Bill 316 – Another example of our failing education system

Posted Friday, February 24th, 2012. Filed Under Voices of wisdom

I live in York Region and the school board in this region is proposing a change to the education system in the name of “equity”. The proposed changes to Board Procedure 316 would eliminate the concept of “School Focus” from the educational delivery model. This means that (with the exception of French Immersion, special needs programs and gifted programs) no elementary school in York Region may distinguish itself from any other with a specialized focus on the arts or other cross-disciplinary approach. This, all in the name of equity – however some would say that homogeneity is not the same as equity.

As concerned parents and citizens we have been asked if we support or disagree with this proposed change.

Before I comment I want to present the two issues/concerns that have driven this proposed change:
1) Speciality schools cannot accommodate all students, even those who would benefit. This creates inequity.

2) Having speciality schools – whatever their speciality – can create the danger of letting the rest of the schools ‘off the hook’ from providing wide and rich range of programs and educational methods.

Here is my answer. I do not agree with the proposed change. To me, if this is passed, it is another demonstration of the failure of our education system. This proposed change not only affects our children today but our future children and their possibilities. We have swung the pendulum so far that we have forgotten the true intent of education. Education is to provide ALL our children with the necessary life skills and tools that they can go out into this world and not only survive but make a difference. In the name of equity we have removed most levels of creativity, we have labels for everything and every ‘type’ of child, and we are solely focused on our core subjects of English, Math, and Science. We have created and fostered a system that does not promote nor allow for differences or creativity and thinking outside the box. It assumes we all fit into a square box … I know this because I have a son that does not fit into the square box .. he is more like a triangle being forced to fit into a system that does not cater to him.

We are not homogenous, we are unique individuals with our unique DNA and thumbprint. To me it is inequality to try and fit everyone into a “square”. Some children thrive in the ‘regular’ school system and then there are others who do not. By eliminating the option to be able to learn in the best format for them is inequality. These children will be forced to work in a system that they do not resonate with nor fit in. This can lead to feelings of isolation, being bullied for being different, low self-esteem which in turn can drive our children to depression, cutting, drugs, promescuity, and yes, even suicide. While this sounds dramatic and extreme then you do not understand the impact of taking away the feeling of being safe in an environment that understands you; that allows you to be you.

Those oppose talk about the fact that it cannot accommodate all the students that will benefit. Rather than creating a solution to this “problem”, the suggestion is extreme – close the doors – if everyone cannot benefit than no one should benefit. Is this what we want to teach our children? One of the life skills that our children need to learn is how to cope with disappointment. It is true, as the school exists not everyone will get in. Unfortunately that is life. When our children get into the real world they will find that the job that they really want — so do a 1000 other people however only one person will be selected. My answer to my children is if you really want something and you do not succeed the first time, learn from this and make the changes so that you will succeed the next time. And if you fail again, learn and make the necessary tweaks. This is a lesson worth teaching and understanding.

As for the solution.. why would we eliminate something that has a definite need in our society. In proposed Bill 316 you state:
“Each elementary community school shall provide, for all its students, a positive climate for learning and programming required by the Ontario Curriculum, that enables the development of the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for living, learning and working in the 21st Century.”

It is time to get into the 21st Century and understand the needs and wants of our children. Why is it that TDSB can see this and respond to ALL children’s needs be providing the necessary programs such as 19 Alternative Schools, 5 International Baccalaureate Schools, 6 Specialized Arts Schools, and 2 High Performance Athlete Schools? York region is one of the fastest growing regions with a population of one of the most culturally diverse backgrounds. Yet, we presume that we are all the same with the same needs. THIS IS INEQUALITY.

We need to consider FOCUS SCHOOLS that can exist on their own accord. One may not be enough, perhaps we need more. Is there money for this? With the amount of financial waste that exists provincially and federally it is a matter of budgeting for this. If we can spend a million dollars on replicating the Muskoka Lake during the G20 and spend a total of $1 billion dollars on the G20 itself, which was a waste of time and money, then we can find money where it really matters — our children and the future leaders of this country.

As for the second arguement that “having speciality schools – whatever their speciality – can create the danger of letting the rest of the schools ‘off the hook’ from providing wide and rich range of programs and educational methods” is weak and childish at best. Why would one negate the other? I send my children to the regular school and I want to see more creativity brought back into the schools: expand our music program, drama, arts, and whatever else our children desire and want.

If our education system wants to assist ALL children than it needs to respond to and reflect the needs of ALL children. I say NO to Bill 316.

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I am so disappointed in our systems. The book I am nearly done will plant the seeds in our children to challenge and change our systems to reflect the needs of today and our future. We need to get our heads out of the past and be in the present. Is it scary yes, but necessary.

I want to wish everyone a wonderful weekend.

All my love,

Sandra

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