Monday, November 22, 2010

Hope and a prayer

Today's SP (Nov. 22/10) questions what more could be done to keep youth in school. What it doesn't state is what is already being done, and to some degree, with little avail. Poverty is, and will continue to be, the root of the problem.

In the schools where poverty is rampant they have introduced the breakfast/lunch and altered school day programs, both designed to get students to school and keep them there once they arrive. Many of these schools have clothing depots to provide necessary apparel. In terms of programming, in the inner city schools that have high aboriginal populations, Cree language is being offered and Elders are invited to create culturally relevant ceremonies. The schools themselves have created an ambience that is welcoming and friendly to students and their families. This list goes on and on, all of which is good.

The Care and Share initiative, started by Ted Merriman, partners businesses with schools that offer school supplies to students and expertise to community associations to enhance recreation opportunities in their neighbourhoods. This same group created inner city soccer and hockey and negotiated free arena time for these activities as well as transportation to the events. They provide some funding and rarely fail to honour a request from a community school in need.

At the high school level the public school division started the quarter system and teen daycares to assist teen parents completing their education. Counsellors and social workers are available to help these students deal with their family needs while they attend school. Again, this list goes on, all of which is good.

At all levels the division offers Life Skills Work Skills and English as a Second Language classes. It offers a smorgasbord of elective courses to appeal to its broad constituency. I would dare say the school division is stretched to beyond its capacity to deliver effectively.

What more could it do? Perhaps offer night classes to those adult students who only need a couple of classes to complete their diploma requirements and can't afford to quit their jobs to attend the regular day classes. And it is difficult to mix 21 year old adults in a class of teens. Or incentives to businesses to give short-term release time to employees registered to attend the classes necessary to complete the program.

When the government reduced the legal working age to fourteen, albeit with conditions, it apparently missed the research that concludes that students working during the school week see a decline in academic performance. Students also get a taste for consumer goods fed by the minimum wage jobs they do. They fail to realize that once they leave the family home and have to support themselves they can no longer buy the clothes and gizmos these jobs currently provide and without an education minimum wage, menial labour and poverty is the best they can hope for.

I could continue to rant but it too would be to no avail. Uneducated parents raising children in poverty will beget uneducated parents raising children in poverty. Nothing will change until this changes.


  1. We have to start looking at new models of education before we see any more progress. Ken Thompson has been talking about this for years. Our current model is based in industrial era thinking: when the kid's of age, put him in school, advance him along doctrinal curriculums, and by all means don't allow him to think for himself. I pray for the day when schools are transformed into something more resembling our society, with different ages in the same classroom, younger kids learning from older ones, teachers acting as guides to learning, and children advancing along at their own pace.

    Of course, that model clashes against the structure of the teachers unions, which were formed along the same lines as their industrial manufacturing counterparts.

    Still, I dream of a future (or, at least, to the best of my ability as the education system did its best to drive out creative thought from my head.)

  2. I think you're referring to Sir Ken Robinson, the educator, not Ken Thompson, the rich guy.

    But otherwise, good comment.

  3. anon @ 3:14

    To somehow claim "teachers unions" as holding back progressiveness in education indicates that you have no understanding whatsoever of the role of teachers' organizations in education.

    Progressive models of education have consistently been championed by teachers. In fact, one of the primary criticisms put forth by critics is that education is "too progressive" and in the hands of the "teachers' unions." Good luck getting your argument out the door in light of those who have intensively studied this in Canada, such as Jerold Kachur. But don't let research get in the way of your misinformed ideological positioning.

    And your claim that these organizations are "formed along the same lines as their industrial manufacturing counterparts" is so far removed from reality, it is blatantly evident you have no idea what you are talking about, but are content to spout the managerial drivel learned in first year Commerce and blathered on by Gormley et al.

    The Mistress has posted a completely valid consideration of education, reflective of the work of organized labour in the education field, academic circles, local organizations, and education bureaucracy.

  4. Anon @ 12:47

    You're right. I'm sorry. You got me -- everything I wrote was taught to me in Commerce, and John Gormley instructed me to speak on his behalf on this blog.

    There is no need to consider that our education model is flawed and there are no other models worth pursuing. The present model -- where kids are ushered in according to their age gruop, taught the same curriculum at the same pace, and graduated with the same group -- does not resemble an industrial production line whatsoever.

    All kids are the same and we should make sure they progress at the same pace, no matter the consequences. We just have to offer a few classes that might increase the interest of those students who haven't dropped out yet.

    Most importantly, teachers bear no responsibility for the state of education whatsoever, especially when kids are dropping out like flies, because teachers are progressive.

    My apologies for being ideological as that is a trait held exclusively by conservatives.

    Thanks for setting me straight.

  5. Jerold Kachur is the biggest union blowhard around, tough to give an credibility to what he says

  6. having relatives and friends who are teachers, I see them struggle against the inertia of both the school boards, fellow teachers, and the Ministry of Education on a weekly basis.

    Well there are teachers who can take some of the blame for the current situation, it's unfair and ignorant to paint all teachers with the same brush.

    Unfortunately, there is no one person or entity to blame - just as there is no one solution that will solve all the problems instantaneously..

  7. "Unfortunately, there is no one person or entity to blame - just as there is no one solution that will solve all the problems instantaneously.. "

    To blame, I'd start with the teachers union first, which has every incentive to sustain the single model of education that we have at our disposal.

    No one is claiming that there is one solution to our failing schools ... except those who argue on behalf of the status quo (see above). By sustaining this model, the teachers union can maintain control of the narrative that they alone hold the key for a proper education.

    Unfortunately, that doesn't help the mass of kids who drop out every year.

  8. Well put Anon 12:05,

    Now wait for all the union folk to come on here and start screaming that you hate unions and blah blah great unions are.

    Your points are bang on, only problem is trying to relay that to union members is like talking to a brick wall. They will just claim you are anti union and therefore you should have no opinion. Gotta love the organized labour sector.

  9. Don't talk to union. They already control the message.

    Instead, talk to those with kids in schools or to those who had schools fail their kids.

    Also, ignore their premise that educators know more about education than you do. We all went to school. Our kids go to school. We see the effect schools have on them. We are all within our rights to challenge the predominant theories on education. The unions should be listening to us, but they won't, so leave them out of the conversation.

    Marginalize the union, speak to the general public, and have a genuine conversation about the future of your kids.


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