Friday, December 3, 2010

Gideons at play

I'm always keyed into how and when other education reporters / media report on issues that I've reported on in the past for my own employer. For the last few weeks, it's been the Waterloo Region Record's coverage of the Waterloo Region District School Board's discussions regarding the distribution of New Testament Bibles by the Gideons. Record articles by Luisa D'Amato are here and here, with the National Post also running something this past week.
In a nutshell, the Gideons distribute the religious texts through schools, offering them at no cost to parents of students in Grade 5. This is a longstanding practice from what I understand-- having gone to a Catholic school where there was no lack of bibles on the shelves of every classroom, I never lived through being offered one by the Gideons. Many school boards now have procedures or policies in place where this can still happen, but it can come to trustees for approval. This isn't a new topic in this space either, as I posted about it earlier this year.
The reaction in Waterloo Region is no different than where other boards have struggled with the same question. As a secular, publicly funded school board, do you allow faith communities to distribute literature through your schools? In this case, it's a text that many people in this province wouldn't be offended by, as we still predominantly associate with Christianity above other faiths, even though many might lapse or choose atheism or agnosticism as life passes us by. Plus, logistically, usually a letter goes home and if the bible is wanted, it's signed and returned to the school. On distribution day, students pick up the texts on their way out the door at the end of the day.
As far as I'm concerned, we should call this what it is-- evangelism. The Gideons don't hide the fact that one of their priorities is to disseminate the bible. You can dress it up and call it something else, but more bibles in more hands is an attempt to keep a few more Christians around. It's their right to do so-- but I don't agree with using a secular, public school system as the vehicle to accomplish it.
You want to educate your child in faith? Enrol them in a faith-based school -- though in this province only one of them won't cost you more than enrolling them in the public system. Regular readers here would already know I support a single publicly funded system. Faith is best learned in the home and in houses of worship.