Making Sense of Making Space, Giving Voice by Sean Murphy

2008 Winter-Spring

Making Sense of Making Space, Giving Voice 

2008 Winter-Spring - 2008  - A peer-reviewed article from an Issue of the Academic Journal "Fidelitas" of The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars

Sean Murphy is the Director of the Canadian Catholic Civil Rights League for Western Canada.

Editors Note: What appears below is a heavily excerpted version of a significant and powerful critique of Making Space, Giving Voice, a curriculum guide issued in November 2007 by the Ministry of Education in British Columbia to all of the province’s teachers. We have not been able to include the whole document, nor the extensive footnotes shown in the text. Readers are urged to read the full response, which contains extensive documentation, at


Making Space, Giving Voice is the result is the result of the Corren Agreement, a private contract between the Ministry of Education and two homosexual activists to change the state school curriculum.1 The Agreement was signed secretly in 2006 and, by common consent, kept secret for over a month.2 When the deal was finally disclosed, the Ministry of the Attorney General directed attention almost exclusively to a proposed grade 12 social justice elective, which the Ministry of Education emphasized was not mandatory.3 In fact, the most important part of the Agreement was that children from Kindergarten to Grade 12 would be forced to participate in "queer positive" classes and lessons,4 even over the

objections of their parents.5 Making Space, Giving Voice illustrates how these lessons will be taught. It provides some insight into the ultimate impact of the Corren Agreement on state school curriculum and upon fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

The Ministry of Education allowed only six weeks for the public to respond to Making Space, Giving Voice,6 sharply curtailing opportunities for serious and searching criticism of an experiment in social engineering that is to be conducted upon children without the consent of their parents . . . 7

(From Part I: An Overview)

VI. The ethic of the experts

VI.1. The key to understanding the ethic of the experts is found in the definitions in the Glossary of Making Space, Giving Voice, beginning, first and foremost, with the definition of ‘power.’ They hold that the essence of power is the real or perceived ability to make choices and to make “significant” changes in society. They describe “people in power” as “privileged”, and assert that an imbalance of power “is one of the most common causes of social injustice.”36 Mostimportant - indeed, critical - power, in their view, is synonymous with authority.37

VI.2 But this simplistic conflation of power with authority, while favoured by some political theorists and sociologists,fails to recognize an important philosophical distinction. “An authority,” states The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, “is a person or group having a right to do something, including the right to demand that other people do something.”38Similarly:

By “authority” one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.39

VI.3 Power, on the other hand, is merely the ability to effect some kind of result. Authority authorizes the use of power to ensure that legitimate laws, rules and directions are obeyed. Of course, when power is lacking, authority may be ineffective.

VI.4 Injustice may result from the abuse of power, as when one student bullies another. It can also be caused by an abuse of authority, exemplified by teachers or priests who take sexual advantage of those in their care. But injustice can also arise when authority is not exercised: when, for example, those in authority fail to stop bullying or sexual abuse, either because they fail or refuse to exercise their authority effectively, or because they lack the power to give it effect.

VI.5 Why are these distinctions important? And why is it significant that Making Space, Giving Voice fails to make them? After all, this is a teacher guide, not a philosophical treatise. It is meant for busy people, already pressed for time, who teach children and adolescents, not post-graduate students. Surely some simplification is in order to make their job easier.

VI.6 Well, here is what Kindergarten to Grade 12 students are to be taught about power, according to Making Space, Giving Voice, set out as a pair of equations: power = authority

might = right.

VI.7 The notion that might makes right has a long and unhappy history at the root of all sorts of injustice.40 To use this as a principle to teach social justice is at least self-contradictory. And it seems strangely at odds with the theme of ‘oppression’ that runs through Making Space, Giving Voice.

VII. Power: ethic or ideology?

VII.1 The explanation for this is that there is a kind of simplification at work here, but not the simplification used by good teachers to communicate essential concepts. It is the simplification identified by Hannah Arendt as characteristic of ideology.41

An ideology is quite literally what its name indicates: it is the logic of an idea. Its subject matter is history, to which the“idea” is applied. . . The ideology treats the course of events as though it followed the same ‘law’ as the logical exposition of its “idea.” Ideologies pretend to know the mysteries of the whole historical process - the secrets of the past, the intricacies of the present, the uncertainties of the future - because of the logic inherent in their respective ideas. . . . Ideologies always assume that one idea is sufficient to explain everything in the development from the premise, and that no experience can teach anything because everything is comprehended in this consistent process of logical deduction.42

VII.2 What is behind the concept of “social justice” in Making Space, Giving Voice is less an ethic than an ideology of power. The anonymous experts believe that one can dispense with concepts like authority because the idea of power is sufficient to explain everything that needs an explanation. The essential ideological view is that social justice is to be achieved by maintaining a balance of power, ‘empowering’ the oppressed to confront and ‘push back’ their oppressors. Teach students that social justice depends upon manipulating and controlling power, and they will discover “the secrets of the past, the intricacies of the present, the uncertainties of thefuture.”

VII.3 It may be argued that much of Making Space, Giving Voice is dedicated to the theme of oppression rather than power, and it is true that explicit and implicit references to power are substantially outnumbered by references to oppression. But, consistent with Arendt’s observation that ideology explains everything by reference to a single idea, Making Space, Giving Voice explains oppression in terms of power - more precisely, an imbalance of power (See Appendix “A”).

VII.4 The groundwork for the ideology of power was laid in the Career and Personal Planning Programme for grades 8 to12 (See Appendix “B”). For almost fifteen years, working from the premise that the full development of human potential depends upon maximization of personal autonomy, CAPP has encouraged students (and teachers) to see human relationships primarily in terms of a struggle for power among persons with competing interests. Making Space, Giving Voice presumes CAPP’s view of the human person and refines and develops some of its implications. Of course, the ideology of power has not taken hold only in education, or only in British Columbia. Personal autonomy has become a dominant principle in the other key social disciplines of medicine and law.43

(From Part 3: From Relativism to Authoritarianism)

The mask of moral neutrality

XVI.1 CAPP proposed a ‘morality of sentiment,’ suggesting that conflicts be resolved according to students’ feelings about consequences, not according to what they thought about right and wrong (Appendix “C”). Its substitution of potentially blind and indiscriminate private feeling for rational judgement reflected the fact that its underlying premise of moral relativism was essentially incoherent, since the central tenet of relativism - that it is certainly true that nothing is certainly true - is self-contradictory.

XVI.2 Despite what it suggested to students, CAPP was judgemental, as it demonstrated when it judged premarital sex to be morally acceptable1 and violence morally unacceptable.2 This fundamental contradiction was never addressed in the curriculum. Instead, the curriculum and lesson plans were structured to create a learning environment designed (once more borrowing Professor Budziszewski’s words) to “[advance] a moral view by pretending to have no moral view.”3

XVI.3 Manipulative teaching polices and strategies employed for this purpose included teacher control of classroom expression,4 vague terminology facilitating arbitrary evaluation,5 lessons using tendentious statistical interpretation6 or offering inaccurate or incomplete information,7 forced choice tests and exercises,8 biased case studies,9 role plays with implicit moral messages,10 and organized peer pressure in the form of group work and “pair and share.”11 The latter techniques were useful because they could help “to unfreeze a child’s existing value system so that new attitudes and values may be adopted.”12

XVI.4 Not without reason did Professor Budziszewski describe such an approach to education as “bad-faithauthoritarianism.” Nonetheless, CAPP’s breathless blethering about constantly changing values and the importance of non- judgementalism left the programme on an insecure footing because it could not, working from its own principles, openly demand that students accept the Ministry’s morality or abandon their own. Granted that the design was uthoritarian, it was “authoritarianism lite.”

Taking off the mask

XVII.1 One might speculate, following the logic of Making Space, Giving Voice and its interest in fostering “pluralisticideals in a classroom setting,” that students will be taught an ethic of diversity: that they should “honour” and “celebrate” ethical diversity: that they should be “open” and “accepting” of all ethical views, that classrooms should be “safe” for theexpression of all ethical opinions: that everyone will benefit if ethical differences “are acknowledged and utilized in a positive way.”13

XVII.2 Quite the reverse. Making Space, Giving Voice warns that “teaching to enhance recognition of diversity and support for social justice. . . does not involve a validation of any orall opinions.” Self-expression that is ignorant or hurtful or that can be readily construed as a perpetuation of oppression or injustice should not be a part of classroom discourse and will need to be addressed if it arises.14

XVII.3 In other words, Making Space, Giving Voice is really not meant to make space for all, nor to give voice to all. For all the cant about welcoming “diversity,”15 and the importance of “inclusiveness,”16 some voices are not welcome, and some views are to be excluded. Nothing comparable to this forthright admission existed in CAPP. It illustrates the‘progress’ that has been made over the last fifteen years. The insecurity underlying CAPP’s thin authoritarianism has been replaced by the certitude needed for the real thing. The mask of neutrality is coming off.

XVII.4 Making Space, Giving Voice explicitly authorizes teachers to discriminate against the expression of certain views in the classroom. They are not to honour, respect and accept all ethical differences. Instead, they are instructed to use“anticipatory” and “responsive” strategies to control classroom discussion and prevent or suppress the expression of what they consider to be “ignorant” or “hurtful” views.17

XVII.5 How might this play out in a diversity-sensitive biology class if, following the recommendation of Making Space, Giving Voice, students discuss the ethics of artificial reproduction?

XVII.6 Well, a student who asserts the Catholic belief that in vitro fertilization is gravely wrong18 may find his remarks‘named’ by the teacher19 as ignorant of the emotional distress of infertile couples, hurtful to classmates thus conceived,disrespectful of their parents’ choices, and oppressive of disadvantaged persons or groups.20

XVII.7 Or perhaps not. It all depends on the teacher’s ethical point of view. In fact, everything depends on the teacher’sethical point of view: not just freedom of expression, but students’ marks and progress. For one could hardly appeal against ‘naming’ the student’s remarks to the document that explicitly authorizes it. Nor could the student complain if the teacher were to penalize him by reducing his “class participation” mark, since that would be supported by the BC Performance Standards: Social Responsibility (2001).21

XVII.8 Making Space, Giving Voice and the related documents thus provide substantial support for teachers who mean to impose a particular ethical view upon students, and who wish to suppress the expression of contrary beliefs. The ethic to be imposed and beliefs to be suppressed will depend upon the individual teacher’s notion of what constitutes socialresponsibility and social justice, since the former is undefined,22 and the Ministry’s description of social justice is broad enough to encompass radically different views of the human person, human rights, morality and ethics.23

The principles of “Newspeak”

XVIII.1 All of this is glossed over with a note that there is “a tension between the teacher’s responsibility to create a safe learning environment for all students and to engage students in learning and critical conversations about important social issues.” (Emphasis added)24

XVIII.2 Making Space, Giving Voice indicates that such tension is to be resolved in favour of “safety,” a term it strategically fails to define. Instead, it implies that “safety” is equivalent to or inextricably connected with “inclusiveness,” “respect” and “welcome.”25 CAPP was, at least, somewhat more direct, asserting that it was important “to create an environment where it is safe for students to express opinions without being judged by others.”26 XVIII.3 This kind of thinking extends the concept of safety well beyond the obvious need to be secure against bullying, intimidation, threats, violence, vandalism and theft. It is doubtful that creating judgement-free bubble zones around schools is a good way to prepare students for the rough and tumble of democratic discourse.

XVIII.4 In any case, Making Space, Giving Voice makes it quite clear that students will be judged - by teachers. Teachers are to suppress “self-expression that is ignorant or hurtful”and model “consistent use of language.”27 They are to recognize “hurtful and unfair language,”28 and identify “exclusionary language” as a form of oppression.29 They are warned against “discussions that exclude certain groups of students,”30 “exclusionary language, behaviour or policy”31 and “assumptions that exclude or marginalise.”32 According to homosexual activists, hurtful, ignorant, exclusionary and unfair language now include words like “father” and “mother”33 or “husband” and “wife.”34

XVIII.5 One of the assumptions that is said to “exclude or marginalise” is formally defined by the glossary: “heterosexism: the assumption that heterosexual orientation is better than other sexual orientations and therefore deserving of public acceptance and legal privilege.”35 Thus, an assertion that the truth and meaning of human sexuality can be found only in a male-female relationship is equated by Making Space, Giving Voice with racism,36 an association that is reinforced repeatedly throughout the document.37 Similarly, opponents of so-called same-sex ‘marriage’ would, simply by virtue of their opposition, be guilty of attempting to perpetuate social injustice.38

XVIII.6 Cross-referenced to “heterosexism” is “homophobia,” defined as “a fear, dislike or hatred of homosexuality or homosexuals.” Homophobia manifests itself as prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and/or acts of violence brought on by fear and hatred. Homophobia can exists at personal, institutional, and societal levels. Also transphobia: fear, dislike or hatred of transgendered or transsexual people. See also heterosexism.39

XVIII.7 Thus, moral or philosophical objections to same sex ‘marriage’ or homosexual conduct or lifestyles (or any other form of gender identity or “orientation”) would also be classed as “homophobic” or “heterosexist” - again, in the view of Making Space, Giving Voice, “hurtful behaviour” that is morally equivalent to racism and intimidation.40

XVIII.8 This brings one to consider the position of those who do not share the Correns’ enthusiasm for “non-heterosexual realities.” They run the risk of being “named” as bigots who are “not accepting people for who they are.”41 Students and teachers who object to homo/bi/trans/genderqueer sexual conduct or lifestyles for reasons of conscience or religion cannot articulate their views in state schools if the very concepts, arguments and even the words and expressions that they would have to use are forbidden.

XVIII.9 One is reminded of the principles of “Newspeak,” articulated by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty Four. Words like “heterosexist” and “homophobic” reflect a vocabulary specially crafted “not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits” that activists think proper, “but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”42 Within the context of Making Space, Giving Voice, words like “safety,” “exclusionary,” “inclusiveness,” “diversity”and “discrimination” are co-opted for the same purpose.

(From Part IV: Transforming the Curriculum)

The straitjacket of ideology

XXIII.1 “Some things lead beyond words,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in his Nobel Lecture in Literature.

Art inflames even a frozen, darkened soul to a high spiritual existence. Through art we are sometimes visited - dimly, briefly - by revelations such as cannot be produced by rational thinking. Like that little looking-glass from the fairy-tales; look into it, and you will see - not yourself - but for one second, the Inaccessible, whither no man can ride, no man can fly. And only the soul gives a groan . . . 33

XXIII.2 It is doubtful that such reflections can be rendered in Ministry speak. Certainly, nothing of the sort is found in Making Space, Giving Voice. Instead, its treatment of English literature illustrates Arendt’s point that ideology is incapable of comprehending realities or experience outside its narrow field of view.

XXIII.3 Consider, for example, its recommendations for a lesson about Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. No reference to poetic beauty, mystery, and longing here, but the myopic view of the ideologue: “gender roles, people who are different, being unable to ‘come out’ into the world, sexual power.” 34

XXIII.4 A similarly dismal approach is taken to The Scream, a short story by Diana J. Wieler. 35 Making Space, Giving Voice suggests that it can be used to introduce Grade 7 students to the concept of oppression:

Ms. Draginda is in a position of power in this story. Does what she does and say make it easier for students in the class to be bullies? Is she herself a “bully”? Does she abuse her power? How? What other ways to [sic] people in authority abuse their power? 36

.XXIII.5 Ms. Draginda is a drama teacher with a commanding presence, a curt, confrontational manner and an authoritarian approach to classroom management. Within the course of a few paragraphs she expels a clownish bully, brings a Ms. Popularity down to earth, and wordlessly communicates, heart-to-heart, with the main character. Brief though it is, the story has much to say because its characters have depth and history and a future, and much of what is most important is left unsaid. The Scream operates at levels unapproachable by the route suggested by Making Space, Giving Voice. If there is a lesson about oppression here, it is that the anonymous authors are advocating the literary equivalent of Chinese foot- binding.

Paul’s Case

XXIII.6 Willa Cather’s short story, Paul’s Case, first appeared in 1905.37 Making Space, Giving Voice offers the following synopsis: Paul’s Case is about a boy who does not fit in. He is being pressured by his father to become what “all the other boys” become. Some young people feel that they do not fit in. Paul does not have any real friends. He is often bullied because other youngsters do not understand him. His teachers treat him cruelly because he makes them feel small and inferior.38

XXIII.7 Paul eventually commits suicide. Making Space, Giving Voice recommends that teachers “consider the idea of alienation or marginalization as a theme of the story.” Attempts to have the students understand that Paul receives no help for his dilemma and thus turns to suicide as what he sees as his only option. 39

XXIII.8 The suggested questions ask students to explain why Paul feels alienated, and are increasingly directed toward the activist position that society is to blame for suicidal tendencies among “sexual minorities:” In what other ways do people feel alienated from society? What responsibility do the adults have in the story for Paul’s suicide? hat details from the story may lead the reader to believe that Paul is gay? Are these stereotypes? Comment on what the story is saying about growing up not being able to be who you really are? Why might the author have been reluctant to be explicit aboutPaul’s sexual orientation?40

Looking into Paul’s Case

XX.III.9 The difference between the length of the lesson plan for Paul’s Case and the present response to it illustrates the proverb that a lie can get half-way ‘round the world before the truth can get its boots on.

XXIII.10 The reader learns that in Paul there has always been a “shadowed corner,” a “dark place into which he dared not look, but from which something seemed always to be watching him.” The corner is associated with things that Paul had done “that were not pretty to watch.”

XXIII11 Paul’s contemplation of suicide begins with the onset of depression, exacerbated by a hangover: Yet somehow he was not afraid of anything, was absolutely calm; perhaps because he had looked into the dark corner at last and knew. It was bad enough, what he saw there, but somehow not so bad as his long fear of it had been. He saw everything clearly now. He had a feeling that he had made the best of it, that he

had lived the sort of life he was meant to live . . .

XXIII.12 An argument can be made that the “dark corner” in Paul’s character is a veiled reference to homosexual inclinations, hinted at by his association with Charley Edwards, a young actor. It might also be suggested that Paul’s night out with a “wild San Francisco boy” included

a homosexual encounter. 41 Other points can be drawn from the story to support a thesis that “Paul is gay” and that Cather was “reluctant to be explicit” about it. In appearance and interests, for example, Paul might be considered a loose adolescent caricature of Oscar Wilde, but without his intelligence, charm, or talents.

Alternative readings

XXIII.13 Paul, however, demonstrates no sexual interest of any kind; he actually shows an aversion to physical contactwith “men and women alike.” Alternative readings that take this into account can be suggested.

XXIII14 “Paul is a true sensualist,” writes one reviewer, “ rebelling against the ordinary, the drab, the everyday.” She concludes that he can’t be blamed “when he decides he would rather kill himself than go back to that soul-numbing world.”42 Another considers the tale an exploration of

“the dangers of art and the struggles of artists and artistically inclined youth in a commercial world,” the story of “a youngman who lives for beauty and believes that money can transform his identity.” 43

XXIII.15 Drawing on details from the story and from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology has offered a convincing argument that Paul’s Case is a brilliantly drawn illustration of a boy suffering from "narcissistic personality disorder.” He notes, however, that the reader is left to wonder “what exactly lived in Paul” that drove him to suicide.44 Particularly in this respect, the “diagnosis” is faithful to the story. The “dark corner” is only one aspect of Paul’s complex personality, one that is not recognized by other characters and with which, in the end, Paul seems to have made his peace.

XXIII.16 It is unremarkable that readers who bring different perspectives to a story will derive different meanings and associations from it. But Paul’s Case is not a shallow screed about homosexuality, suicide or victimhood, and the ideological treatment of the story recommended by Making Space, Giving Voice is deceptive. 45

The false assertion of “pressure”

XXIII.17 “[W]hat all the other boys” is a phrase not found in Paul’s Case, despite the quotation marks placed around it by the anonymous authors of Making Space, Giving Voice. The phrase, quotation marks and all, is their work, employed intheir accusation that Paul’s father pressures him to be like other boys. Upon reading the story, one finds that Paul’s father would like him to tell the truth, do well at school, learn the value of money through work experience, and ultimately find employment that will allow him to support a family. Most parents would consider this an unremarkable (though incomplete) description of basic parental hopes for their children. It is a telling comment on the ideology of the anonymous authors that they construe it as burdensome “pressure.”

The false assertion of bullying

XXIII.18 Making Space, Giving Voice correctly states that Paul has no true friends, and that “other youngsters do not understand him.” But it is not true that “he is often bullied.” It is his aggression towards his fellow ushers at the theatre that prompts them, having been “teased and plagued” by Paul beyond endurance, to sit on him and tell him that he is crazy. This is the only incident of the kind in the story, and the experience has no discernible effect on him. His social difficulties at school arise because he tries to make a name for himself by lying to his classmates, and, when the lies cease to command interest, invents even more extravagant lies. In the face of this, the other students grow “listless,” not violent or cruel.

The false assertion of cruelty

XXIII.19 Nor is cruelty characteristic of his teachers, Making Space, Giving Voice to the contrary. The principal and drawing master are sympathetic in considering his situation when he faces the faculty after a week’s suspension. His other teachers “[fall] upon him without mercy, his English teacher leading


Journal of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada) Winter-Spring 2008

the pack.” On the other hand, it is recalled that she had been hurt and embarrassed when he rejected her attempt to help him at the blackboard, an attempt hardly indicative of cruelty. Similarly, she later regrets the haughtiness she displayed upon meeting him in his role as usher at Carnegie Hall.

XXIII.20 His teachers’ vitriolic complaints against him result from real and unpleasant facts about his character andconduct, not because “he makes them feel small and inferior.” But what most undercuts Making Space, Giving Voice’s specious accusation of cruelty is that the teachers feel badly after the faculty meeting. They realize that they let their frustration and despair at Paul’s conduct get the better of them; some are remorseful. 46 Weak and imperfect human beings they are, to be sure, but not cruel. Paul, on the other hand, continues in his duplicity and self-centredness.

The false assertion of identity

XXIII.21 Making Space, Giving Voice wonders “what the story is saying about growing up not being able to be who you really are,” implying that Paul is driven to suicide because he is prevented from living out his own true identity. But the very notion of “true identity” is problematic. Paul’s habitual lying is inconsistent with a real interest in the truth about himself, which he misrepresents at every opportunity. If Paul’s “true identity” is that of a self-centred liar, braggart, and thief, (characteristics readily found in the text), he is not prevented from living it out. In fact, he lives it fully, and most fully in his final days. His suicide occurs at the end of his New York extravaganza, after he realizes that the stolen money is almost gone and he cannot continue his masquerade.

XXIII.22 It is true that a boy with an artistic temperament and a love for classical music and art would probably feel out of place among the Calvinist burghers of Pittsburgh’s Cordelia Street. Cather’s subtitle, “a study in temperament,” suggests as much. But even if an undeveloped artistic temperament is said to be an important part of Paul’s identity, it is very much less than the whole of his identity as a human being, which involves relationships with his family, neighbours classmates and teachers, as well as moral obligations. His temperament does not excuse his lying, condescension and theft, nor does it make his suicide a kind of martyrdom in the cause of art - or the Corren Creed.

The false assertion of abandonment

XXIII.23 The assertion by Making Space, Giving Voice that Paul commits suicide because he receives no help is also false. His father consults the principal because of “his perplexity about his son,” and Paul is re-admitted to the school after a suspension, presumably because they are willing to work with him despite his attitude, an attitude that, ultimately, makes it impossible for them to help him. After it is discovered that he has stolen a thousand dollars47 from his employer, his father refunds the money and goes in search of the prodigal in New York. The employer does not go to the police, and Paul’s Calvinist minister and Sunday School teacher express the hope that they will be able to reclaim “the motherless lad.”

XXIII.24 Help aplenty there is for Paul, but he doesn’t want it, no more than he wanted help from his teachers. “Whatresponsibility do the adults have in the story for Paul’s suicide?” asks Making Space, Giving Voice. Contrary to what the anonymous authors appear to expect, the answer, bluntly, is none. Paul has options and he knows what they are, but they don’t appeal to him. He dies as he lived, contemptuous of others, and in horror of the “same-old-same-old.”

XXIII.25 It could be said that Paul rejects the “help” offered by his father, teachers and minister because, in his view, what they offer is help to buckle himself into the confining straitjacket of life on Cordelia Street. One might wistfullyspeculate that, if only they had the insight into Paul’s character provided by the omniscient narrator, they might have found some way to connect with the boy. Equally, had Paul had been open to the goodness of ordinary life and its possibilities, he might sooner have realized “the vastness of what he had left undone,” rather than recalling it as he plunged to his death in front of the oncoming train.48

Impoverished thinking

XXIII.26 The tragic dimensions of Paul’s character and circumstances are revealed through detail, allusion and description woven into a convincing whole that reflects the meaningful complexity of human life. But, as Hannah Arendt observes, ideology is never interested “in the miracle of being.”49 Hence, a fixed, ideologically driven determination to attribute Paul’s suicide to oppression and prejudice leads to spurious claims about pressure, bullying, cruelty, identity

and abandonment, and the approach recommended by Making Space, Giving Voice strips away whatever does not help to demonstrate the merciless logic of this controlling idea. Such mendacity and impoverished thinking are not the hallmarks of a sound educational philosophy.

(From Part V: Why it Matters)

Why does it matter?

XXV.1 Why does it matter that Making Space, Giving Voice recommends incoherent views, withholds relevant information, draws false analogies, fails to make critical distinctions, and offers lesson plans that are ideologically driven, tendentious, and untrustworthy?

XXV.2 A child, judging from appearances, might answer simply that people shouldn’t tell lies, a reaction that might offend the Ministry of Education. One could suggest something more: that true education has no need of such machinations, which reflect an understanding of man and society that is at least inadequate, if not erroneous. The direction imparted to educational policy by Making Space, Giving Voice is not one that leads to freedom.

XXV.3 Still, many would be satisfied with the child’s answer. ***

XXV.4 Why does it matter if students are taught to accept any and all sexual inclinations, conduct and lifestyles, save those declared illegal?

XXV.5 This is not a question a child can answer, nor is it one that children are even inclined to ask, at least until after they have been introduced by some interested party to the diverse world of “sexual minorities.” And this is likely the first answer that parents would give: that what is being proposed requires an exploration of sub-cultures and activities beyond the experience of most children and even most adults.

XXV.6 Even if such an exploration could be accomplished without the risk (to teachers and school authorities) of complaints of sexual harassment, and without adverse effects (for children), the decision to approve or disapprove of any particular form of sexual relationship requires either moral analysis beyond the capacity of most children, or the application of a moral standard that they have learned from others. The Ministry of Education has not demonstrated that children will be better off if they are weaned from the moral standards learned from their parents and, instead, adopt those of the Correns and the Ministry.

XXV.7 To say that acceptance of “sexual minority lifestyles” can be dealt with in “age-appropriate” ways under the rubric of “love” is a subterfuge. It is disingenuous to frame the issue exclusively in terms of “love ”(defined, moreover, as a form of emotional attraction), without any reference to genital sexual activity. There is more involved in non-heterosexual lifestyles than biology and conduct, to be sure, but there is not less; activists are not seeking public approval of celibate loving relationships. When they convince Grade One children that it is good for two men to love one another the way a man and woman love one another, they mean to trade on this idea later to convince them that buggery is morally acceptable. The strategy is not new. C.S. Lewis described how this technique works, explaining that its power depends upon the fact that teachers are dealing, not with adults, but with children and adolescents, “a boy who thinks that he is “doing” his “English prep” and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics

are all at stake.” It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which, ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all. . . [The boy] cannot know what is being done to him.1

XXV.8 Leaving aside further discussion of pedagogical methods, the well-being of children and the good of society depends upon the stability of the family, rooted in the marriage of man and woman. The importance of natural marriage and the family is demonstrated by the fact that same-sex ‘marriage’ has never been accepted as a norm in any society in human history,2 something that was admitted by the Canadian judges who decided that should change.3 To portray the acceptance of same-sex ‘marriage’ as a requirement of social justice4 is a direct attack on a fundamental human institution.5

XXV.9 In addition, teaching that homosexual conduct is morally acceptable offers radical confirmation of a presumption that sexual relations can be pursued for purely recreational reasons, even if the possibility of procreation is deliberately excluded. With that presumption confirmed, it becomes extremely difficult in practice - if not impossible - to see why sexual relations should be confined to marriage, why it should involve only two people (rather than one or three or more), or even why this form of recreation could not be morally pursued with another species.6 Such attitudes encourage sexual promiscuity (“friends with benefits”) and are inimical to natural marriage and stable family life.


XXV.10 Why does it matter that the core curriculum is sacrificed in the interests of social justice?

XXV.11 The question presumes that the concept of social justice offered in Making Space, Giving Voice is adequate, that it will be adequately presented, and that the core curriculum offers little of value in comparison. The first presumption will be addressed presently. The second is quite unrealistic (See Section III).

XXV.12 With respect to the transformation of the curriculum, George Cardinal Pell has commented upon changes in the school curriculum in Australia that appear to reflect the intentions of Making Space, Giving Voice and the method it follows in its handling of The Lady of Shalott, The Scream and Paul’s Case.

XXV.13 Cardinal Pell notes that students are to be taught “to ‘deconstruct the structures and features of texts,’ to overcome the assumption that ‘texts [are] timeless, universal or unbiased,’ to understand the ‘unequal positions of power’ that texts often present, and in this way to ‘work for social equity and change.’” Examining how relativism in the form of school- based postmodernism proposes to make students into "agents of social change" makes it apparent very quickly that there is another agenda at work underneath it all. Generally accepted understandings of family, sexuality, maleness, femaleness, parenthood, and culture are treated as "dominant discourses" that impose and legitimize injustice and intolerance. These dominant discourses are then undermined by a disproportionate focus on "texts" which normalize moral and social disorder.7 Too much time is given to narratives about sad and dysfunctional individuals and shattered families. While no one is arguing that children, especially senior secondary school students, should be brought up only on fairy tales with happy endings, this narrow focus and the rejection of those principles which build and maintain society's social capital mean that students are not forced to confront and learn from the great English-language classics but are allowed to sink towards the sordid and the dismal rather than strive towards the good and the beautiful.8


XXV.14 Why does it matter that Making Space, Giving Voice advocates an ideology of power as a response to social injustice?

XXV.15 It matters because ideas have consequences, and there are fundamental flaws in this ideology. It matters because this ideology is not the only or even the most plausible view of the world, yet one would never know this from reading Making Space, Giving Voice. It matters because an ideology of power, while it may account for some human failings, cannot comprehend man’s highest aspirations. And it matters because ideological indoctrination is a most unsatisfactory preparation for life in a liberal democracy.

Ideas have consequences

XXV.16 The most immediate and practical response to the claims of an ideology of power and the cult of personal autonomy is the fact that we are not autonomous. We are not autonomous persons, but interpersonal and interdependent persons. We depend upon others to bring us into existence, to provide our clothing and food, to teach us to walk and talk and play and work, to entertain and comfort us and to share our joys and our sorrows. We give, we receive and we flourish in relationship, not in isolation. Hence, an ideology of power, particularly with its implications for marriage and family life, is a threat to the kind of social and moral environment that is most conducive to human happiness.

An alternative view

XXV.18 An ideology of power is not the only or even the most plausible view of the world, yet one would never know this from reading Making Space, Giving Voice.

XXV.19 Especially in a public school, the expansiveness of a philosophy is preferable to the narrowness of an ideology, even if philosophical thought involves what Arendt called a “necessary insecurity.” A plausible alternative to the ideology of power might be found in a philosophy that begins something like this: Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.9

XXV.20 That is only a beginning, but there are many who would argue that such a beginning holds more promise for ourchildren and our children’s children than anything that can be found in Making Space, Giving Voice.

Our highest aspirations

XXV.21 The claim that social justice can be achieved by seizing and controlling the levers of power might be metsuperficially with Lord Acton’s observation that power tends to corrupt. Such a response would be altogether inadequate, and even suspect, especially coming from those perceived to be in positions of power. But it is certainly true that simply giving power to people does not make them either just or wise, and 122

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that social justice is unlikely to be achieved by giving power to people who are without those and other virtues.

XXV.22 The more telling point, however, lies in the fact that the highest aspirations of man - including the pursuit of social justice - are spiritual quests.10 To the extent that power is relevant at all, the power involved is a spiritual power, the power of being, not the power of doing - or of making, or destroying, or manipulating social and political institutions. And this can be expressed most poignantly by those who lack the power that can be bought for a euro or a dollar or a yen, or seized at the point of a gun. The ideology of power offered by Making Space, Giving Voice is weak and insipid in the face of Antigone’s answer to Creon, the Apology of Socrates, the Sermon on the Mount, or the last words of Rabbi Daniel of Kelme to his congregation in 1941.11

XXV.23 It might be argued that the preceding examples are simply ancient forms of oppression dressed up in the kind of sentiment savaged by Wilfred Owen in Dulce et Decorum Est. Very well: take Owen’s poem, or Handel’s Messiah, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, St. Peter’s Basilica or the life and work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. All express, in different ways and forms, the primacy of the human spirit,12 compared to which what is offered in Making Space, Giving Voice is dust and ashes.

From authoritarianism to totalitarianism

XXV.24 Democracy is, in principle, a form of government that seems likely to provide an especially favourable environment for the flourishing of the human spirit. But ideological education, especially an ideology of power and autonomy, conforms to the demands of a totalitarian regime, not to the needs and aspirations of a liberal democracy. If this seems paradoxical, it should be noted that Arendt argues that everyideology contains “totalitarian elements,” and that ideology plays an important role “in the apparatus of totalitarian domination.” It happens that the ideology of power associated with CAPP and Making Space, Giving Voice contributes three specific elements that Arendt identifies as important in the development of a totalitarian state.

XXV.25 The first is political isolation. Citizens isolated from one another “are powerless by definition,” so that the nearerone approaches the supposed ideal of personal autonomy, the closer one is to domination by the state. This is most obvious when children, “liberated” from their parents, families and cultural or religious communities by documents like the Corren Agreement, stand alone before the state and powerful interests.

XXV.26 The second element is the destruction of private life, rooted in marriage and the family, in which, much more than political isolation, Arendt found the source of loneliness. In this respect, Mother Teresa’s comment that the world’s developed countries suffer from “a poverty of intimacy, a poverty of spirit, of loneliness, of lack of love” is worthy ofnotice.13

XXV.27 The third element is the collapse of belief in universal moral standards and loss of confidence in the capacity of human reason.14 This Arendt deemed even more important than indoctrination. “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions,” she wrote, “but to destroy the capacity to form any.”

XXV.28 To make these observations is not to assert that the collapse of democracy is imminent, nor does it imply that Arendt’s regime of “total terror” is about to fall upon us. But democracy may not, in the long run, be incompatible with all forms of totalitarianism.15 The social control effected by Nazi or Communist terror can be achieved by means more compatible with Canadian sensitivities: by developing a culture of comfort, for example. Or through a state school system following guidelines like Making Space, Giving Voice.

A new separation? -Law enforcement and liberty

XXVI.1 Until the 19th century, a state attempting to exert control over its citizens could do so either through arbitrary measures or by law, or some combination of the two.16 As democracy developed and spread, adherence to the rule of law became the hallmark of democratic states. Discarding authoritarian practices, they came to rely exclusively upon law to maintain public order and regulate social affairs.

XXVI.2 Law enforcement being the primary and most prominent method of social regulation used by states, legal authorities concerned with liberty issues have been chiefly interested in limiting the law enforcement powers of the state and supervising the police and other state enforcement agencies. Extensive jurisprudence has been developed to protect fundamental freedoms against repressive law enforcement, particularly with respect to intrusions on the person and personal privacy.

Development of state education

XXVI.3 Even as democratic ideas were spreading, interest in public education began percolating in some influential circles. 

Education was originally a private matter, undertaken by parents and clergy within the family or in schools operated directly by parents or religious denominations. Proponents of public education believed that public schools could play an important role in contributing to social stability and good citizenship. Public education became widespread in wealthier nations toward the end of the 19th century, when compulsory attendance laws were enacted. During the 20th century, legal school leaving ages were raised, and, by the end of the century, most students were attending state schools continuously for 12 to 13 years.

XXV.4 Until the last decades of the 20th century, the teacher’s role was understood to focus primarily on providing specialized instruction in academic or technical subjects, or guidance relevant to the pursuit of educational goals. Teachers necessarily exerted a social influence on students and helped to form their character, two points which motivated early advocates of public schooling. But this influence, while important in varying degrees, was seen as secondary and informal, complementing the primary formation of the child in the family.

XXVI.5 In recent decades, educational authorities, motivated by a number of factors, have assumed increasing responsibility for the emotional, moral and social development of students. A good example of this can be found in CAPP’s formal learning outcomes and requirements for evaluation and assessment.17 In this type of education, the school and teacher have been increasingly inclined to displace parents and the family in their primary role in directing the child’s personal development. It is probably no accident that this development coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of families shattered by divorce and children born into and the broken families.

State education and liberty issues

XXVI.6 These developments in public education have been driven by a variety of factors that have nothing to do with any scheme for increasing state control over its citizens. It would be absurd to suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, the development of state schools over the past century and the growing trend towards psycho-social education have, incidentally, provided the state or other powerful interests the means to bring their power to bear on fundamental freedoms.

XXVI.7 Unlike law, education is intended to get directly at the interior dispositions, opinions and beliefs of citizens. Unlike law, which can control only by punishing overt acts injurious to society, education brings much more subtle forms of pressure to bear, and brings that pressure to bear on impressionable children and adolescents. In that respect, as well, the impact of education differs considerably from the impact of law enforcement, which has restricted application to adolescents and employs its full powers only against adults.

XXVI.8 Limiting the power of state educational officials to interfere with fundamental freedoms would thus seem to be at least as important a public policy goal as limiting the power of law enforcement. However, development of legal safeguards against the abuse of law enforcement powers has not been matched by similar progress in controlling state educational officials. Coercive measures no longer available to law enforcement officers - perhaps never available to them - remain possible through education.18 Given the late development of state directed education, this is not surprising.

Nonetheless, this cannot be allowed to continue. The imposition of compulsory ideological instruction in state schools over the objections of parents through measures like the Corren Agreement and Ministry of Education policy is offensive to the traditions of this country and to people who value their freedom.

XXVI.10 The existing state educational framework includes an elected Minister of Education, elected school boards, district and school parent advisory councils and a college of teachers responsible for professional standards and discipline. It is also true that parents and others concerned can take some practical steps to protect their authority and their freedoms and those of their children, and that they can become politically active at the local and provincial levels. It may be argued that this ystem offers adequate safeguards against policies that endanger fundamental freedoms, and that nothing more is required.

XXVI.11 However, the insufficiency of this argument is demonstrated by the secret signing of the private agreement with the Correns, its imposition by the Ministry of Education, and the fact that, in light of the Agreement, a number of school districts have been unwilling to openly and unequivocally affirm their support parental authority in education or for freedom of conscience and religion. Moreover, it is unfair to expect parents to spend the twelve to fifteen years their children attend school in continual, if not continuous confrontation with unsympathetic or even hostile state educational authorities bent on policies of cultural and religious assimilation.

XXVI.12 It appears that serious efforts must now be made to protect fundamental freedoms against interference or suppression by state educational officials. This may include a substantial change of the scope of the powers and responsibilities of the Ministry of Education and reform of the management of the state school system. Ultimately, the preservation of democratic freedoms may require the separation of school and state.