QSLS Politics

Thursday, June 19, 2008

School's out at the Bruce Report

In response to part of: The politics of consultation at the Bruce Report
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Dan Fitzgerald Says:
June 19th, 2008 at 10:53 pm

“You could argue, for example, that the people of New Brunswick have been marvelously well consulted on the proposed termination of a system that has failed more children than it’s helped, produced more functional illiterates in both official languages than even its most strident skeptics have feared, and driven a near-fatal spike into the heart of public education in this province, currently bifurcated by independent streams of “have” and “have-not” pupils.”

If the argument is that this is used as an artificial or hidden streaming mechanism, then what people are really doing is skirting around the issues.

1. Streaming - not sure if grade 1 is the proper place to do so, the Dutch do it at the junior high level. The people I’ve talked to have little complaint about its effect or fairness at the decision points.

Now, if the contention is that you need connections or influence or money to get your kid into the upper stream, then this is a serious problem. Although I haven’t investigated it beyond anecdotal evidence, my gut tells me that socio-economic influences do play a role over here. I strongly suspect that if you did a survey, a larger than representative section of the lower levels are made up of the children of immigrants, although they often move up a level once they get their language skills down.

On the other hand, what about all the rich parents with ‘dumb’ kids? Shouldn’t the boarding school CEOs be fighting against these new regulations? Do they really think the middle class can afford or want to send Junior off to be buggered by his betters?

I don’t know; but the constant hedging around the issue must make these politicians and parents group mad with frenzy.

2. French vs. English

People run around like somehow this amorphous group of individuals is out plotting to rob their ’societies’ of some birthright. While this position is laughable for anyone in Canada other than the natives, I suspect there is a good deal of red herring being thrown around for hotheads to pick up.

Unfortunately, this takes the heat off other, much more well defined entities (i.e. Bush, Harper, Atlantica, Banks, Irving) that have plotted and engineered the mark-down of us all – French, English, Native – what have you.

At this juncture, the language debate is pretty stupid - who wouldn’t want their kids to have that extra knowledge and skill? I can understand that some are angry that their kids don’t have access to second language training, but to the point were they’ll fight so that others don’t have it?

3. Zero Tolerance

I saw a wave of what I thought of at the time as ‘political correctness’ coming into the schools every time my class moved up. For instance, they instituted zero-tolerance on playground fights (automatic suspensions) and the strap right after I left elementary school (Priestman st, ‘90-91).

Other, similar ‘zero tolerance’ policies, with mandated extreme punishments for common, innate human behavior, were introduced at that time - turning what we had already termed a penitentiary into an Orwellian, matrix-like house of rules. Where every tussle required intervention, but no true rebuke was available.

I believe that my class was permanently subdued by a grade-3 strapping incident - it was enough to keep 90+ boys from doing much harm to each other the subsequent 3 years.

4. Teaching to the Exam.

The practice of teaching to the exam had already wrecked some of the High-school courses by the time I made it to FHS (’97). The open-book exam was much cherished in the level 2 (mainstream!) courses by that point.

I remember the elective technical course I took - Internal Combustion Engines. There were three jokers, four stoners, five daydreamers, and about seven or eight guys who really took an interest in how the engine fit into the car. I think about every fourth class or so, we’d get to really work on some cars, pulling the engine apart, taking them out of cars - etc, it was great - you could see kids really getting into it. Unfortunately, the other three days were spent in a classroom environment getting everyone ready for some B$ test everyone (including the teacher) knew was a waste of time.

Provincial standardized testing was just being introduced (my grade 12 year wrote one of the first versions). Luckily, we never wasted class time on preparing for it directly - many students treated it as a joke because it didn’t count.

Unfortunately, these tests are no joke these days - they’re being peddled by every two-bit conman educator, along with their proprietary systems (see Neil Bush’s !Ignite) as the savior of a failing public system. I don’t see why you need multimillion dollar programs to teach kids how to add – our calculus teacher did a marvelous job with old textbooks we could probably get for free off the internet these days.

While I don’t decry all new educational techniques, I believe the proof will be in the pudding if our baby Einsteins continue to be unable to multiply without a calculator, correctly apply they’re their or there, let alone balance a checkbook or figure out that 19% interest will drain them dry. Either there’s a serious problem with the curriculum, or the school system engenders so much ancillary backlash that kids are unwilling to participate or tune in, regardless of how much Ritalin you stuff down their throats.

During my school days, I’d say it was more the later – it seems at this point the kids are getting hit with both barrels.

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