June 4, 2009

The Re-Inventing of Public Education

Chapter 45. The Re-inventing of Public Education

These blogs are way overdue. I blame my inability to pound out a few hundred words without sitting on the idea for a while of what I want to at least try to say. Not to mention that distractions are endless: hockey playoffs, my library book, facebook, and not necessarily in that order. But sometimes key current events force me into just forcing out the few semi-thought-out ideas I had scattering around in my head. This is what is happening now.

VueWeekly had an interesting article just come out in today's issue by social activist Ricardo Acuna. It clearly indicated acts of fascism and intolerance by the Albertan government, under the guise of ironically wanting to move forward and developing a long-term vision of what education in Alberta should look like in 20 years. This incoincidently happened to be an immediate follow-up to the passing of Bullshit Bill Number 44. I mean, hell! Even the slightest liberal-thinking young person would want to see this Bill fail terribly!! This could be seen with the 4756 members in the facebook group called "Students Against Bill 44" in comparison to the 61 members in the group called "Students For Bill 44". Something's up. HEY! Teacher! Leave Us Kids ALONE!!!

So. Now that we are all updated with the current events, let's go ahead and see what the hell I was thinking about regarding public education when I came up with my 45th topic of something I thought that could be turned into a blog .

#1 - Bill 44 proves we need a change in government.

Aside from the street response from the passing of this bill ("Alberta's always been seen as a bit of a redneck province"...), the vocal minorities sometimes do need to be heard. What good is a government that has no intention of letting the local gay & lesbian community have any degree of clout in the place they call home. Sheer intolerance. This is not the way to work towards a world with acceptance and peace. Even outside of this minority community, there was a whole whack of parents who agree that their kids need to be getting the entire curriculum so that they all come out with the information they need to make decisions for themselves. Education is not supposed to be limited.

So, it is important to understand that governments provide us with schools but we get the government we deserve (including strategic voting & apathetic non-voting). But more importantly we must understand that industry controls the government. Economies thrive on industry. And now since the economy is failing, we have the perfect opportunity to go all Obama-style and realize the potential in change! We can actually vote in a government with ideas on fresh technologies and genuine acceptance of all the minority groups that make Alberta interesting! We can realize the devastation of the air, water, people of oilsands production - despite how proportionately small they say it is!

#2 - Curriculum Enhancement: we can get more out of kids than just having them be able to regurgitate biology textbooks, take the derivative implicitly of a multi-variable equation, or memorize dates of wars.

This is actually a part of Engineer's Without Borders' goals once upon a time. We hoped to (and did) get more talk about "development" in the classrooms - something more than Grade 5 Social Studies, Post-War rebuilding policies in high school, or Sociology 269 @ the UofA. But the current curriculum must be re-vamped as we move farther into this 21st Century if we have a hope in hell of leading lives that will benefit all Albertans aka global citizens.

EWB focused primarily on aid dollars, water access, food subsidies, and fair trade. These 4 components have to be embedded into the Alberta curriculum at a very young age, just as RECYCLING was put into the classrooms when I was in grade 2.

So in addition to studying spelling, reading, the government, math, computers, christmas, the food guide, phys ed, sex ed, canadian politics, the holocaust; our curriculum needs to be more precise on taking on topics like:

the environment:
global warming, pollution, recycling, water scarcity

ethics & faith:
abortion, stem cells, evolution, islam, christianity (like, get them to read Life of Pi)

inequality & intolerance:
the apartheid, HIV/AIDS, globalization

I hadn't even touched a non-fiction book until I was well into my post-secondary. Why not get high school kids reading at least 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction book per semester through high school? That doesn't seem too hard.

#3 - Developing temperance of students is a lifelong skill we can work on developing even at school, even when the parents aren't there.

Restraint. Thinking. Patience and understanding that often less is more. Sometimes the easiest solution isn't the best. Sacrifice. I think that these things could be incorporated into day-to-day classroom stuff.

#4 - The teachers must actually want to teach (see my blog called 80 X 40)

So many times, a good government job is all that a person could really hope for in life. We need some way of paying the bills and paying into a pension so that the golden years will be all that we hoped they would be.

But I know of two people from my past. Let's call them Mr. C. and Miss B. Both are relatively new teachers. Miss C. counts her days until holidays and reaps the benefits of everything the teaching profession has to offer, with giving as little back as possible. On the other hand, Mr. C. hopes to be a principal one day, and is constantly putting in extra time with his class in sports-related activities, and also sits on committees that he doesn't get paid for to discuss item #2: Curriculum Enhancement! Kudos, Mr. C! Miss B? Why did you even bother going into teaching? Don't you realize that these kids need to see a passion in their role models - the shaper of their minds? You deserve an F. Your kids deserve better. So please, young people, don't go into teaching unless you are certain that you could convince your class that you are in fact there to create a positive influence in their lives. Maybe it's up to the government we elect, and the parents too, to ensure that we hold our teachers (with these compensating salaries) up to the standards we feel our children are entitled to!

Ricardo Acuna's article:

Andrew Nikiforuk has a book: "School's Out: The Catastrophe in Public Education" available at the edmonton public library

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