Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Letters

Christian Schools Not 'Ghettos'

A reader responds to Macdonald's editorial

By Myrtle Macdonald, Chilliwack

 

ne of my friends sent the following response to my article of April 6th Neighborly Education: “All good points, Myrtle. However, when my kids were growing up, we did place them in private Christian schools which were definitely not ghettos in any sense, and where they made lifelong friends, and received a quality education. It was expensive, but worth it. If I may, the real point is relationships, friendship, caring and love."

 

I am glad he replied. It is encouraging to receive responses. I probably misused the word ghetto.  What I meant was separate, parochial or segregated.

 

In private Christian schooling were there any new immigrants, aboriginals, Roman Catholics, humanists, new age spiritualists, Buddhists, Christian Chinese, Jews, Eastern Orthodox Ukrainians, Muslims or Sikhs among the students and among the teachers and support staff?

 

By taking many Christians out of the public schools the following happens:

 

1.  Funding available for the government schools is reduced.

 

2.  Fewer of the teachers available to teach in the government schools are Christians.

 

3. The predominance of non-Christians is high in government schools, and thus they are empowered to have too much influence.

 

4.  Children in the parochial schools do not have practice learning to understand and cooperate with non-Christians. They are sheltered and out of touch. How prepared for life are they? Not all of the children will even become active believers. The teachers and parents hope and pray that they will.

 

5. Teachers in parochial schools do not practice and learn how to live their faith in a low key manner, among non-Christians.

 

6.  The teachers and children in parochial schools are middle class. What do they really know about the struggles of children from a one parent family, or from a small apartment where several families are crowded in without a lock, who come to school without breakfast. How many have experienced living on welfare? Some parochial students may think they are poor, but destitution is rare. Alcoholic parents are uncommon.

 

I believe in children learning to know and like disadvantaged children, some just beginning to learn English and others who worship in a different way or not at all. One of the saddest things in Chilliwack is how uncomfortable aboriginal children are in high school.  Many drop out before grade 12.

 

I remember when I was a child in our one room rural school that there was a large immigrant family from the slums of England who had head lice. Our public health nurse treated them annually, and the neighbors helped them have a better life style and a better garden and crops. Seventy years later I met one of the sons at a church camp, and found out all had done well.

 

An Irish family were given a small house on our land and in exchange for that, worked on my parent's farm. I remember they cooked potatoes whole in their jackets and that was all they ate for a meal.

 

In grade one there were five of us. I was the only one who spoke English. One was Polish and the others Ukrainian. The teacher shoved me into grade 2 to keep me learning.  She had 8 grades and 32 students to teach, and I listened in on the lessons of the upper grades too. The children quickly learned English. At first they mistreated the Pole, but they soon learned to like him too. 

 

Walking home from school we watched out for birds and flowers and next day eagerly told our teacher what we had seen. An Irish Catholic boy and another English boy called me Myrtle the Turtle¯ but I gradually learned to cope with them. It helped that their parents liked my neighborly, excellent farmer parents.

 

My best friend was a girl with a different Slavic language. We had many varieties of Slavic people with five or six different churches.

 

We had many varieties of German people such as Missouri Synod Lutherans, Baptists and Calvinists (no Mennonites until later, and the values of each denomination were very different. They naturally mixed with each other in school and in commerce and became friends.  They shared road maintenance, telephone party lines and repairs, membership in grain elevators and arranging of agricultural experimental stations and fairs.

 

Some children had parents who had emigrated from the USA. It was a multicultural neighborhood and one room school every 6 miles.  What wonderful Christmas concerts, school gardens and school fairs we had, with many one and two room schools participating! I took piano lessons and learned to play the pump organ at school.

 

We had no Canadian Indians in our community. When some came driving by to sell us frozen fish, we were afraid of them, and so were our parents. 

 

There were enough Jews in our town to have a synagogue, at least 10 families.  Some neighbors made snide remarks, but when I had them as classmates in high school, I liked them. In grade 12, I joined the CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training). We had a Presbyterian leader.  One of the girls was Jewish.

 

Do you now understand better what our educational system is now facing? Do you now understand why our multicultural society is no longer cooperative and why there are gangs and why there is bullying? There is segregation and cliquishness instead of friendly mingling in schools and in every community activity.

 

Please respond further.

 

Myrtle Macdonald  

 

PS. Here is a response from a friend who grew up in Canada but lived many years in South Africa and taught there:

 

Dear Myrtle:

I appreciate your balanced approach and agree with your comments on Christian schools. In S Africa, after apartheid was lifted, Muslims would not allow their children to attend government schools because they had Bible reading and prayer in their twice weekly assembly. I believe Muslims became isolated and insular as a result. Hindus flocked to the government schools, worked hard and were very successful in schools with good teachers and infrastructure. I taught in one of these schools and found no problem in pupils mixing during school hours.  Most of them still lived in separate districts at this stage although that changed somewhat later on.  Love, B.....

 

 

About Myrtle

Myrtle Macdonald,  M.Sc. Applied (in Nursing Research and Education), McGill University.

 

She is a retired registered nurse living in Chilliwack and now working with the local chapter of the BC Schizophrenia Association. Myrtle was a street nurse for many years in places like India and Montreal. She turned 93 in June and is one of the Voice's most popular contributors.

 

 

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