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Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent

Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Schooling in Canada

Edited by Graham P. McDonough, Nadeem A. Memon, and Avi I. Mintz
Subjects Religion, Education
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Paperback : 9781554588411, 282 pages, February 2013
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588695, 282 pages, September 2013


Excerpt from Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Shooting in Canada edited by Graham P. McDonough, Nadeem A. Memon, and Avi I. Mintz

From the Introduction

The 2007 Ontario provincial election brought educational questions of faith-based schools and social cohesion into high relief. The Progressive Conservative Party, under the leadership of John Tory, campaigned with, among other things, a promise to extend full funding to all faith-based schools (pre-kindergarten through high school) in Ontario. A heated debate ensued and featured a variety of concerns, including a question of whether public funding for these schools would divert tax dollars from the current public school systems. The main focus of the debate, however, became a concern that faith-based schools are a threat to social cohesion. For instance, Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal premier, said that when he travels around the world, people ask him,†Why have I not seen on your television screens what I have seen on the streets of London, Germany, Paris, the Netherlands? Why is there not more strife, struggle, and controversy?†He reported his reply to these questions: “It's because we bring our kids together in the same classrooms. †1 But to many observers, McGuinty's comment seemed to reveal an element of Islamophobia that is unfortunately common in the post-9/11 discourse on faith-based schooling. As Andrew Coyne wrote: “all of the examples cited London, Germany, Paris, the Netherlands are places with significant Muslim populations, and significant Muslim unrest not to say terrorism. The only thing standing between them and us, McGuinty suggests, is our public school system. †2 Coyne called McGuinty's stance on the issue of faith-based schools “fearmongering†and “demagoguery,†and others in the media were quick to pass similar judgments. 3

Tory's proposal resurrected more than simply the debate about Ontario's current public funding model for faith-based schools. It also raised fundamental questions about the place of faith-based schools in Canada: What really are the aims of these schools? How do they nurture religious belief and culture? How do they understand good Canadian citizenship? In the 2007 debate, there was a lack of meaningful engagement with questions of the nature and practice of secular and faith-based schooling. This did not serve the public well, regardless of one's final opinion on Tory's proposal. What was clear in the debate in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada is that faith-based schools are often discussed in only superficial ways and are sometimes viewed with suspicion, if not hostility. While it is often the case that public discourse lacks the nuance and depth of academic scholarship, in the case of faith-based schooling in Canada, anyone who turns to academic scholarship would not find much help. The majority of such work in Canada has focused on its historical significance to Canada’s early development, the issue of public funding, important legal challenges, and the way in which religious pluralism is accommodated within secular public schools. 4 The current scholarship has generally neglected to consider what Canadian faith-based schools actually aim to accomplish, how citizenship is broached in them, and how controversies are addressed in classrooms. Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent provides a starting point for understanding how some Canadian faith-based schools develop educational visions that seek to cultivate both members of a faith community and members of the broader Canadian society. Before we continue to describe the purpose and scope of this book, it is worthwhile to reflect on the political negotiation in Canada that has made faith-based schools so controversial.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Schooling in Canada, edited by Graham P. McDonough, Nadeem A. Memon, and Avi I. Mintz

Introduction | Graham P. McDonough, Nadeem A. Memon, and Avi I. Mintz

Part A: Aims and Practices

1. The Jewish Day Schools of Canada | Seymour Epstein

2. The Distinctiveness of Catholic Education | Mario O. D'Souza, csb

3. Between Immigrating and Integrating: The Challenge of Defining an Islamic Pedagogy in Canadian Islamic Schools | Nadeem A. Memon

Part B: Faith and Citizenship

4. Jewish Education, Democracy, and Pluralistic Engagement | Greg Beiles

5. Canadian Catholic Schools: Sacred and Secular Tensions in a Free and Democratic Society | J. Kent Donlevy

6. London Islamic School: Millstone or Milestone? | Asma Ahmed

Part C: Dissent and Critical Thinking

7. The Changed Context for Jewish Day-School Education | Alex Pomson and Randal F. Schnoor

8. Teaching Subject Matter That is Controversial among Catholics: Implications for Intellectual Growth in the Church | Graham P. McDonough

9. A Canadian Islamic School in Perspective: A Critique of the “Moderate†and “Strong†Categories in Faith-Based Schooling | Qaiser Ahmad


10. Diversity and Deliberation in Faith-Based Schools: Implications for Educating Canadian Citizens | Avi I. Mintz


The Contributors



The education provided by Canada’s faith-based schools is a subject of public, political, and scholarly controversy. As the population becomes more religiously diverse, the continued establishment and support of faith-based schools has reignited debates about whether they should be funded publicly and to what extent they threaten social cohesion.

These discussions tend to occur without considering a fundamental question: How do faith-based schools envision and enact their educational missions? Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent offers responses to that question by examining a selection of Canada’s Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic schools. The daily reality of these schools is illuminated through essays that address the aims and practices that characterize these schools, how they prepare their students to become citizens of a multicultural Canada, and how they respond to dissent in the classroom.

The essays in this book reveal that Canada’s faith-based schools sometimes succeed and sometimes struggle in bridging the demands of the faith and the need to create participating citizens of a multicultural society. Discussion surrounding faith-based schools in Canada would be enriched by a better understanding of the aims and practices of these schools, and this book provides a gateway to the subject.


``Religious education is a particularly contentious topic in an increasingly secular society. And yet there is surprisingly little scholarly literature on this topic. The editors seek to address this gap through this excellent and much needed contribution to the field. ... Given this ongoing controversy in Canada, Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent can ideally help foster a healthier and more informed debate about the role of religious schools there. ''

- Aruba Mahmud, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Volume 31, number 3, Summer 2014

``The editors' choice to concentrate on only Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic schools . .. achieves the stated goal of allowing the reader to reflect on different perspectives surrounding debates over religious schools. The focus on three religions also serves the discussion regarding three important aspects of the debate. In the first part, it affords the reader the opportunity to become more familiar with the approach to education particular to each of the studies religions. In the second, we consider the integration of Canadian multicultural values into religious teachings, while in the third we are exposed to the openness of religious schools to internal pluralism. In this fashion, the readers comes to appreciate different facets of the daily functioning of such schools, grasping a more holistic portrait of their reality. ... In sum, since religious schooling in Canada is a subject that has been scarcely treated in academic literature, even though it regularly occupies the public attention, a sort of demystification of religious schools emerges in this book. This reveals that even while respecting a religious faith and structure, such institutions can encourage students to be a part of a tolerant and open society. These contradictions in experiences within religious schools are well-discussed in the book's conclusion, ‘Diversity and Deliberation in Faith-Based Schools’ (Mintz), a chapter that, without trying to eliminate the controversy, shows how such schools have a place in the quest for Canadian identity. ''

- Sivane Hirsch, Canadian Jewish Studies/Études juivres canadiennes, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2012