[Opinion] The school in Quebec and the murdered Mozarts

“What torments me… is a little, in each of these men, Mozart assassinated. » – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Land of men1939

In a recent timorous report, the Superior Council of Education recalls the inequity of the school system in Quebec. Like so many others, the Council limply and bureaucratically perpetuates its earlier opinions.

The last election campaign showed it: school democracy is not in crisis in Quebec. We have a Prime Minister who reiterates that his priority is education without seeing this huge problem. François Legault was however four years in power, after having been four other years, Minister of Education (1998-2002). In fact, under his leadership, educational inequalities grew. He was and is in fact the (first) minister of unequal or elitist education.

Such an inability to admit reality reminds me of my school career in elementary and high school. In the 1960s, I believed that Quebec would fight against inequalities and radically promote access to education for all. What I had experienced as a child would never happen again…

In 1952, my family and I were living in a hovel in Pointe-Saint-Charles and I was starting my first year at the old Jeanne-LeBer school, overcrowded, known for decades for its insalubrity and its « trap-door » condition. -fire « . The school also caught fire a few months later. And the priest tells us, in the pulpit, that I am among the boys directed to an even more dilapidated building: the first Jeanne-LeBer school, built in 1890! I was then transferred to a bungalow-school for two years. I finally find myself in a real school in the 6th year!

In fact, the School Board maintained a long tradition (started in the 19th century) of maintaining unsanitary schools in neighborhoods like Pointe-Saint-Charles and of underserving working-class populations. Thus, it took the intervention of Mgr Charbonneau, Bishop of Montreal, in 1945, for the school board to accept boys at the Jeanne-LeBer school (until then reserved for girls) and to build a house with four classrooms. . And again, there was no secondary school at the Point; young people, few in number, pursuing secondary school had to go to Saint-Henri, then to Westmount (sic) to complete the program.

However, what was most deplorable was the poor quality of training. With the exception of a few female teachers, the school was run in a military fashion, the martinet (small multiple leather whip) was liberally inflicted, and many teachers rejoiced in the constant absences of several students. In 1958-1959, my family accepted that I do my classical course. At that time, access to university was almost exclusively through private secondary schools. When he learned of my intentions, the principal, Roméo Gagnon, summoned me to his large office to lecture me: « Your teacher, Mr. Brazeau, tells me that you want to do your classical course… means nothing. You’re going to be laughed at in college. Think about your older brother who I skipped class and is now in jail. No, you’ll finish your 9th grade and go to work like everyone else. »

The school despised us and a majority of us hated it.

Nevertheless, I began my classical course. And I rejoiced when the Ministry of Education was created and the Parent Commission began the great reform of Education. In 1967, I finished my classical course at Brébeuf College and the convocation was presided over by the Prime Minister, Daniel Johnson (his son, Pierre-Marc, was also a graduate there). Mr. Johnson announced to the bourgeois audience that the private colleges would be maintained and that they would be generously subsidized by the government. Mr. Johnson was warmly applauded, then thanked by the rector of the college, obviously relieved.

Growing inequalities

Of course, 55 years later, the educational situation is no longer that of the 1950s. However, the authorities have introduced new mechanisms that perpetuate social and educational inequalities. Public funding policies and practices for elementary and secondary education in Quebec produce systemic discrimination that disadvantages the poorest families and children. For decades, surveys have revealed or confirmed growing inequalities. However, the deputies do not intervene… possibly because, in several cases, their own children attend private schools or selective schools with specific projects. Being in a conflict of interest, these people should abstain from voting.

The increase in the number of students in the private and selective semi-private public network dramatically contradicts the principles of access and equal opportunity for all. The government and its Prime Minister pride themselves on promoting the “common values” of Quebec. Rather, they appear as “whitewashed sepulchres” when one realizes the extent of the large-scale systemic discrimination instilled in education.

In 1996, in its report on education for the 21st century, UNESCO proposed that education be organized, among other things, around the pillar “learning to live together”, presented as its keystone. Doesn’t such an objective require encounters between individuals, at least during childhood and adolescence? How can you learn to live with others if you don’t see them at such a crucial time in your life? In addition, do we realize that the increasing segregation practiced in the school system is already causing considerable social problems?

Currently, tens of thousands of children do not have the chance to reach their full potential because they are relegated to “regular” public education.

In 1939, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was saddened by looking at the faces of children who would not reach their potential. However, educational inequalities are not inevitable, they are socially constructed. Unfortunately, in Quebec, society seems to prefer not to see them while favoring their growth.

This Quebec, which still looks too much like that of my childhood, disgusts me.

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