Document Type


Publication Date



"A twofold problem faces Canadian education. The first fold involves the indoctrination debate, still unsettled after several decades, yet still bearing decisively on educational policy. The second fold involves the changing Canadian educational landscape, now obviously characterized by increasing cultural, religious, and linguistic plurality. This plurality manifests itself in tribalism and in regular conflicts about normativity in the public square. In the midst of this plurality, many Canadian parents of school-aged children believe that courts, provincial governments, and educational authorities deny them educational justice by determining that their own religion cannot inform what their children learn in schools. Yet, from their vantage point, their own educational tax dollars are used to indoctrinate their children into another worldview-some combination of materialism, secular humanism, and liberalism- every day of the school year. When these parents cry foul, defenders of common schools reply that the only way to make schools accessible to everyone is to make them neutral, which implies leaving religion out of education.

Examining the various charges and replies in this discussion reveals a philosophical-ideological thicket, through which the various parties apparently can no longer hear each other. I suggest that educators and educational theorists could go a long way toward solving these policy difficulties if we can find the will to move forward on the matters of indoctrination, pluralism, and related concepts, such as neutrality."


Originally published in Towards an Ethics of Community: Negotiations of Difference in a Pluralistic Society, edited by James H. Olthuis, 51-73. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid-Laurier University Press, 2000.