Recent statements by PQ education minister Marie Malavoy concerning the elimination of basic English language instruction and the introduction of ‘Sovereignist education’ are cause for concern. It is yet another example of the PQ’s reckless handling of the public education system and a threat to social stability of the Francophone community. What the PQ is proposing is a twisted blend of propaganda, revisionist history and enforced monolingualism. They are proposing entrenched, self-perpetuating racial tension, inter-ethnic conflict and general ignorance.
Québec has a high dropout rate. There’s no denying it. Among Francophone males, the rate is nearly 40%, one of the highest rates in the developed world. This is a self-perpetuating national tragedy, one that no doubt plays a central role in our province’s declining fortunes and the increasing influence of criminal gangs and organized crime. Broad, inter-generational ignorance is a social pathology, and it is a perpetual failure of our province’s many governments that this situation isn’t under control, to say nothing of eliminating it outright. How can we dare to be so lackadaisical?
How are we to compete on an international level, perhaps even as an independent country, when 30% of province’s early twenty-somethings are without a secondary education? What future do they have in an information and intellectual-capital economy?
Malavoy’s desire to use the public school system as a political tool to teach a highly-inaccurate revisionist history will go over the heads of young male students like a lead balloon, to say nothing of the well-documented and excessive punishments handed down on students in the French schools caught speaking English. It’s idiotic to think overt anti-intellectualism, such as this is, will stimulate interest in academic pursuits. This is purposely divisive and out of touch with our contemporary needs.
Policies such as these only serve to perpetuate the following negative trends: Francophones of the middle and upper classes continue moving their children into private schools (where their children will likely learn both languages and be exposed to many cultures) while the poor are left with overcrowded schools with government-sponsored monolingualism and nationalist propaganda. I attended a conference on inter-culturalism back in March where one of the speakers, a local journalist and head of a non-profit organization, gave a talk on the issue of increasingly racial intolerance in Francophone public schools. No kidding! Immigrant kids are being told a) not to speak English and b) that Franco-Québécois society and culture is threatened by immigration, foreigners and people who don’t speak French as a primary language. Is it any wonder the dropout rate is so high?
As though limiting CEGEP access for Francophones and Allophones wasn’t ridiculous enough, now this. Sometimes I really wonder what these apparent ‘leaders’ are thinking. How the hell does this help anything?
It saddens me that the PQ cannot evolve past a Balkan mentality concerning cultural and national interests. It is an unnecessary siege mentality, one designed for short-term electoral gains while leaving long-term uncertainty and instability. It’s dangerous.
This does not affect the Anglophone community of Québec, but it may be very wise to use the opportunity for a potential gain. So that the PQ is hoisted by its own petard.
What if Québec’s Anglophone school boards united (in a sense) and decided that all students would henceforth graduate as fully bilingual? A simple extension of existing French-immersion programs to the entirety of the system; a requirement, a badge of honour, for the children of the Anglo-Québécois community.
If we did so, would this not mean Francophone and Allophone students would be able to attend ‘Anglophone’ schools? If a program were created to ensure 100% fluency in two languages for all students, surely many Francophone parents would be free to send their children to ‘Anglo’ schools – Anglo would, in the future, be a misnomer.
It is entirely possible to teach both English and French beginning at a very early age, and the earlier we start, the higher the likelihood of total fluency in adulthood. The more a child is presented with opportunities to speak both, the more they will. Bilingualism broadens horizons and sews the seeds of self-criticality – imagine the potential of a future generation of school children fluent in English and French? When every Québécois could choose to be a translator as a ‘fallback’ job post-graduation? Imagine the economic potential of a province educated to that degree?
It can be done, and our community can help make it happen.
If we demonstrate that we can achieve full bilingualism within our own community, we may be able to relieve the French school boards of one of their more pressing problems – overcrowding. Further, it would serve to help re-populate Anglophone schools on the verge of collapse due to low enrolment, while further potentially luring more middle and upper-class students back into the public system.
But a project such as this is a big undertaking and requires a concerted effort to realize it. It would require bravery and determination from our community. It would necessitate we speak up.
Our community’s future in Québec is dependent on cultural integration. We must show that we can survive and prosper as a community of bilingual or multi-lingual, multi-cultural “Anglophones”, and as such we demonstrate how cultural integration is an essential element of our province’s well-being and progress. We must prove beyond a doubt to the Francophone majority that dual-language fluency (with a social and cultural preference for French) is the best way to improve our economic potential and secure the status of the French language forevermore.
Integration is the key, the core of our being, and we must stand united and demand ever greater degrees of integration amongst the many diverse peoples of this province. We must ensure that our shared values are translatable, relatable, beyond mere ethno-nationalism.
It’s for this reason that we have a responsibility to try and resist and/or mitigate the potential damage done by Ms. Malavoy’s unsettling plan.