Friday, May 2, 2008

Eden: the kind of faith-based school Liberals don't want for the rest of Ontario

Buddy Andres wrote in “The suggestion to close Eden should be dismissed”, (St. Catharines Standard, May 1, 2008):

Re: Wynne is all bafflegab and hypocrisy, The Standard, April 19.

Despite my attempts to avoid the current educational storm that is raging here in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I have been helplessly drawn into the controversy.

Christina Blizzard's column was the straw that broke the camel's back, and simply cannot go unchallenged.

Her suggestion that Eden High School should be closed instead of Niagara District Secondary School truly baffles me.

Here we have a school that has been part of the Niagara-on-the-Lake fabric since the mid 1940s and was eventually absorbed by the District School Board of Niagara as an alternative school within the DSBN.

This unique union of a private school within the public school system was accomplished by school board administrators who understood the demographics of the Niagara area. I believe it was a first in the province.

Eden High School meets all provincial standards and promotes a curriculum that includes the Christian faith - not unlike the faith of the founding fathers of this country.
Eden has become wildly successful (200 students on the Grade 9 waiting list) and Christina Blizzard is advocating the closing of this institution in favour of a school experiencing a dramatic decrease in enrolment.

Eden must be doing something right - the school is bulging at the seams. However, let me add, that as a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I would be very disappointed to see the demise of NDSS.

Is it any wonder that our society is dealing with so many problems when people like Blizzard advocate the closing of a school that promotes discipline, honesty, family values, respect for one another, and yes, even some religion.

Lord help us.”


What is truly baffling is how anyone can write about how good Eden school is, yet not mention the political party whose mission it was in the 2007 election to destroy the idea of such schools by portraying them as divisive to society!

No mention in Andres letter of local Liberal MPP’s Kim Craitor, or Jim Bradley at all!

Jim and Kim denigrated the idea that Ontario should even have publicly-funded faith-based schools schools, such as Eden!

Jim and Kim retained power in Ontario by demonizing the educational model which has worked so well at Eden.

Jim and Kim’s Liberal Party did their best to downplay Eden as an anomaly, an oddity, an anachronism from bygone days.

Jim and Kim’s great secular Liberal Party made it clear that schools - such as Eden! - SHOULD NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY!!

During the election, Liberal campaign chair MPP Greg Sorbara claimed he wasn’t even familiar with Eden School!

Take a look at Blizzard’s column “Wynne is bafflegab and hypocrisy” (St. Catharines Standard, Apr.19, 2008) , which so irritated Andres:

“I can't decide. Does Eden High School prove the Liberals were right in their election campaign platform opposing public funding for faith-based schools?

Or does it show how absolutely correct the Tories were in asking that all faiths get school funding?

Located in St. Catharines, Eden is a Christian school, very successful and clearly popular with students and parents, since scores of kids are bused to it from neighbouring communities.
That supports the Tories' assertion - abandoned since their election rout - that religious schools are in great demand and provide an excellent education.

Supporting the Liberal platform is the fact the publicly-funded Christian school's success is eroding support for a truly public school. Niagara District Secondary School is Niagara-on-the-Lake's only public high school. Its enrolment is dwindling, since 168 students from Niagara-on-the-Lake now go to Eden - many of them bused there at taxpayer expense.
The school board insists this is just "courtesy" busing. The buses are going to St. Catharines for other programs anyway, so the Eden students can go along too. Still, it's hard to see how 168 bus spaces simply open up magically. That's about five buses of "courtesy" students.

Attendance at pre-school chapel is mandatory for Eden students and coincidentally the buses arrive in time for students to attend.

A number of Niagara-on-the-Lake parents are angry at the threatened closure of the public high school.

Taysha Palmer is looking down the road. When her 10-year-old daughter is ready for high school, she doesn't want her sitting on a bus two hours a day to go to the nearest schools in either Niagara Falls or St. Catharines.

Palmer points out there has been a lot of new development in Niagara-on-the-Lake recently, and the population is growing.

"A community of 25,000 people without a high school doesn't make sense," she said.
Eden High is especially popular with Mennonite parents, who like its uniforms, discipline and ethos.

On its website, the school describes itself as an "alternative" school within the District School Board of Niagara. As well as the pre-school chapel there's a Grade 9 Bible teaching program, described this way on its website: "Eden High School has a Bible teaching program for all Grade 9 students which runs from 8:25 to 8:50 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays before the official start of the school day. Grade 9 students will attend chapel on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Bible course is a survey of the main themes and content of the life of Christ, the book of Acts and an overview of the main themes of the Old Testament.

"Students must earn an overall mark of greater than 50 per cent to earn the privilege of attending chapel in Grade 10. Students who are not successful will be required to repeat either the entire course or part of the course the following year."

The board may claim the school is open to students of all faiths. Clearly, though, the reality is a Jewish, Muslim or atheist student is going to find the curriculum a tad unwelcoming.
This should be embarrassing for Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. After all, the Liberal government was returned to power proclaiming how private, faith-based schools would destroy the fabric of society.

"If you want the kind of Ontario where we invite children of different faiths to leave the publicly-funded system and become sequestered and segregated in their own private schools, then they should vote for Mr. Tory," Premier Dalton McGuinty said during the election.
I asked Wynne how the closure of NDSS sat with her, in light of how students are choosing faith-based schools in droves. And isn't this a model for a Jewish school in, say, Thornhill?
"The Education Act would not allow a public board to set up a faith-based school at this point," she said. So why does Eden get public funding, I asked?

"That school was established before those regulations were put in place and it's a grandfathered situation and the board has to make its decisions about its capital assets based on the best program delivery for kids."

Surely, though, on the heels of voters emphatically shutting out religious schools, if any school should close, it's the religious one.

You know what I think? I think Wynne is all bafflegab and hypocrisy. Either fund all faith-based schools or fund none."


Clearly the Liberals have created a two-tier system through their election hypocrisy.

Yet, the “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for Buddy Andres was NOT what his local Liberals were saying about faith-based funding, but somehow, Blizzard’s recent column ?!!

Clearly Eden represents everything Liberals such as Jim Bradley and Kim Craitor claim to vehemently abhor!

Clearly the choice still is: to fairly fund all faith-based schools - as John Tory set out - or now, to fairly NOT publicly fund any.

Clearly, Eden’s enemy isn’t Blizzard … it's the hypocritical McGuintyites!

Buddy Andres should be asking whether the Liberals were lying about faith-based funding then, or whether they're being honest now.

Andres writes about what “people like Blizzard advocate …”, but Andres simply ignores what politicians like McGuinty 'advocate' !!

Andres, actually, isn’t clear what he himself is advocating: is he advocating keeping Eden in this exclusive "grandfathered" grey-zone, which is denied to others in Ontario, while Liberals continue to pretend how fair and secular and enlightened their government is?!

Andres doesn’t provide an answer to the proposition Blizzard placed before the forked-tongue Liberals: “Either fund all faith-based schools or fund none

Yet, funding some, not all, is simply discriminatory. Eden may well have to suffer the burden for the sins of the McGuintyites.

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