The Catholic option : non-Catholic parents' choice of a religious education in Saskatoon Catholic Schools
McKay, Archibald Glen
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In the Canadian city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, there exists two publicly funded school systems. One system is public and serves the general population. The other is a Roman Catholic separate system; it was established and designed to serve the Catholic population of the city. In many ways the two systems are alike. Both are required to follow provincial set curricula and are answerable to the province's Department of Learning. Both provide a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular programs. What sets the two systems apart is their philosophy, their legal mandates as well as their historical development. The Saskatoon public system claims a commitment "to students, services and excellence" (Saskatoon School Division No. 13, The Board of Education, policy 1001, 1999), whereas, the Saskatoon separate system's philosophy is based on a commitment "to assist parents and the local Church community in the formation of students in heart, mind, body and spirit" (see Mission Statement, Appendix B). Although both systems acknowledge the importance of the education of students, the separate system does it through a religious-based education. At the time of publication, parents were free to choose to send their children to either system, but if they choose the separate system they did so with the understanding that their children would be exposed to a Catholic, religious-based education. At the high school level, all students in Saskatoon separate schools were expected to take mandatory classes in Christian Ethics in each year of study. Non-Catholics who chose to send their children to separate Catholic schools in Saskatoon were asked to agree to these two conditions and sign documentation to verify it. As well as being answerable to the provincial government, Saskatoon separate schools are mandated to follow the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Catholic parents, who choose to send their children to Saskatoon separate schools, can expect that the religious-based education of the schools are in line with the beliefs of their religion. Non-Catholic parents who choose to send their children to separate schools do so for a number of reasons, but there is a significant portion of non-Catholic parents who choose the Catholic option because they want the religious-based education the schools provide. This work examines the phenomenon of non-Catholic parents who choose the Catholic option in order for their children to receive a religious-based education. It begins by examining the history of separate Catholic schools in Canada. The relationship between Catholics and non-Catholics is explored, as is the changing role of religious-based education in public schools. The choices for religious-based education for non-Catholics are examined as well as their positive and negative aspects. The key component of this thesis is a case study, which outlines in the observations and comments of a sample of non-Catholic parents who have chosen Catholic high schools for their children in order for the children to have a religious-based education. These parents are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and observations, most of which were supportive of the religious-based education their children received.