Catholic Education

TORONTO - Toronto’s St. Michael’s Choir School topped the list in the Fraser Institute’s Ontario high school rankings for the second consecutive year. 

The semi-private Catholic school — famed for its music program — earned a 9.6 out of 10 ranking, soaring above the provincial average of six. These figures are based on the provincial Grade 9 math and Grade 10 literacy test results.

The Fraser Institute — an independent think tank that conducts peer-reviewed research into economic and public policy — released its rankings April 1. The annual school report cards offer tables showing how well schools perform in academics over a number of years.

Earth Hour in Toronto's Catholic schools

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TORONTO - It may have been lights out for an hour at 95 Toronto Catholic schools during Earth Hour on March 30, but St. Ambrose Catholic School went three steps further by encouraging students to participate in the morning announcements, bring a littlerless lunch and dress in black.

“This year we are focusing on the theme of 60-plus, going beyond just Earth Hour,” said Kathleen Sztuka, Grade 4-5 teacher and school science representative. “We see the awareness of the kids growing.” 

Sztuka, a 20-year educator, organized this year’s event and wanted to do more than simply flick a switch, which she did note is the equivalent of removing 43,000 cars from the road for an hour when done collectively. Making students stand out was the thinking behind ditching the school uniform for funeral wear.

Queen's Park protesters oppose Bill 13

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The Ontario Liberal government's anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, is more about social ideology than bullying, some 2,000 protesters were told outside Queen's Park on March 29.

"Bill 13 ignores the number one cause of bullying — body shape and image," said Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics.

"Dalton McGuinty's ignoring of the number one cause of bullying is proof that this (legislation) is not about bullying. This bill was not written by people who want to reduce bullying. It was written by people who want to change social views about human sexuality.

What’s in a name? Bill 13 looks at GSA title

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The NDP wants to grant Ontario Catholic high school students the right to name their anti-bullying clubs a Gay Straight Alliance.

The province’s anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, received second reading at Queen’s Park on March 26. Before the debate, the NDP education critic said his party wants to resolve the controversy over whether Catholic schools can call their clubs Gay Straight Alliances by letting students decide.

“What we’re considering as an amendment is giving students determination over the name of the committee that takes that up,” said NDP MPP for Danforth-Greenwood Peter Tabuns.

Silent depression no more with mental health advocate Harmony Brown

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Students, staff and special guest Harmony Brown came together on March 22 at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School to raise awareness about an often neglected issue — teen depression.

“There is a fear with admitting you have a mental illness,” Brown said to about 100 attendees.

Brown told the students that her battle with depression began at age nine, when physical abuse at home ended her “picturesque” early childhood.

“It was at that age that I began to have suicidal thoughts,” said Brown, now 36. “What I knew was I was in a terrible place and I wanted out. At nine there didn’t seem like there was a lot of other options.” 

Hamilton by-election vote ‘undemocratic’

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Majority rules at Hamilton’s Catholic school board as five of eight trustees voted to fill the Ward 6 vacancy by appointment instead of a by-election despite almost three years remaining in the term.

Chairperson Patrick Daly sighted both expense, which could exceed $100,000, and low voter turnout as reasons for the decision.

“We have to pay 100 per cent of that cost, there is no funding for that and especially in difficult budgetary times that’s a great deal of money and funds that we don’t have available,” said Daly, appointed a trusted after his father’s sudden death in 1985.

OCSTA hard hitting on sports head injuries

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TORONTO - Students who suffer concussions should not only be removed from sports but also be excused from class until they heal, according to the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

Bob Murray, the OCSTA director of legislative and political affairs, is urging the Ontario government to include full curriculum exemption into Bill 39. The bill proposes that school boards be required to develop policies to deal with students who suffer brain trauma from concussions.

“You need to be removed from the classroom to let your brain get what is referred to as cognitive rest,” said Murray. “Even the regular classroom can have profound effects on the brain if a person hasn’t received the rest they need. They should be removed from all curriculum in order to properly heal the head injury.” 

Fr. Kennedy’s 44-year career as a trustee comes to a close

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March 6 was a day of joyful reflection but also sadness at the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board with the retirement of long-time trustee Fr. Kyran Kennedy.

“His pastoral way of being and living has had a remarkable impact on the way our board conducted itself over the past 44 years,” said board chair Patrick Daly in a press release (included below).

Ryerson student makes God his focus

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Kevin Lo entered Ryerson’s architecture program a mature, reserved and dedicated student. Starting university, grades were his uppermost focus — now it’s God.

This time last year Lo was nominated as vice-president of finance for Ryerson’s Catholic Students’ Association after becoming increasingly involved with the group. What started as a curiosity evolved into a vital component of Lo’s faith. But when he had an opportunity to truly influence the organization, Lo was filled with concern and doubt. So he prayed.

Parents must defend children against anti-family indoctrination

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OTTAWA - Parents must assert their rights as first educators of their children or bear the consequences of government policy that will profoundly re-engineer their children’s views on family and sexuality, says Teresa Pierre.

The director of Parents As First Educators (PAFE) said parents need to get involved in decisions being made that will affect their children.

“Start attending your parent-teacher meetings and start asking questions when you hear a proposal offered that doesn’t sound quite right, or worse, when you don’t hear anything at all,” she said. “Parents have a lot of influence when their criticisms are offered in a respectful way in a context of a community that knows you.

“The Church has told us the importance of parental authority in education and even suggested that families should work together to support each other,” she said, drawing from Familaris consortio (The Role of the Family in the Modern World), Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation.  This document describes parental authority in education as “primary and inalienable” and outlines the duty parents have to maintain an active relationship with teachers and school authorities, she said. Parents are to be advocates of family policies in society, the document says, and warns “families will be the first victims of the evils they have done no more than note with indifference.”

PAFE is a fledgling organization formed last spring during equity policy public consultations with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. When former Ontario education minister Kathleen Wynne introduced the Equity and Inclusive Education policy to Ontario schools in 2008, Pierre said, “It was designed to create openness to all forms of sexual expression by offering them as part of the curriculum from the earliest ages.” The controversial Bill 13, which mandates gay-straight alliances in high schools, is one prong of this policy, which includes a sexual education curriculum.

Though the Liberals tried to introduce the curriculum in 2010, it received so much criticism from parents the Ministry of Education withdrew it, Pierre said, though she notes Wynne has said the policy will come back. This curriculum would teach Grade 3 students about homosexuality and gender identity, teach Grade 6 students about masturbation and teach Grade 8 students about the concepts “heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual and intersexed,” she said.

“The second way the curriculum could be affected is that equity topics could be introduced almost anywhere in the regular curriculum,” she said, noting the Toronto District School Board issued a manual called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: a K-12 Curriculum Guide that undermines traditional views of the family. The material treats homosexuality and gender identity as fixed characteristics, she said.

“The fact that there are lots of competing views on the origins of sexual identity or even the need for scientific proof is not even mentioned.”

Pierre said few parents even know about the policy, despite the public consultations.  She said the media, Church hierarchy and school boards play a role in dissemination of information but at the school level, parent-teacher associations should be informing parents about these policies.  

“Are they doing that? Most don’t,” she said.

“Even the people who do care and do know better are often afraid to speak against the culture. You need to overcome your own fear, which is the root of the problem.”

Alberta homeschoolers fear intrusion on their rights

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EDMONTON - Like homeschooling parents across Alberta, Maria Blunt believes the new Alberta School Act has the potential to undermine her freedom to teach her four children what she believes.

“I value the freedom of home education and to teach what I wish to teach but (the act) does limit our freedom as far as our values go,” the Sherwood Park woman said.