News Views

November 8, 2011

The following are excerpts from newspapers throughout Alberta. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the ATA.

Public means public

“The Edmonton public school board has prepared a draft ‘philosophical foundation statement’ on inclusivity that has been hailed as leading-edge from the human rights perspective but faces some parents’ religious objections. The parents’ arguments cannot trump, since the statement does nothing more than elaborate upon what is already firmly established public policy: public schools are supposed to be welcoming and safe places for all members of society. … There is nothing more appropriate for a public school board than adoption of a policy which stresses that in 21st-century Canada, everyone who elects to attend, or is otherwise qualified to work in, a public school belongs there, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to everything under the jurisdiction of the federal and provincial governments, and education falls within the latter.”
Guest editorial, Janet Keeping, Edmonton Journal, November 3, 2011
Keeping is a lawyer and president of the Calgary-based Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership

Give parents choice or give students what they need?

“So the natural question is: Does full-day kindergarten make sense? Will it benefit children or just be an added convenience for parents who work outside the home—eliminating the need for additional daycare? Is the cost-benefit analysis of spending an additional $200 million worth it in the long run? Should full-day kindergarten be mandatory or optional? These are some of the questions that many are starting to ask since Redford vowed to live up to her promise. … Joan Green, the Calgary Board of Education’s system principal for early learning, says 16 CBE schools provide all-day kindergarten, even though the province only funds half-day programs, because the board is attempting to help ‘vulnerable’ children. Of the 107,000 students in the CBE, fully 27,000—or one-quarter—are English language learners. ‘The latest statistic I read is 70 per cent of families are two parents working outside the home or single parents working outside the home. Many children are in care the full day from when they are young, so the opportunity is there for us to provide a high-quality start for children who would benefit from being in a full day kindergarten,’ says Green. … Providing the choice, however, will undoubtedly ensure that more kids will soar to their full potential.”
Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald, November 3, 2011

“It’s not just about Halloween”

“As a public service, folks, I’m gonna save you the suspense and just go ahead and blurt out the actual end game of the Calgary Board of Education when it comes to how they treat male students. It’s a neutering program. And that’s not my normal fondness for hyperbole: Educators are at war with any genuine manifestation of maleness. The most recent example is the attack on Halloween at Colonel Walker and Ramsay schools. The little boy who wanted to dress as a superhero or anything from Star Wars? Quash those hopes and dreams, kid, and break out the pink bunny suit. With the kind of Orwellian nightmare prose characterizing the utterances from public institutions in the Age of Correctness, a board of education spokeswoman said: ‘They decided to make Halloween a celebration of caring that aligns with the culture of their schools. And also they don’t want to have violent costumes—they want to make sure costumes are respectful of the other students at school, nothing that might scare the younger children.’ Hey, you wanna be respectful? How about respecting the cultural institution of Halloween? (Helpful hint: It’s not about caring.) How about respecting the rights of children not to be socially engineered and bored? How about being smart enough to permit nuance to enter your thinking, to be able to distinguish between a kid with a plastic light sabre and actual violence? How about respecting — just for once — the inborn nature of little boys? Like it or not, while there are a few exceptions, it’s the male of the species who wants to turn up at school dressed like Darth Vader or Thor. It’s the male who hears the words, ‘Hulk smash!’ and grins happily and looks down to picture himself with giant, green fists. It’s not just about Halloween. … And educators wonder why boys can’t take them seriously.”
Ian Robinson, Calgary Sun, October 30, 2011

Don’t confine learning

“Each year students in Alberta in grades three, six and nine sit down to take tests that are supposed to let school boards and the public know how the education system is performing. …

It would make sense that in a business world that seems to always be looking for those with innovative ideas, or ‘out of the box thinking,’ the last thing we should be promoting in our school systems is learning that is confined in strict parameters. This isn’t a criticism of our school boards, schools, or teachers. There are plenty of teachers and schools that do allow for flexibility in learning styles and strive to accommodate all manner of learning. However, in the midst of all that there is this looming test, whose results are supposed to let us know how our students are faring, how successful they are. In the real world potential and success isn’t measured in one finite moment, from pre-arranged material that is studied or memorized—so why should it be that way in our school system?”
Editorial, The Western Review, October 25, 2011