During the past two weeks I was able to go to just about every school in town and got tours where I saw excited students learning and great teachers teaching. I think we have some great schools in our little community.
But that’s not the image that we present is it? At least its not when the Fraser Institute’s rankings are involved.
When the 2010 school rankings came out, it was suggested to me by a high ranking member of the school district that by even covering the results I was legitimizing right-wing misinformation. Teachers’ organizations and the NDP, including our MLA Gary Coons, have also condemned the Institute’s findings outright.
After talking with the Fraser Institute I can say that they are strongly in favour of private sector solutions to the education problem, but that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.
The Institute’s rankings are based on results from the Foundational Skills Assessment, a standardized test that measures our students’ reading, writing and math skills. It’s a test for extremely important skills, the very basis of education, and a lot of students are failing it.
People, this isn’t just bad, this is catastrophic. High school students should not be failing a test on basic skills; this is unacceptable.
I don’t believe we can just blame the teachers or schools; the reason for this is much more insidious:
Too many people in this town are doo not care about, or are missing the point of education.
There’s many reasons for this, but one of the big ones is the perception that education is just a diploma that gets you a job.
Education more than that, it’s about developing reasoning, intelligent, well-rounded
people, not just producing skilled labour. This is something that many people don’t seem to grasp, from families right up to municipal and provincial government.
Promotional material for corporate investors about Prince Rupert, touts the Northwest Community College not as a cultural asset, but as a source of skilled workers. In other places, college and university campuses are places for the development of ideas where students are encouraged to expand their horizons. In Prince Rupert, too often they’re treated as recruiting stations for port workers.
Some people in this city still speak with romantic nostalgia about the days when you could drag yourself through high school then walk down to the mill and have a job until you retired. The academically-minded high school students.
Too many people don’t see any point to education for its own sake, and this is reflected in our students. Who cares if they never finished a novel without it being assigned, or think Shakespeare is stupid, or go to school stoned, or think science is for losers, that history is irrelevant, and philosophy is boring? It seems that as long as they graduate, they can get a job at the port and it won’t matter anyway.