Memon 73

Part B Faith and Citizenship

4 Jewish Education, Democracy, and Pluralistic Engagement Greg Beiles 101

5 Canadian Catholic Schools: Sacred and Secular Tensions in a Free and Democratic Society J. Kent Donlevy 121

6 London Islamic School: Millstone or Milestone? Asma Ahmed 145

Part C Dissent and Critical Thinking

7 The Changed Context for Jewish Day-School Education Alex Pomson Randal F. Schnoor 171

8 Teaching Subject Matter That Is Controversial among Catholics: Implications for Intellectual Growth in the Church Graham P. McDonough 189

9 A Canadian Islamic School in Perspective: A Critique of the "Moderate" and "Strong" Categories in Faith-Based Schooling Qaiser Ahmad 213


10 Diversity and Deliberation in Faith-Based Schools: Implications for Educating Canadian Citizens Avi I. Mintz 237

Glossary 251

The Contributors 259

Index 265

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