A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

27 November 2007

Quote of the Day #55

Crazy Bill O'Donahue has been working himself into a frenzy over The Golden Compass. Speaking for his organization, the Catholic League, Bill has been crapping on the Golden Compass film for "overtly atheistic and anti-Christian" tendencies.

Author Phillip Pullman's reply:
"I am a story teller. [ ... ] If I wanted to send a message I would have written a sermon."
In Canada, the Compass is not without controversy. A Catholic school board in Ontario ripped the book from school library shelves; presumably alerted to the soul-destroying screed by someone on Bill O'D's spam victim list.

However, there's a problem. Due to a quirk of our founding Confederation, Catholic schools in Ontario are publicly funded (So, I believe, are Protestant schools in Quebec, but I haven't done any research on that, so don't quote me, O Avid Fan).

So by what right do they commit this act of censorship with their public money?

Well actually, I loosely (o so very loosely) agree with the course the school board has taken, if they're sincere. They say that Pullman himself is welcome in their libraries, that the books in question (of the His Dark Materials trilogy) will be available to kiddies upon request (don't like this--children fear the school librarian, and may be unable to suffer her purse-mouthed disapproval as the price of free inquiry, but still ...), and are not banned, merely "under review" (which I hope means "kept under wraps until Bill O'Donahue either quits bloviating or gets his rabies shot).

Because publicly-funded or not, these are Catholic schools, with an overt mission of encouraging good little boys and girls not to shed the conditioning forced on them by well-intentioned parents. It is their right to censor and blinker their kids in any way they wish. The minds will only be a little stunted, and they will have been properly taught to fear inquiry and the unknown, and to subordinate rational inquiry to dogma, right? Which is the mandate of yeshivas, madrassas, Catholic schools and the like all over the world.

Well, actually, I don't think so.

I always admired the Jesuits' insistence on rational faith. Admittedly this may in many cases simply amount to the teaching of mental circus tricks to enable the mind to perform the contortions necessary to support belief under any conditions. But they do earnestly try to get kids to think; a task more difficult in this day and age, when our putative leaders have decided they prefer their voters passive and sleepy at the polling booths and occasionally motivated by outrage.

But the Jesuits reasoned, rightly, that faith unquestioned, unchallenged, is worthless. The school board in this case needs to keep that in mind. Is the faith of a child so weak that it cannot survive a book? If this is the case, where are the millions of children of Jews, Muslims, and atheists who saw C.S. Lewis' thinly-veiled Christian gospel tale? Are they rushing in to convert to Christianity?

And there may be a positive net effect: More children reading. Like most things, books become more interesting when banned. I suspect a number of kids will read The Golden Compass for this reason. And many of them will say: "What the hell was all that fuss about?" And more importantly: "Why was this forbidden us?"

I doubt I would ever have read "Catcher in the Rye" had I not known it had been banned. My school kept it on open shelves. And "To Kill a Mockingbird"--another banned book--was required reading.

What the Church and school board really fear is that they may come up with the right answers.

Myself, I feel religious schools of any type shouldn't be getting secular tax dollars anymore, especially in this day and age, but that's just me.


At 12:57 p.m., Blogger Slave to the dogs said...

Reminds me a bit of the bible-thumping Potter haters here in the States. As long as there are ooglies in the story like sorcerers or soul-destroying screed, let's ignore the overall message that is in fact consistent with good Christian values.

And no kidding, what in the bloody heck are religious schools gettting public funding for?

Hard to believe in this day and age that To Kill a Mockingbird was once banned, isn't it? Still one of the best books (and films) ever.

At 2:18 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

The school funding issue is the historical legacy of coming into nationhood through negotiation, compromise, and slow civic evolution, rather than revolution.

One of the great fears of the Catholic religious minority in Ontario and the Protestants of Quebec was that they would be, essentially, forced into the other faith through being unable to educate their kids in their own, especially since most education was handled by the priesthoods.

So in the British North America Act of 1867, funding was provided throughout Upper and Lower Canada for schools of each faith. This relic persists in Ontario today. All provinces but the four Maritimes still provide at least some funding to religious schools.

Ontario provides full funding to Catholic schools only.

I tend to prefer that my tax dollars go to support secularism.

Info link:

At 1:27 p.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

Didn't they take all the atheism out of the Golden Compass when they made it into a movie? Word on the street was, this is why it sucks donkey butt; it's a movie with nothing to say.

At 1:29 p.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

Oh, and my sister, a good Protestant, makes her living as a senior person in the Ontario Catholic school system, so it's obviously equal-opportunity. You'll hear no complaints from me about it (because if I complain, she'll never feed me or let me into her booze cabinet again!).

At 3:00 p.m., Anonymous Lydia said...

When I went they only paid until grade nine. I don't think that changed until '79 or '80. Also, until around then (I think it was contingent to funding)non-Catholics could not work for a school board. Neither could Catholics in BAD standing!

At 4:14 p.m., Blogger Metro said...


I'd heard that via the article. I'd also heard that the rest of the trilogy sucks, both from Mme and other sources.

And yes, non-Catholics may work for Catholic schools. They're as hard up for teachers as anyone else. However, they must wear a red letter "D" for "Dammned" on their chests. Some schools now allow them to use the letters "GH" for "Godless Heathen". Okay, not really.


Good point. Originally funding was only provided to elementary schools. Again, a legacy of times when grade nine qualified a person for university.It was a conservative premier back in the nineteen-mumble-mumbles who changed that as he was bailing out of office.

At 12:06 p.m., Blogger Philipa said...

My ex knows my children go to sunday school. He's an atheist. So what does he buy his daughter for her 5th birthday? Yep her FIFTH birthday. Enid Blyton? No. Dora the Explorer? Nope.

Yes you've guessed it - a Philip Pullman novel with a note saying he hopes her (Anglican Christian) Mummy will read it to her.

Hmn, do you think it was for me or for her?


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