Eustathios Tourloukis, a devout Greek Orthodox father, demanded to be informed by his child’s school before certain topics were taught in the classroom. Tourloukis believed he was protecting his children from material that attacked the tenets of his faith. He disagreed with classroom teachings that included discussions of wizardry, witchcraft, spirit guides, euthanasia and infanticide. He was also unhappy with the sex ed curriculum.
After a guest speaker at a school assembly called the Bible, “archaic, outdated and not relevant in today’s society,” an incensed Tourloukis decided to take the matter to court. He didn’t seek a monetary award from the school board in his lawsuit.
In his ruling in a Hamilton court, Ontario Superior Court of Justice Judge Robert Reid suggested that it wouldn’t be practical to keep parents informed about what goes on in the classroom. He refused to allow parents to isolate their children from objectionable material, saying it would be counter to the government’s mandate to promote inclusivity, multiculturalism and equality.
Tourloukis’s views on faith are not the point, the judge argued.
If so, it needs to be demonstrated that government-run schools transform society according to the values promoted by the curriculum.
But in fact, schools don’t effectively infuse values into Canadian culture. Teachers and other educators have no quantitative track record of success, despite years of trying.
In spite of the best efforts of generations of well-intentioned educators to promote inclusivity and equality, our society continues to contend with social issues like racism, exclusion, bigotry and inequality.
Since the beginnings of the Canadian public education system, teachers and other do-gooders have attempted but failed to eradicate the worst social ills through classroom instruction. No amount of classroom teachings ever made a social issue simply disappear. Schoolyard bullying is a prime example.
In contrast, the strength of a child’s academic education has tremendous potential to reduce societal shortcomings. Whenever children are exposed to a fundamentally solid education that focuses on math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, verbal skills, sciences and arts, social problems such as poverty, crime and isolation are tackled with greater understanding and success.
For years, educators have advocated for a stronger academic system, so children can increase their chances of success. But recent math test shortcomings give Canadian parents serious concerns about the type of instruction that’s becoming the norm.
In an effort to respect multicultural views and inclusivity, the trend in Canadian schools has been to teach a moral relativism where no absolute good or bad exists. Any action can be seen as moral or ethical depending on the context of a person’s life. Social, cultural or personal circumstances must be considered when determining if an action is ethical.
But moral relativism offends the sensibilities of many religious adherents.
Parents should play an important role in cultivating the kind of education they want. School boards must work with parents to deliver the best education possible.
Critics have called Tourloukis’s crusade distasteful. Some have said it’s intolerant towards members of the LGBTQ community, and there may be good reason to feel that way.
But the court made a serious error in placing a government-run school’s authority ahead of a parent’s right to have input about their children’s education.
If our government and courts are truly concerned with teaching values to children, then they must recognize the role that family life plays in a child’s development. It’s counterproductive to undermine parents.
Maddie Di Muccio is a former town councillor in Newmarket, Ont., and former columnist with the Toronto Sun.