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So, this is education?

Posted on March 17, 2015 by 40 Mile Commentator

The wrong headline was used on last week’s Something on my Mind column. The Commentator apologizes for this error.
By Craig Funston
One of the keenest passions of my heart is education, up there somewhere with writing. I’m sure you’ve gathered that, if you’ve read this column for any length of time. My vision for education has been fueled by the fact that I am a father of nine, a teacher for more than two decades, and a taxpayer.
I would also add that I am a consumer who gets served by products, er, students of every educational model, a faith-based adult who (thinks he) has a balanced and broad perspective on what true “education” really is, and a citizen who sees current educational trends that give me the heebie-jeebies.
While we’re hanging out here, let me throw a few of these trends that alarm me, sans any significant detail: Common Core (in the States), sex ed (in Ontario), homeschooling attacks (in the States, but maybe coming to a province near you). Call them what you like—trends, movements, laws, reality: They are absolutely fraught with problems, present and potential. That’s why I’ve lumped them together.
I would challenge you to look at the Common Core chaos on your own. You may not be motivated because it’s in the States. That would be shortsighted, of course, on your part: Canada is always a step or two behind our friends to the south, so it’s just a matter of time before this flawed approach to foundational instruction creeps up here.
In terms of sex ed in Ontario, I’m horrified at every level. Parents, not public institutions, have the sole right and responsibility (those two words always go together, don’t they?) for this task. If the government has been ordered to stay out of the bedrooms of the nation, shouldn’t the schools do likewise? The growing reality that sex ed is going to be taught to some degree—from high school down to the primary level–is incomprehensible.
And select homeschooling families are being split apart (ie., kids ripped out of the home ) over some allegations from snoopy neighbours. Maybe they should arrest the neighbours. Homeschooling is a viable option for many, and we need to respect the right that parents’ right in this matter.
Education, like religion, can be a very divisive issue, and I have no intention of resolving the contention here. You know my standard excuse—space and time forbid. If I can’t do it justice, I won’t even start it.
Suffice to say, our choices, content, and curriculum must be good for the kids and the future of the nation.
I’m sure you’d agree that education is more than books, more than a piece of paper, more than a brick and mortar building. It may include any one or all of these, but we have been duped if we limit education to any one of those..
There is more than a nuanced difference between “school” and “education.” For example, we can say that Student X has been to school, but has he been educated? Student Y may have her grade twelve diploma, but is she prepared for the real world? Students may (or may not) have head knowledge about certain facts, but how’s their heart (character) and their hands (skills)?
Basic academic skills should be learned by all students. Beyond that, vocational, moral and social skills should be part of the curriculum. It’s great when many of these are taught at home, of course.
The question begs: What are we producing through our present system?
Makes one wonder what education is, after all.
If education becomes the process of ignoring or revising the facts of the past, and staggering towards the future, we have failed. If education is wrapped up in pressing a keyboard, but fails to teach the ability to handle simple transactions at a counter, we have failed. If education is all seat work (and I use the word “work” loosely), but no real acquired, practical skills, we have failed.
Education must build character and skills to be effective. Also, facts acquired are good; but facts applied (in a real life context) are better.
When the literacy rate is going down on a regular basis, confirmed by neutral educational agencies, that alarms me. There is no one villain here in this discussion, but there could be a few co-conspirators. The breakdown of the traditional family is an obvious one: Less and less accountability from mom and dad. Seldom are parents working together with the school in areas of behaviour, truancy, and homework.
Electronic toys would be another. Thinking by clicking just doesn’t cut it.
Common Core, sex ed, and anti-homeschooling are massive steps backwards. Preparing for the future is not done by revising the past or skirting the present.
We need to get back to the A’s and B’s, not the birds and the bees.

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