I wrote a column in this space last week with a serious omission in it. The column concerned Alberta’s new education minister, Adriana LaGrange and the urgently needed parental influence she brings to the Education ministry. She is the mother of seven children, some no doubt involved in the family business– a trucking company and a farm operation. She is also a practicing Catholic Christian and a senior member of the pro-life movement in Red Deer.
Ted Byfield played a key role in the founding of three Christian residential schools for boys in Grades 6 to 12, all named St. John’s, after the Anglican cathedral in Winnipeg where the first of the three was located. They combined a demanding academic and outdoor program, with a strong emphasis on Canadian history, both English and French. This documentary on the Manitoba St. John’s was produced by the National Film Board in 1974. Byfield taught history in the schools for 17 years.
But a major qualification for the ministry is her twelve-year career as a Catholic school trustee. This fact had been mistakenly dropped out of the story. (My zeal to find the culprit who cut it was significantly tempered, however, when I found I’d inadvertently cut it myself. Instantly, the error became much less grievous. They can expect this kind of trouble, I reasoned, when they let ninety-year-olds continue writing columns.)
However, the omission had a beneficial element. It gives me an excuse to write further on the same subject, the new minister, and there is a further story that certainly needs to be written. As a Catholic trustee, Mrs. LaGrange would have no doubt taken an active and diligent part in the formation of a sex-ed course, advanced by the Catholic boards as an alternative to the government’s sex-ed course. When asked to comment on it, the then-minister, David Eggen, said that he had not read it, and did not intend to. So much for the weeks of work by the Catholic trustees. It warms the heart to see people like this now seated on the opposition benches,, and perhaps –after one more election — seated in the snow, outside the Legislative building altogether.
Meanwhile, as I explained last week, practically the whole bureaucratic colossus of public education is ranged against her and she needs our prayers. Within every center of power in the school system, there is firmly in place an ascendant philosophy which is virtually at total odds with Christianity in its central goals and assumptions. So she can expect the bureaucracy to firmly oppose anything she tries to do.
How will they do this, one might validly wonder. Other than smear her reputation wherever possible, they can do nothing. However, nothing is what they are iron-bound to do. Nothing is what preserves the status quo, the system as they have shaped it. That’s why nothing is the thing they do best. It’s always well concealed, of course. Her every initiative will be adorned with studies, committee hearings, ministerial reports, task forces, effectiveness assessments– all written in Bureaucratese, a language that only they understand. And all designed and dedicated to the sole and unwavering goal of doing nothing whatever.
Beyond this, however, there are three administrative areas from which the bureaucracy will do whatever it can to divert the minister’s and the public’s attention.
The first is the growing failure of the system to educate boys. They are dropping out of the high schools and universities in numbers that the administration is in no hurry to call attention to– chiefly, one suspects, because they have no clear idea what’s causing it, and even less of a notion what to do about it. But where 10 or 15 years ago males outnumbered females in university registrations by about 60 per cent to 40, those figures are now reversed. The implications of such a change are profound. If it cannot adequately challenge its young men, any society is in for big trouble. A growing pool of ill-educated, under-employed and increasingly resentful young men can become a social time bomb, and that is precisely what we are causing to develop around us.
Finding the solution may not be as difficult as it seems, but invoking it would be very difficult indeed. The answer is simply segregation in the junior high years — boys’ schools for boys with all male teachers, girls’ schools for girls with all female teachers. Don’t ask me why it works, but here I can invoke some small measure of personal credibility.
I attended a church boys’ boarding school myself in those years, and in later life I would help found three of them. Attending that school was the most definitive experience in my young life, all of it good. But the total masculinity of the place was an essential part of it. You were there without parents; without family. You had to learn to stand your own ground, and make the school itself your home. You needed and found friends and they needed you. Some of them would last for a lifetime. Chief among them was Jesus Christ.
Another circumstance the bureaucracy is in no great hurry to discuss is the undeniable decline in student performance. Veteran maths teachers tell me that very few Grade 12 students today could possibly pass the Grade 12 departmental maths exam from, say, 1974. That was before the educational catastrophe of the Sixties had begun its destructive work. Meanwhile, employers complain that hirelings with a Grade 12 standing can’t spell and don’t know what a sentence is, and universities are forced to set up “remedial” courses for Grade 12 graduates who did not know how to add, subtract, multiply or divide.
I asked an acquaintance, a science professor, whether the universities are having to reduce their standards because of the deficiencies of high school students. He said that the universities cannot and will not reduce their standards but where anyone can see the effects of poor teaching is in the university classes. Students from other cultures are increasingly present because they can meet the standards and the Alberta students cannot. So the locals are noticeable by their absence, while Alberta spends vast sums educating students from other societies and cultures.
The third non-discussible subject in the Education ministry will be the gradual disappearance of the sex clubs in the schools, the groups so zealously promoted by the previous government. As mentioned here before two factors will kill them–pedophilia and disease. The clubs are urged by their sponsors to form links with the “community” in the city. Which community they’re talking about is in no doubt.
But under legislation provided by the former government, teachers are forbidden to tell the parents if a student has joined one of these clubs. What happens when a child contracts a sexually transmitted disease? Who was responsible? Whom does the parent sue? How about the former minister? That might be a good place to start.
But is such a situation likely to arise? Likely? It is certain to arise. The disease control agency in Atlanta has noted what it calls an “alarming” rise in STD’s between people 15 to 25 years old. That is the time frame of the launching of these clubs in U.S. schools. So it’s not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.”
And this too will fall into the lap of the new minister. So do pray for her. She is undoubtedly a very good and competent person. But she needs all the help she can get.