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Friday, 29 January 2016

Reform Rant

I am going to rant. For most of my adult life I have been frustrated and angry. So I am going to rant. Every day thousands of children in this province (and assuredly all over the country, even world) reluctantly go to school. Many out and out hate going to school. This is not only wrong, it is a crime against our own children. Childhood gives us the best years for growth of all kinds. Children and teens are loaded with curiosity, energy, creativity and drive. So we push them into schools which kill all of these things. 

Our education system is over a century out of date and all the experts know it. Some of the greatest education reformers, who are still praised and quoted today, wrote those criticisms in the 1960's! And still we do nothing. We quietly sit here and believe that this is the only way. Just like in generations past people went to the doctor when they didn't feel well. He (and it was always a man) gave you some pills and told you to come back if they didn't work. And people did just that. But no longer. Now we take control of ourselves and our health. We want to understand what is happening. We prowl the internet. We question our doctors. We search out other possible remedies. And we blithely send our children to schools which not only don't teach them what they need to know but also kill their natural enthusiasm. 

Understand, and I will repeat this as many times as it takes for you to hear, I AM NOT criticizing the teachers! I am not even really criticizing the curriculum. I am damning the system. It doesn't work. It hasn't worked for a long time. And yet we cling to it. How many times have I heard: “Well, I survived it. He (she) can, too.” “Bullying is just part of growing up.” “School is just something you have to get through.” All along the lines of, perhaps, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger? What a crock! But the worst part is that everyone knows that it is broken and yet no one wants to do anything. 

I am very happy that some parents can find good school solutions for their children in the alternative schools, however many will find that these programs do not exist in their areas. Alternative schools are only in places of dense population. What do we call it when some people have access to certain public services and others do not? We call it discrimination.

We certainly can look at education systems elsewhere in the world, like Finland. We can learn from alternative private systems like Montessori. We can study the words of education reformers like John Gatto or Sir Ken Robinson. But ultimately we will have to find a uniquely Canadian solution. By our very nature, we are multi-cultural. We also have a small population in a huge geographical space. These make it impossible to simply transplant other solutions to Canada.

As parents we strive to get the best for our children. For many years I worked very hard to provide my children with a good education. I picked up, along the way, as many other children as I could. This is no longer enough. It is time that we think of all the children of Canada. From the smallest village in the far north to inner city Toronto, we need a better public education for all. This can only happen if we start the conversation. With parents and grandparents, with teachers and school administrators, with employers and businesses, and with our politicians. How can we claim to be an advanced modern nation when our school system is locked in the early 1900's?

Perhaps I should mention that not only am I a parent and teacher but also I have a Masters in Education. Since my children entered school here in the 1990's I have been fighting for change. My frustration at the blind adherence to an archaic system has reached boiling point. It is no longer enough to point out that the system can be changed. We need to know that it MUST be changed.

And there are things to do. First of all, get mad. For your child, your grandchildren, all the other children. Second, find like minded people. There are pockets, getting bigger, all over the place.  Search Facebook, find blogs, find others.  Watch “Beyond Measure”, a movie about groups in schools who have actually done something.  It takes place in the United States but has a lot of things we can learn.  Third, talk about it with everyone. Yes, because I have been in education for over 30 years, I do have a plan for reform. If anyone is interested, read my last blog.  Feel free to share it, comment on it, amend it.  Just do something!  But my point is not to promote my own solution, but to get others moving. Only united can we give our children the education they deserve. 

Who else is angry and has had enough?

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