February 17, 2008

Batting at Low Hanging Fruit

Oh, how I hate this. Politicians whacking away at issues that are total gimmes. Here in Halton, we now have John Tory and Joyce Savoline steadfastly asserting that removing due dates is a terrible thing in our schools. Well, duh. Your own party has been complicit in it...it's been gestating for a decade. So, shut up. I'm so sick of our kids' education becoming a political soapbox for politicians gamely grasping for a vine that's not there, or one that finds one in her hand and for the life of her can't remember what she did to earn it.

Where are all the mavericks? Where are people that set the schedule, rather than chase after a bus that pulled out long ago? Where is someone with the balls to stand up and say that party politics is ruining us? Just once, I would like to see someone stand up in Queen's Park, look across the aisle, and say "you know, that's not a bad idea". Instead, we're stuck with voting between Dumb and Dumber, and knowing we will instead be treated to an eternal loop of "I know you are, but what am I?". Sigh.

Our schools are being trashed. Your children are not learning enough, and they're not learning it well. A report just last week from Ontario Colleges announced that math students are failing at a rate of over 30% - kids that came from high school with sturdy grades. Colleges are now scrambling to supply bridge courses to make up the ground. I think that's very generous of the colleges. I would be turning with the fury of a thousand dragons to the Secondary School Boards - all of them - and demanding to know why they are graduating seniors that know nothing.

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne has expressed her profound belief that this is about graduating as many students as possible, because after all, that is the education system's goal. That might be a noble sentiment, if it weren't mired in a grand game of Cover Your Ass. Where we used to speak of raising the bar to compete in a global economy, it seems we are now just playing a game of cruise ship Limbo - how low can you go?

See, there is a precious thing called a funding formula that schools must use. It's a process that hands over money based on how many bums are in the seats. Bums in Seats - let's call it BS for short. So, administrations and school boards want to make it appear there are bums in seats to get money. And to do so, they are busily erasing boundaries and playing three card Monte with the rules. Not actually in the seat? Don't worry - the teacher will customize a package of work just for you to make up for those 53 absences. Hour late to an exam? Not to worry, the teacher will let you start late, and stay until you've had the full time.

Never actually done the work? Not a problem. You now have the entire term to get to it, and with a little luck, you've befriended a kid who did do it and you can now plagiarize their stuff and hand in your own, whenever you feel like it. And your teacher doesn't mind waiting until the last minute to mark whatever you decide to hand in - the Goverment says so.

But let's ask ourselves the really important question here: What's the point? What's the value of a diploma that, as the colleges are pointing out, is comprised of totally bogus standards? It reminds me of the first game you come to on the midway. I remember as a kid, for a dime, you got to fish for a prize, and everyone won. You got this little gnome doll thing, creepy actually, but a prize nonetheless.

As you got further down the midway, you soon realized that your prize was no prize - the mud around the exit gate would be littered with trashed little gnomes - and that if you wanted to test your abilities you had to have considerably more skill than a magnet conveniently tied to the end of a string.

Ah, but not in Halton, and from my mail, across most of Canada. No, here, everyone wins.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lorraine, amen. Well said... It is ruined beyond repair. The kids are herded around like cattle to meet quotas without really grapsing anything that was taught that year or the previous ones.

February 17, 2008 2:18 PM  
Blogger Mark-Alan Whittle said...

And thats not all, the quality of teachers, and their skill level has declined dramatically since the Dalton McGuinty government lowered the bar by eliminating teacher testing to ensure competency. Gone are the days of discipline in classrooms thanks to the politically correct provincial Liberals. When I went to school you got the strap for swearing or any other real bad behaviour. If you did that now some smart-ass student would have you charged with assault.

February 17, 2008 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes well, I'm afraid one has to look in the mirror for how our education system got this way. Parents for years have said to the government we want to work, both of us, makes sure Johhny and Sue are kept busy until we get home from work whenever that may be. Up went the extra curricular sports, hobby clubs activities, up went the number of hours away from core subjects, up went the field trips to foreign countries during March Break. If you want to have smart kids, you can give them a head start with the right environment at home BUT, I've found that kids have to want it to.You're better off learning from real life than any of the hogwash they teach at school.

February 17, 2008 5:58 PM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Nope. There's no way I'm going to hang this on working parents. I have been involved in every inch of my sons' education from the day they started preschool. Outside of school hours was my responsibility, and I never looked to the school to provide beyond high educational standards. The fact there have been so many teachers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to coach my sons in track and basketball and a thousand other interests is a blessing.

What people want to do with their March break is their business. While I may not agree with yanking kids out of school for trips outside of mandated holidays, that too is not my call. I do not believe the system should be required to bridge a parent's desire to so.

Parents are a child's first best teacher. But we need a strong public school with a responsible cirriculum - and that we don't have. I'm sick of electing government after government that takes their financial shortfalls out on the area we can least afford to do so - education. It's not about a specific party - they're all as bad. And school boards do as they're told, not as they're elected to do.

I'm dismayed by the current state of our education system. But I'll be damned if someone is going to tell me the holes are due to the fact I work, or that I'm a lousy role model.

February 17, 2008 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parents are a child's first teacher but I wouldn't be so fast to say they're automatically the "best." You obviously are committed to quality education at home and school, but I know many parents don't feel the same way. If it was really important, we would have demanded the right changes be made a long time ago. If school boards do as they're told, not what they're electe to, who is to blame for that? Who elected the school board trustees? We did.

February 17, 2008 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess from reading all the comments we all agree the educational system needs an overhaul from the top to the bottom. AND I couldn't agree more. Yes, parents need to be parents again. Lorraine, I couldn't agree more. Passing the responsibility or buck onto the education system or the babysitter is not an excuse for lack of leadership within the household.

February 18, 2008 8:08 AM  
Blogger DJW said...

Much to say here...

In 1997 I re-entered the school system as a mature student. Most of the other 'kids' in my College classes were in kindergarten when I dropped out of high school.

Observation 1: The school system had spent many years turning students into storage devices; they could store and recall facts, but couldn't think.

Observation 2: High School math did not prepare students for college. Day 1 of Engineering math was a skills test, followed with a comprehensive summary of your skills and shortfalls, and a recommended course of remedial action.
I was surprised to find I only had 60%, and even more surprised that mine was one of the higher scores. Further, this was the norm for first year college!
Now, how many took advantage of the free remedial program offered?
I didn't run into many of my classmates at the math learning center.

Observation 3: Passing is not achieving. While reviewing mid-term scores, one of my peers was very proud of his B grade, thats what he was shooting for. When I asked why, he said thats all he needed for a pass.
Students today are focused on passing.

Is this, and our entire system and indeed lifestyle been reduced to "It's good enough?"

I can't answer that.

What can you do for your own kids?

The government now has standardized testing (EQAO) in all schools publishes the results. (link below)
Find your School Board, review the scores, and shop around for the best school for your child.

Thats what we did, and we now have 2 children that are "Achievers"



February 18, 2008 10:43 AM  

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