I think back to when I registered my oldest child to enter kindergarten. While I was in the office filling out the forms, another parent came in to register her child as well.
When she got to the question of what religion the child was, she was told that she would have go to a different school to register, as they were the wrong religion.
Turns out she lived in the house that virtually shared a driveway with this school but would have to see her child bused to the other school.
When I cast my vote in favour of school reform, I did so with this incident in mind. I was voting, as I thought, to have all children come together in community schools and have a curriculum that would teach them an understanding and a tolerance for all religions. Not one that would remove religion totally.
A lot has been made lately about the issue of a cross being removed from a school in St. John’s because of its association with one faith. I have to say that I agree with the issue that public schools should not display a bias to one faith over any other.
However, I do not agree that removing the cross is the answer.
The answer, in my opinion, is in celebrating the fact that children of multiple faiths can come together as a community and learn and play together. They can learn that the child sitting next to them has a different belief, what that belief is, what it means and that they do not have to be separate from everyone else because of it.
So instead of removing a symbol, why not add to it?
Put up a symbol of all the faiths that are represented in a particular school. Let it be a celebration of the fact that people can come together and learn and play together while still having their separate beliefs.
When a child of a new faith to the school enrols, make a big deal of adding their symbol to the wall of honour.
Spend some time informing the children about the particular faith and, in the process, make the child feel welcome.
These issues that arise are adult issues. For the most part, children don’t know or care whether a particular symbol is there or not.
By expanding on it and actually making them aware of the symbols and the meanings, we can hopefully leave behind a generation that is more tolerant and aware of not only their own place in the universe but that of everyone else as well.
Bob Clarke is a former trustee with the Avalon East school district. He writes from St. John’s.