Under guard, Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks in Calgary this week.

She’s a fierce critic of Islam, and thinks it should be eliminated.

Hirsi Ali was raised Muslim in Somalia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia. In order to escape an arranged marriage, she fled as a refugee to Holland, and rose to become a member of the Dutch Parliament.

One argument resonates with me. She wanted to eliminate publicly-funded religious schools because segregation didn’t expose Muslims to liberal Dutch values. And Hirsi Ali thought Muslim schools aided women’s repression.

There’s a link here. Alberta, too, funds religious schools, mainly for Roman Catholics.

And this month, Calgary’s Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethical Leadership (chumirethicsfoundation.ca) opens the church state issue.

Alberta’s former education minister David King wants to end funding of Catholic schools. 

“Our system represents state endorsement of one denomination over another. It creates church state relationship. Why is it the state church is Catholic and not Hinduism, Judaism, or a Lutheran?”

Because of history? Not good enough, says King.

He asks: what is the purpose of public education?

King argues: “The public has as its raison d’etre inclusivity, the separate system has exclusivity. We need to ask whether or not we want to fragment our efforts?”

Writing in the Chumir newsletter, he and president Janet Keeping question school choice in Calgary.

You know: the so-called gifted kids are bused here, the national sporty kids there, Catholics over there, any parents who want girls segregated from boys can send their girls to the CBE Girls School, all publicly funded.

A school is the heart of a community, and school closures stop the pulse. Consider the lovely historic St. John’s Fine Arts School is said to be sold for condos. School closures seem to be the result of trying to finance too many schools.

As I’ve written before, many buses arrive in my neighbourhood to schlep kids to a dozen different schools.

What is the impact of all this segregation, or pandering to “parent choice?”

If the issue is public school quality, teaching quality, low standards, then that needs to be discussed and challenged.

But does more fragmentation make sense? Maybe what I, or any other parent wants, shouldn’t come into play.

That’s why I like The Sheldon Chumir Foundation’s courageous stance in asking: why do we fund public schools?

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