Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Giving a voice to national anthem

The Observer

East York’s Catholic school trustee wants to ratchet up the patriotism in the city’s separate schools.
Angela Kennedy, Ward 11 trustee on the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), wants students to sing O Canada during daily opening exercises in school — instead of just listening to a recording of it.

Kennedy says she scorns the CDs. “I think they all have to go in the garbage,” she said. She first delivered her notice of motion at the TCDSB board meeting last week.

According to the TCDSB’s opening exercise policy, principals annually consult their school council to establish specifics — but the rules mandate a morning prayer and some version of O Canada — either sung or recorded. Schools also have a choice around whether to recite a short Pledge of Citizenship: “I affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty….”

Parents and students can apply for exemption from participation, but exempted students are still expected to show respect by standing quietly and removing their hats.

Kennedy wants to firm up the rule around the national anthem by eliminating the option of a recorded version — not only during opening exercises, but at special school events as well.
“We, as Canadians and educators, should be encouraging our students to actually sing O Canada,” Kennedy said. She explained that encouraging students to sing is critical in a multicultural community like East York, and that singing helps newcomers appreciate living in Canada and the
privileges Canadians take for granted.

After years of attending numerous graduations, she said, she’s always embarrassed when a huge crowd only listens to the song, with some not even paying attention. Kennedy said there’s no excuse.
“You should sing it, whether embarrassed or not.”

John Shanahan, principal of St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School, said that, realistically, it would be difficult to supervise the singing. He explained that many teenagers are reluctant to sing in general. But he still agreed with Kennedy’s idea.
“If they start singing in elementary schools, it would be second nature and an easier transition,” he said.

Kennedy plans to pursue the issue with the board after communicating with stakeholders such as parents, teachers and board staff. The motion on singing O Canada will be reviewed in full at the April 19 board meeting.

This article had been published on the East York Observer April 6 edition.

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