Christian schools promote the democratic way of life through its societal structure and value-based teachings, says Ray Hendriks.
Hendriks, principal of Rhema Christian School in Peterborough, says the school has a governance structure that is “as democratic as it gets.”
Rhema was established by an association, which then elected a board of directors. At the board level, the principal doesn’t have a vote. Parents are extremely involved in the decision-making process. This system of school governance is a model of the democratic way of life, says Hendriks.
“The entire operation, from the association to volunteering in the classroom to everything in between essentially relies on parental input,” says Hendriks.
“The interesting part of that is we realize the deeper the input and commitment of parents to the process the healthier the school,” he says. “It’s possible to function without that input, but it’s not as healthy a school. And to me that’s the absolute demonstration of a democratic process.”
Rhema, which is a member of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), teaches core values that are part of democracy, says Hendriks. This includes love for one’s neighbour, mercy, justice and obedience to authority.
Hendriks says mercy and grace is the foundation of the school’s discipline policy and is the core of interaction between everyone involved in the school including teachers, students and parents.
“The idea of having appropriate policies and procedures allow you to deal justly with everyone, so we have this great framework of policy and procedures which allow us to be very fair,” he says.
Barb Bierman, provincial spokesperson for Parents for Educational Choice (PEC), says the civic values taught at Christian schools is important.
“I think the faith-based schools are really good at citizenship, the whole civic values, democracy, you have an obligation to participate and be an agent of good change — those messages are woven through all subject areas in faith-based schools,” she says.
“The kids who graduate from these schools they are good citizens; they are respected members of society, they hold down great jobs, they participate fully in democratic processes and they take an active part in their neighbourhood activities.”