Matt Gurney: Let the children sing O Canada

NP… Canadian schools sometimes seem as prone to turn out stupid ideas as literate graduates, but some ideas are still dumb enough to warrant special mention. I’m looking at you, New Brunswick.As theNational Post reported today, dozens of francophone schools in New Brunswick have asked to be excused from the daily singing of O Canada, arguing there are other ways to teach patriotism to students. “It is nothing against the anthem or anything like that,’ said Hermel Mazerolle, director of administration and finance for District 11. ‘I think it’s just not only the anthem that will put Canadian values into our families and kids.’”

So it’s not an attack on Canada as country, just an attack on common sense. I suppose that’s marginally better, but only just barely, because anyway you look at it, this idea stinks.

First off, if teachers intend to teach patriotism in the same manner students are taught Canadian history, the thought is alarming. Rather than a few bars of song every day, students would instead be subjected to incredibly bland, uninteresting versions of what it means to be Canadian, dumbed down into a pablum whose only purpose is to avoid offending any particular group. Anyone who’s flipped through a Canadian social science textbook any time over the last 20 years knows what I’m talking about. According to the approved official version of events, Canadian history goes something like this:

White people arrived and brutally destroyed the advanced and untroubled native civilization that was flourishing in their absence. Then the English conquered the French, and we don’t really have any comment on that, but it happened. Later on, we formed a country, and did a way better job of it than those crazy Americans, and at some point after that, we won a battle at Vimy Ridge, which was instrumental into making us into peacekeepers a generation later. How that happened, no one knows, but don’t ask questions. Just trust us. And then Pierre Trudeau came along, and we purged ourselves of all remaining human imperfections while simultaneously becoming bilingual UN cheerleaders. And it should be noted that women played a huge role in every part of that process, except the bad parts. The End.

While that’s obviously a bit flippant, the exaggeration isn’t as great as you might think. Canadian students get a laughably condensed and utterly benign version of our history, so the various New Brunswick boards of education will have to forgive me if the thought of teachers finding new and exciting ways to teach students to love and appreciate Canada doesn’t wow me. Think they could do it without using the word “multicultural” or “healthcare” in the first 30 seconds? It’s doubtful.

Beyond the cringe-worthy notion of teachers explaining what makes Canada great, in a manner designed to offend no one, there’s also this dubious reasoning for the change: “’We have been doing it once a week for the past five years and we don’t really see what it would do to do it every day,’ said Josée Ferron, principal of École Apollo-XI in Campbellton (a school named after a U.S. lunar mission). ‘If you give the anthem special attention, it is that much more meaningful.’” Oh. Neat. If singing O Canada once a week instead of every day makes it more meaningful, why not go to once a month? Wouldn’t that make it 400% more meaningful than before? Or maybe just once a year, giving it equal importance to Christmas, except we can’t call it Christmas any more, as that might offend someone.

Love for our country, warts and all, shouldn’t be something that has to be rationed. While no one wants to see schools turned into political education camps, in a land of vast political and cultural differences, one of the few things that truly united us all was that, every school day, kids from coast to coast to coast would stand and honour our fair dominion with a chorous of their voices. That meant something once, and it can still. Let the children sing.

National Post

Matt Gurney is a member of the National Post editorial board



Matt Gurney is a member of the National Post editorial board



National Post

Matt Gurney is a member of the National Post editorial board



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