Following a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal that any education about religions must be nonindoctrinal and include major world faiths, the Ontario Government commissioned an inquiry into religious education in its public schools in 1989. The resulting Watson report recommended that nonindoctrinal education about religions be made compulsory. The Government announced in 1990 its policy that nonidocitrinal education about world faith religions may be provided in grades 1 to 8 for up to 60 minutes per week.
In 1991, in a most unusual move, the Brotherhood of Anglican Churchmen of the Diocese of Ottawa decided to develop a course curriculum for education about world religions. Although this action startled many and there were many skeptics, the BAC raised $5000, advertised for a resource person, established a multi faith steering committee, and contracted for the production of course material suitable for grades 4/5/6. The result is Alexander's Journey. It has been widely acclaimed as a pacesetter in the field.
Alexander's Journey, was written by education specialist Helen Prince of Ottawa, with the support of the multi faith steering committee established for the project. Helen is a teacher with the Ottawa Roman Catholic Separate School Board, The course is designed for the Junior Grades, i.e. grade 4, 5, and 6 students.
The framework used to carry the theme is a story book journey, called Alexander's Journey, in search of God.
From 1991 to present, although many school boards have been interested, none have used the material for classroom teaching. School boards have yielded to the very small minority pressure from those who do not believe in God and want no education about religion taught, and from fundamentalist Christians who only want Christianity taught. Even though the material has broad support from the religions presented, no progress has been made. On the positive side, the material has been used widely as resource material. It is listed in the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training publication "Education about Religion in Ontario Public Elementary Schools", published in 1994.
The Anglican Bishops of Ontario in a joint statement in January 1996 called on all Anglicans to raise the issue of education about religions in public schools.
We didn't expect it to be easy. It isn't. The story will continue!
At a specific time in history, in a particular place in the world, into a special family, Alexander was born, lived, and died. During her lifetime, Alexander looked about and saw the many things in the world -- the earth and sea, the plants and animals, and the many kinds of people. She wondered about how we are the same, and yet different. Alexander asked many questions such as "Who am I?", "Who made our world?" and, "What might we learn from one another?" Now, such questions are difficult ones, and Alexander could not answer them. So she set out on a journey in search of answers to her questions about life and about living.
Alexander began her journey thinking about the first question of her search to discover the meaning of life. She asked, "Who am I?" No sooner had she said the words when she passed a traveller who greeted her, "Shalom." "Peace also to you," Alexander replied.
And Alexander asked the traveller, "Who are you, and from where do you come?" The traveller was not at all puzzled by the question. Effortlessly, he answered, "I am a Jew; and I am he whom God made."
Alexander was amazed by this simple answer ...
The course material can be adapted to a wide variety of classroom situations and student abilities. It can be taught as a separate subject or equally integrated with other subjects.
The material is not designed to indoctrinate or nurture a student in any religion.
The documents comprising Alexander's Journey include:
Alexander's Journey is a first, but important, step in education about religions for public elementary schools.