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The current government of Québec, Coalition Avenir Québecois, is going to cancel a comparative religion and ethics course in Québec schools called “Ethics and Religious Culture” because it gives too much importance and attention to religion.
Québec’s Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, explained that the course will be replaced with a more secular variation: “We are abolishing it to replace it with something new. But there will always be elements of the original course that remain, like ethics, the practice of dialogue, respect for self and others, the fight against stereotypes. One could say it is a far-reaching reform… I don’t know what we will call it, but I know it won’t be called Ethics and Religious Culture.”
The course is expected to be ready for testing in select schools at the start of the 2021-22 school year. If successful, it will become part of the official curriculum in 2022-23.
The Minister of Education has already identified eight themes that will guide the development of the course to replace the ethics and religious culture program at the elementary and secondary levels. These are citizen participation and democracy, legal education, eco-citizenship, sex education, self and interpersonal development, ethics, digital citizenship and of corporate culture. We can see there is no religion as the part of the course.
Jean-François Roberge says that religion requires a much smaller space than the one Quebec currently has, but still space. "If we want to understand the geopolitical map of the world, religion is an element that makes it possible to understand the actions of certain countries," he added.
When it comes to critics of this new move, some think that the shift away from discussing religion deprives students of the ability to explore the beliefs of others.
As Toula Drimonis writes for CultMtl.com in a text named “Cancelling Quebec’s religion course is wrong (and I’m an atheist),” high-quality pedagogy teaches — and ultimately requires — children to be critical thinkers, to be skeptical, to question and to not swallow whole and without analysis any theory or belief they are given. In this way, the school system acts as an ally to secularism, by exposing children raised in rigid religious systems that alternatives (including atheism) exist. It also means exposing them to other worlds and values, which in turn allows them to better understand their fellow citizens and, also, better counteract their own prejudices that they may have been taught to see as irrefutable.