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February 21, 2011

Parents of students in Edmonton Catholic Schools will now have to decide what is the best vision for the education of their children. Do they favour an education that follows the Gospel or do they want a school system dedicated to providing the latest and greatest technology? The overdue decision to end casino fundraising has forced this issue.

The issue is unique to Edmonton, as other Catholic school districts across Alberta have abandoned casino fundraising, if indeed they ever used it. To be sure, Edmonton has unique educational issues - especially that of more widespread poverty - than other districts, issues that require unique funding.

But it still needs to be asked, What is the better form of education - one which strives to provide students the best technology, field trips and other accoutrements or an education which strives to form the whole person?

Some might argue that this is a false choice? We can have both, they would say. They would also defend casino fundraising. The money is there; why should our schools not avail themselves of it? The damage to people's lives from addictive gambling is not the fault of casino volunteers; it is the fault of the government that has set up and oversees the system.

Catholic parents should ask, "What would Jesus do? Would Jesus work a casino, washing his hands of the human damage casinos cause because he was trying to achieve a good end?"

Jesus would most assuredly associate with everyone - those who work casinos, those who use them as a form of recreation and those addicted to various forms of gambling. But he would not participate in an activity that directly or indirectly harms people and he would challenge those who need to repent.

The leaders of our Catholic school system have rightly decided to model Jesus rather than some other god. They believe and have always believed that Catholic schools need to educate the whole person in his or her intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional being. They don't believe that education is primarily technique.

Ultimately, education is about love. It is about learning to love truth, goodness and beauty. Because of their life situations, some children are disadvantaged in their ability to benefit from education. Schools need to feed and provide other resources that enable students to succeed. Those resources require money, money which sometimes provincial funding does not provide.

We should not get trapped, however, into the false belief that education in love requires schools to accept the materialism of the surrounding culture. A Catholic vision always puts people before things and love before technical competence. The more our schools adhere to that, the more their students will gain lasting benefits and the more our society will flourish.