Recently someone who is well known for crusading for equality and understanding between our diverse populations related a story about walking into a McDonald’s and seeing that all the white kids were on one side of the restaurant and all the East Indian kids were on the other. And that naturally enough concerned him.
But then he asked my wife`s East Indian co-worker how her child was doing in the Punjabi school where he has given talks before. He didn`t seem to realize the irony that the explosion of private schools is a major contributing factor in what he noticed in the McDonald’s restaurant. I would say that there is no reason to expect interplay between those kids if they don`t have any shared experiences coming from a shared public education.
This is not me being my usual less than tolerant self on religion, as the problem is much more than any one religious belief. And I`m certainly haven`t all of sudden turned into a supporter of the BCTF or the current educational system here in B.C. Far from it, as I would never advocate the ending of the private school system unless the public system underwent major changes and brought in the best parts of the private schools as there surely are excellent points in their favour.
But beyond the obvious differences between private and public schools one area is seldom talked about. Public schools foster inclusion, they work to teach kids tolerance among groups. And that builds a more tolerant society.
Being brutal about it, for all their advantages, private schools are a form of social segregation and a form of social apartheid which enforces conformity. That is the dark side of private schools whether they are for religious reasons or for cultural ones.
It is time to get honest about what kind of country we want. Integration via the public school system is the far better avenue to promote understanding and cooperation. Otherwise our entire society will begin to resemble those kids in the McDonalds and never the twain shall meet.
Robert T. Rock