Monday, September 21, 2009

Private Schools to Preserve Cultural Purity?

Last Monday Jean-Pierre Proulx wrote an opinion piece about Quebec private schools in LE DEVOIR, which can be found archived over at (in French).

Entitled "Democratizing Private education" (Démocratiser l’enseignement privé) the article offered up some pretty weird concepts including the suggestion that these elite schools be forced to accept their share of students from low income homes, those who are academically or physically challenged and students with problems of comportment.


What Mr Proulx suggests is to dumb down private schools to the level of public schools in the interest of democracy. He must be a secret Leninist.

According to him private schools that would refuse to adopt these new conditions would lose all government subsidies.

The Quebec government is one of the very few that subsidizes private schools on a a pro-rata basis. Private schools receive the government money that would be have been spent on students had they remained in the public system. Thus private schools in Quebec cost parents significantly less than elsewhere.

It's no wonder that at 17%, Quebec boasts the highest proportion of high school students attending private schools in all of North America.
In Montreal the number is a whopping 30%.

Of course, the Quebec public sector teachers' unions oppose any form of subsidy to private schools. They hold that by selecting only the brightest and most capable students and rejecting children with learning difficulties, private schools leave a burden to the public sector.

It isn't surprising that the article provoked a lot of reaction in defence of private schools, most of it pretty standard stuff. I wasn't even going to write on the subject until I came across this letter printed in Le Devoir, the same newspaper that printed the original article.

Maxine Proulx displayed some novel reasoning in defence of private schools;'
"One of the reasons why parents send their children to private schools is that they just want to avoid their children being exposed to other children that they believe rightly or wrongly as turbulent, children with learning disabilities or behavior problems or who are poor. This self-imposed segregation is even more pronounced on the island of Montreal, which has many ethno-cultural neighborhoods.

Parents fear three things:
  • That children deemed undesirable monopolize the attention of teachers, reducing the quality of instruction and supervision provided to the class;
  • That these same children disturb others, affecting their hearing and therefore their learning;
  • These same children negatively influence the others to the point where they also refuse to learn normally.
In Montreal, traditional Francophone parents fear that the environment in the public schools has become too multicultural and multi-ethnic and choose to send their children to private schools, considered more 'homogeneous."

Wow, how about the last paragraph!

So private schools are better because they are 'homogeneous.' I've never heard apartheid described that way!

I know many parents send their children to private school for exactly that reason, but printing a letter that justifies private schools on the basis of it being a good way to segregate francophone children from the ethnic communities seems to go beyond what an enlightened editorial board would allow in print.

Shame on LE DEVOIR.

Could you imagine this letter being printed in the Montreal Gazette, the National Post or the Globe & Mail?

It would probably be passed around the editorial table for a chuckle.


  1. I disagree with the content of Maxine Proulx's letter, but I still think it's OK for the Devoir to publish it: this does not mean they approve of its content. And BTW, I've seen xenophobic rants against francophones from english newspapers columnists, mind you, not only in letters from readers, I do not think they are as open-minded as you would put it...

  2. It is amazing that in the name of preserving one's culture and language, a Québécois can get away with being blatantly racist, be it based on culture, language, religion or - you guessed it - race. Such behavior is certainly unacceptable in other part of the industrialized world.

    I know that this is just a random guy posting in a sovereignist board, but check it out. If it is not racist, I don't know what it is.

  3. My daughter goes to an internationally oriented private school here, but she was told recently it was 'interdit de parler en anglais' to which I rebuffed, of course in class, and with the prof, but if you and your friends speak English amongst each other don't let anyone tell you it's forbidden to speak English.
    And the intolerance is taught at a very young age - hats off to the ethnocentric franco supremacists.
    Le Québec est inclus dans mon pays, and I am a Canadian: