Repealing the “Spanking Law”

parent child

Image: Creative Commons

By Tina Olesen

Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party have announced their plans to repeal the so-called “Spanking Law” as part of their commitment to implement all of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The TRC investigated the past abuse of aboriginal children in Canadian residential schools and made 94 recommendations to the government to promote reconciliation between the offended and the offenders.

One of their recommendations was that the government repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code. It reads:

“Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”

Let’s be clear, this law does not allow for teachers to spank students. In January 2004, the Supreme Court stated that “teachers may reasonably apply force to remove a child from a classroom or secure compliance with instructions, but not merely as corporal punishment.”[i]

Today, the vast majority of child abuse happens in the home, not in schools. Repealing Section 43 will do nothing to prevent child abuse, and may well harm children.

There is a role that the authorities have to play in rescuing children from abusive situations. I spent more than eight years working as a Family Support Worker with children who were at risk for neglect or abuse. I sat in their homes, talked with their families, and heard their stories. I saw children being separated from their parents and being placed in foster care.

As bad as some of those homes were, they were the only homes these children knew. Leaving their parents was always difficult for them, even in the most abusive situations. Even the best foster homes weren’t really “home” for these kids. But in some rare situations, it really is in the children’s best interests to be permanently removed from their natural home.

I think we can all agree, however, that this is not ideal. Most of the time, children belong with their parents, which is why the systematic removal of aboriginal children from their natural families was so devastating.

One of the horrors of the Residential Schools tragedy was that children were ripped away from their parents and had to grow up apart from their families, stripped of their identity and security.

So, why would we want to repeal Section 43 and give the government more power to take children away from their families? It doesn’t make any sense.

Do we really want an already overwhelmed social services system and court system dealing with cases that should never be brought before a judge?

Imagine a scenario where loving parents warn their child not to run into traffic, and when he does he gets a swat on the behind. A neighbour reports this to social services and they have to investigate. Perhaps the child has to be removed from the home during the investigation, which means he may go to a foster home. Then they have to appear before a judge, which could drag on indefinitely with our backlogged court system. Not only do the parents have to endure the avoidable awfulness of such a trial, but the child has to endure the unwarranted loss of his home and family, even temporarily.

Section 43 is already worded in such a way as to avoid cases like this coming before a judge in the first place. It not only protects parents and teachers who are disciplining in love, but it protects children from the ordeal of unnecessary removal and separation from their families.

Those who argue in favor of repealing Section 43 argue that “We don’t allow husbands to hit their wives so why do we allow parents to spank their children?” This is akin to arguing that, “We don’t allow husbands to give their wives a time-out, so why do we allow parents to give their children one?” The parent-child relationship is obviously very different from the spousal relationship.

Their argument also falsely equates assault with the use of physical correction. Do some parents cross the line and abuse their children in anger? Yes, but we already have a law preventing the excessive use of force against a child. Proper parental use of physical correction, done calmly with self-control and with love, is not child abuse.

If the government redefines child abuse to include physical correction, not only will they be setting themselves up for an even more overloaded social services system, but they will ironically be perpetrating the same crime that was committed against children and parents in Residential Schools so many years ago: they will be usurping parental authority and needlessly splitting up families all over again.


[i] http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/banning-strap-end-corporal-punishment-canadian-schools

“While corporal punishment itself is not reasonable in the school context, a majority of the Supreme Court concluded that teachers may use force to remove children from classrooms or secure compliance with instructions.” See http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/prb0510-e.htm

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News and Views

newsHere are some recently collected articles on the subject of “Mindfulness Meditation” (click on the blue titles to read the original articles):

“Mindfulness, or the Mind of Christ?” Mindfulness meditation is in our schools, business seminars, and health centres. But where does it come from, what does it teach, and how does it stack up to biblical doctrine? By Dr. Joseph Boot from the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Mindfulness Meditation in Public Schools: Side-Stepping Supreme Court Religion Rulings“: Since the 1960s, the United States Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional for public schools to teach religious practices such as prayer. But today, mindfulness meditation–a Buddhist religious practice similar to prayer–is promoted by schools nationwide. Why aren’t the courts intervening? See also “Mindfulness: Stealth Buddhist Strategy for Mainstreaming Meditation?” Both articles are from the Huffington Post, by Candy Gunther Brown, Ph. D., Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

Mindfulness is Religion in Schools

By Tina OlesenReligious_syms

There is a double standard when it comes to religion in public education. Christianity? No way. Secularists argued that they did not want anyone’s religion imposed upon their children, while ironically fighting to impose secular humanism on all public school children. So why aren’t they up in arms about mindfulness?

The myth about mindfulness is that it is a non-religious practice. This is simply false advertising. The religiosity of mindfulness is self-evident. It is a meditation practice that comes directly out of eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In much the same way as the Lord’s Prayer is tied to Christianity (and was banned from public schools on that basis), mindfulness meditation is unquestionably religious.

John Lennon crooned that we should all imagine what the world would be like if there were “no religion” and many people believe that some sort of place of neutrality really exists when it comes to religion. In the narrowest sense of the definition of the word religion, people might be able to escape labelling themselves as belonging to one of the world’s recognised religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or Christianity. However, if we look at religion in the broadest sense, one’s religion is simply the outward manifestation of one’s beliefs about the origin, nature, purpose and meaning of life. One of Webster’s definitions for religion is simply “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”

Since public schools teach about the origin, nature, purpose and meaning of life, they teach a religion. It is no good to say that they teach no one religion exclusively, because even teaching that all religions are equal is in itself “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”

So far, it seems as if the religion that is being taught in schools is whatever one looks to be the most non-offensive to secular humanists. If a religion like Buddhism can somehow be dressed down to look as secular humanistic as possible, then it gets a pass in our public schools. Public funding from taxpayers’ pockets goes to support the indoctrination of all children into a Buddhist or Hindu worldview: how is that acceptable in a public school system that was built on Christian foundations, but now claims to be secular?

A recent article in Maclean’s magazine stated that mindfulness is “a non-religious meditation practice with roots in Buddhism…” This is the kind of doublespeak that the proponents of mindfulness use to try to market their meditation technique as secular. The article goes on to describe how the marketers try to stay away from religious sounding terms and religious paraphernalia like Buddhist chimes in some markets, because some parents may find them objectionable. However, no matter how much they try to strip away any religious connotations, it is obvious that mindfulness meditation fits the definition of a religious practice, in both the narrowest and broadest senses of the term.

“No religion” in our schools is something imagined but never practiced, because education is religious. When public schools left their Christian foundations for a supposedly secular curriculum, the moral foundation began to crumble beneath the school houses. With Christianity banned from our schools, teachers continued to try to provide moral training, but they no longer had the moral absolutes of Christianity to stand on. When students are given license to determine right and wrong for themselves, chaos and confusion results. This lack of moral training resulting in undisciplined students is now being addressed in schools with mindfulness meditation (turning to a different religion) in an attempt to bring order. It won’t work, and here’s why.

We need only to look at what history teaches us to see the results of religious training in a culture. Carefully examine the cultures that result from the various world religions, and compare them with Christianity. The Christian moral consensus that our society was built upon provided a stable foundation. The law of God (which stands over and above humankind) was the measuring stick or moral absolute that judged society and gave us our concept of right and wrong, providing a foundation for law and education. Truly following the teachings of Jesus Christ results in the cherishing of children, the education of both boys and girls, the care of the sick and the poor, and unselfishly seeking the good of one’s neighbour – all of which work towards the flourishing of a culture. Can this honestly be said of any other religion, philosophy, or teaching?

As Francis Schaeffer, a Christian apologist, correctly pointed out, secular humanism does not provide a strong enough base for human society. If as a society we no longer submit to the truth that the God of the Bible is the authority on what is right and wrong, how then will our laws be decided? By taking a vote? If so, then the majority (51% of the people) seize the power to decide and judge what is right or wrong for everyone else, and get to impose their “law” on the rest of society. If God’s authority is ignored, who then judges the “laws” of the 51%? As Schaeffer rightly stated, “If there is no absolute by which to judge society, society is absolute.”

A 51% majority which has absolute power to impose their own preferences which they call “laws” on society is nothing but a tyranny. Consider how students today in our public schools are being primed to be ruled by this 51%. Mindfulness meditation teaches students not to judge between right and wrong. It encourages children to develop “non-judgmental awareness” of their thoughts and feelings. This erodes their ability to distinguish good from evil, and does not train them to make moral choices based upon biblical moral teachings. In order to mature and develop moral character, children have to be equipped to make moral choices.

Our children need sound biblical moral training so that they will be able to distinguish good from evil, and so that they will not be tossed about by every wind of popular culture. As a society, it is time that we recognised we cannot bulldoze our Christian foundations and expect the house to remain standing. Jesus Christ and His teaching provide the only foundation that will allow for our children and our culture to flourish.

Jesus is not merely a moral teacher who requires His followers to obey His teaching in their own strength. With the sacrifice of His life, He provided the only answer to our moral failure. He did what only God in human flesh could do. Jesus led a perfect life, died to pay the penalty for our sins, rose again from the dead and now gives His followers His Holy Spirit to live in them as the power to keep His moral law. This cannot be said of any leader of any other religion. Our hope for our children and ourselves is in Jesus Christ alone.

“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

For Sale: Curricular Control

cc Flickr user dana rocks

by Tina Olesen

Imagine for a moment that your church became a “public” church, where everyone’s beliefs had to be accommodated. Imagine that your church agreed to compromise the teaching of the Bible in exchange for a steady stream of financial support from the government. Now imagine that you had no option but to support this public church with your tax dollars. You would never let this happen to your church, you say? Then why have we let it happen to our schools?

To understand where we are now, let’s look back at some North American history. Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England established schools in America, with the main purpose being to teach their children how to read the Bible so they wouldn’t be deluded by Satan (see The Old Deluder Satan Act, Massachusetts, 1647). With the growth of immigration and industrialism in the 1700s, commercial subjects began to be emphasized over religious instruction in the schools. At the same time, Catholics and Protestants were fighting it out for the right to have their children trained in their own religion. Many Protestants advocated for non-sectarian schools, as they mistakenly assumed that the religious default position would be Protestantism. Wanting to access the government coffers, schools agreed to secularize their curriculum further, in exchange for government funding. They effectively sold control over their schools to the state.

There were similar battles for control fought here in Canada. English Protestants who were concerned about French Catholic domination sought government protection for the right to educate their children according to their beliefs, and fought against a nondenominational common school system.  Parallel school systems emerged, with the Anglican Protestants forming what we now know as the “public” school system, and the Catholics retaining their own separate schools. In some provinces, heated battles were fought by parents to retain government funding for Catholic schools.  Sometimes this was also tied to French language and culture rights (e.g. The Manitoba Schools Question).  Protestant public schools gradually came under scrutiny for having a denominational bias, so biblical teaching was watered down to the lowest common denominator, and eventually done away with in most schools altogether. In order to receive state aid, schools would have to demonstrate that they were serving the aims of the state, at the cost of curricular independence. State funding could only be had with state control.

One of the main differences between the American and Canadian school systems is in how they are governed. In America, a U. S. Department of Education exists, but in Canada, we have no such federal governing body; education comes under the responsibility of provincial governments. American President Andrew Johnson established the first national Department of Education in the USA in 1867, with the stated purpose of collecting information and statistics. By 1868 the “Department” was demoted to an “Office of Education” over concerns that it would exercise too much control. But in the 1970s, the Department of Education was re-established to oversee federal education funding, collect data and do research, and ensure that laws which prohibit discrimination would be followed. What started in the 1800s with four employees and a budget of $15,000 grew to nearly 4,300 employees and a budget of about $60 billion by 2010, according to the department’s website.

One of the things the U. S. Department of Education does not do, according to its website, is exercise control over the curriculum or standards. So, what are the Common Core State Standards?  These are a set of educational standards said to be developed in a state-led initiative, without federal involvement; but the Obama administration has apparently provided certain federal financial incentives to those states willing to adopt the Common Core. Nearly all the states have now signed on. Critics of the Common Core are concerned about an overemphasis on standardized testing and the collection of private student data. Others warn of the potential danger that the Common Core might allow the United Nations to influence the curriculum (see links below).

North American parents currently enjoy the freedom of having the option to educate their children in privately funded schools or at home. This is not the case in some other nations. In Germany, the state controls the education system to the degree that homeschooling is outlawed. Hitler introduced compulsory school attendance during the Nazi era. One German family who recently attempted to homeschool had their children removed by state authorities, and were not reunited with them until they agreed to send the children to a state school.

As history teaches us, the more we have allowed the state to take over the responsibility of educating our children in exchange for securing government funding, the less control we have retained over the curriculum. It was the word of God which was sacrificed on the altar of compromise.

The Lord Jesus has given us the privilege and responsibility of teaching our children to follow Him. We are to teach them to fear Him (Deut. 4:10, Ps. 34:11) and to know His law (Ps. 78:5). We are to love Him with all our hearts, and lay up His words in our heart and soul, teaching them to our children in our homes and all throughout our days (Deut. 6:5-9, 11:18-19). We ought not to sell that privilege for anything.

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More on this topic:

Article: Common Core: UN Takeover of Education in America, by Lynn Teger, May 23rd, 2013.

Paper: The Core Problem: Preventing the United Nations Takeover of K-12 Education in America, by Jim Kelly, April 26, 2013.

Paper: Controlling Education From the Top – Why Common Core Is Bad for America, A Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project White Paper by Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, May 2012.

Speech: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addresses the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),  November 4, 2010.

What happened to school prayer?

public domain national archives2

by Tina Olesen

“Now everyone close your eyes, relax, and concentrate on your breathing,” are the instructions that many children in state schools in BC will hear today. What happened to “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name”? Mindfulness meditation has been welcomed in, whereas prayer was deemed to be discriminatory against those without faith, and shown to the door about 25 years ago.

Our first schools on Vancouver Island were established at Fort Victoria, and many of these were run by the clergy while funded by both private and public sources. The state or “public” system was formed in 1872 in an attempt to solidify government rule, in response to fear of American domination. The schools were now to be non-sectarian, and clergymen were no longer allowed to act as teachers or administrators. Up until 1944, BC was the only province in Canada where Bible reading was not permitted in the public schools. Only one “nod to God” remained: the Lord’s Prayer was permitted in opening or closing school.

The World Wars stirred up the moral conscience of parents, and they protested against the exclusion of Bible reading in the schools. In 1944, the BC government responded to parental concerns and amended the Public Schools Act to include compulsory Bible reading and reciting of the Lord’s Prayer at the opening of the school day.

In 1969, the BC Civil Liberties Association argued that these religious exercises had no instructional or moral value, and were an invasion of civil liberties. It was not until after the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted in 1982 that the BC School Act was effectively challenged. Joan Russow and Kathryn Lambert, backed by the BC Civil Liberties Association, successfully petitioned the BC Supreme Court to remove both Bible Reading and the Lord’s Prayer from BC public schools in 1989.

Section 76 of the BC School Act now reads: “All schools… must be conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles. The highest morality must be inculcated, but no religious dogma or creed is to be taught…” What exactly does this mean? How is “the highest morality” defined? Who gets to decide what “the highest morality” is?

When God, the Giver of the moral law, is no longer our reference point for morality, then we have no ultimate reference point. As Francis Schaeffer stated, “If there is no absolute by which to judge society, society is absolute.” We have lost the biblical moral consensus; and now “the majority”, or the loudest most persuasive voices, assert control over the value system being imposed upon our children.

When we discipline children based on the biblical moral law, we have an authority which we can appeal to which is over and above ourselves. God, our law-giver, is the authority on what is right and what is wrong. Our God-given innate moral conscience bears witness to His law. How do we know that stealing is wrong? Both our conscience and God’s biblical moral law agree that this is so. Working with the child’s conscience and upholding God’s law as the standard, we have a solid basis for discipline and moral training.

Disciplining children is troublesome when the God-given moral law is not our basis for discipline. If we are not teaching that we are accountable to God and His moral law, then we are effectively teaching that everyone has the right to decide for themselves what is “right” for them. What happens, then, when Johnny does something objectionable? If you cannot appeal to God’s moral law, then you really cannot say to him, “What you did was wrong,” because, who are you to say what is right or wrong for him? All you can honestly say then is “I don’t want you to do that.” It then becomes a matter of convincing him to do things your way – often through bribery or threat of punishment. Eventually if Johnny keeps on doing things his way, perhaps he will be sent to the pediatrician to get some pills.

What happens, then, if half of your class keeps doing things you do not want them to do? If they are running wild and out of control and the bribes are not working any more? Punishment can only go so far; of course, you cannot spank them. They can’t all take pills… but the psychologists claim to have the cure. In eduspeak, the answer is self-regulation. Self-regulation is a fancy way of saying that we ought to teach kids to get control over themselves and calm themselves down. How do they recommend that you calm your class down? Get out the yoga mats and teach them some poses (never mind that these asanas are actually poses of worship to Hindu gods); or sit them on the floor cross-legged, palms up, eyes closed, and have them listen to the sound of your Buddhist chime while they concentrate on their breathing. Sounds religious, you say? Of course not, they say, it is neuroscience.

So, we are back to school prayer in BC public schools – only this time, it is “prayer” to pagan gods.

Canon in 2Dsm

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