I feel the need to share this article that I came across, School Of Hard Knocks in Tuesday’s edition, February 8th, 2011, of the National Post – Education section.

This article is shedding light on how the District School Board of Niagara (Niagara Falls, Canada) wants to create a school for students from low-income families whose parents do not have a university degree.

I AM ASTOUNDED THAT WE HAVE COME TO THIS ANYWHERE IN CANADA.

My youth advocate work is based on the idea that we are all equal as human beings – that we all have the same rights regardless of race, colour, creed, religion and sex. To segregate a school based on income and the fact that parents do not have a university degree creates a stigma that is unfair and unnecessary. My goodness if that was the case, then nearly every immigrant that came to Canada – many who built the Canada we know and love today and are considered VERY SUCCESSFUL – would be attending this school and perhaps their children and grand children.

WE ARE PERPETUATING A CYCLE RATHER THAN BREAKING AND FOSTERING A NEW ONE.

One student, Connor Bitter (an appropriate name if you ask me), says “it can feel like a disadvantage when prospective employers see Stamford Collegiate Institute on his resume.” He can sense it in the reaction people give a student from one of the poorer parts of Niagara Falls.

Educators are trying to “fix” educational problems such as low school attendance and sky-high drop out rates. Rather than really looking at the “why” children do not want to attend school – lack of interest in the subjects, not stimulated, no creativity.. these educators want to stick a label on them and say, “well they’ll probably drop out anyways”.

I really am beside myself. I work with so many people from ALL walks of life – wealthy and privileged to the less fortunate- and the common denominator is that dependent on our influencers (schools, parents, religious institutions, etc.) we can thrive in our environment or be kept down. Every motivational speaker that I have seen and heard has the same message: YOU BECOME WHAT YOU THINK … I add in – feel and believe.

A child that is segregated and sent to be with like-minded students will start to believe that they are not smart enough, not good enough, and will never aspire to anything. It will take an extraordinary teacher to show these children that they can do WHATEVER THEY PUT THEIR MINDS TO. How many teachers will choose this school over one that is creative, empowering, open to learning and will push their students.

Those teachers are few and far between. Yet, these are the ones that you will remember forever. I had an English teacher, Mr. LaPointe, who was just crazy, out there and pushed the educational format. He also pushed his students to excellence. He had us choose our grade for the end of the year and we worked to that grade. Now some might say an underahiever will choose a lower grade. Perhaps. However in this class it was more about challenging ourselves. He knew our strengths and how much he can push each student. I chose an A and at the end of the year I did have an A. It wasn’t the grade that I remember about him, it was that he was different, creative, challenged us, created an equal setting for all to choose, and most of all that he seemed to really care.

I fear that creating a school like this will perpetuate cycles which are hard enough to break when you become aware of them. Of course, everyone knows Oprah and how she triumphed over her obstacles to become a woman of influence and power. How many didn’t make it? How many had dreams and squashed them because they believed that they are just poor, less desirable human beings. NO NO NO! This cannot happen. We cannot let it happen.

I just got off the phone and was talking to a friend of mine and he was telling me how his friend’s family came from Morrocco and the parents were dirt poor. Had nothing. This child was surrounded by people of influence and wealth, means. This child saw a life that he aspired to and went after it .. and got it. He is now very successful and lives that life that he only saw from a distance.

I am not saying that there will not be children who drop out or only come periodically. Rather than tossing them aside and/or stigmatizing them, let’s look for other ways to deal with the issue.

THEN AGAIN WHAT IS THE REAL ISSUE HERE? Perhaps our system needs looking into? Even my son, who is bright and labelled gifted told me – he is bored at times and wants to only put effort into what he really likes and is passionate about. Of course, we as adults, know otherwise, and there are many times that you will be asked to put effort into things that you have no real interest in. If sheds light, again, our system as a whole.

How do we inspire, empower our children while fostering and guiding their creative side?

This question is one that must be considered. I am glad that our youth are speaking out and declaring the shortcoming of this proposal.

I stand behind you 100%. As for reaching the children who do not want to attend or choose to drop out all together – we need to come up with a better solution. Maybe we can start by asking these kids, WHY?

They might just have an answer for us.

I want to wish everyone a wonderful weekend.

All my love,

Sandra

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