THE CLASSROOM JOINS THE WORLD

Curriculum reform is bringing students face to face with the world they’ll live to change

JUNE CALLWOOD June 1 1967

THE CLASSROOM JOINS THE WORLD

Curriculum reform is bringing students face to face with the world they’ll live to change

JUNE CALLWOOD June 1 1967

THE CLASSROOM JOINS THE WORLD

Curriculum reform is bringing students face to face with the world they’ll live to change

CURRICULUM REFORM used to be, for parents, the least visible and obnoxious change that educators could make. Few parents ever examine the inside of their children's books: for example. George Brown's biased and inaccurate history. Building; The Canadian Nation, is still in use in five provinces, without a murmur of complaint, despite such WASP oddities as its failure to mention that Louis Riel was hanged. And the massive overhaul of maths and science teaching after Sputnik was launched in 1957 is felt in most homes only as occasional bafflement, when children ask for help with what parents still tend to call arithmetic.

But curriculum reform is about to become the noisiest, most visible aspect of the education revolution. It is possible, for instance, to overlook the transfiguration of geography from a subject almost entirely devoted to the construction of flour-and-water maps of South America to its present emergence as a sophisticated social science, involving the study of the economics and culture of nations, together with such contemporary hazards as pollution, urban sprawl, political disarray and the population explosion. But it is not possible for the most incurious parent to overlook a high-school-curriculum change that results in a twoweek journey in war canoes, such as occurred this spring in Atikokan, in northwest Ontario, or visits to juvenile-court judges, parole officers and jails, as did a Man in Society class last winter in Toronto.

Curriculum reform in the future will be motivated by two main considerations: one. that a modern education cannot be based on a single textbook, even in the unlikely event that it is a superior one. but must be liberated to allow for individual research, differing but equally correct answers, field trips, debate and responsiveness to current events; two. that the world is too uncertain to justify the firm, graceful structure of required subjects that suited the 19th century: high schools are going to have to be supermarkets, with all subjects available in three sizes — light, general and giant — and a profusion of short-term options.

There is also, in the background, a concerned awareness that high schools somehow have succeeded in avoiding almost all the discoveries about human nature that have ever been made. All those subjects that touch intimately on personality development, the emotions and self-understanding—psychology, anthropology, sociology, mental health, child care — are reserved for universities, where less than 10 percent of students in Canada will go.

Of late, there have been suggestions that high schools should contain daycare centres and nurseries, w'hich simultaneously would be a boon to working mothers and provide a live laboratory where a child psychologist could educate adolescent boys and girls in the care and emotional needs of young children.

There already is a significant beginning of a trend to link high schools

Reform: a lot of sell and money

to the real world of the community. Three years ago Jack Ulan, an automotive teacher in a North York high school near Toronto, decided his students could benefit more from his instruction if they had some actual experience in the automotive industry. He found an agreeable car company, got the unions to suspend judgment, and placed a few students in the factory as observers.

They returned so full of enthusiasm that Ulan was moved to persuade his Board of Education to let him extend the experiment. Today, Ulan is the country’s first, and only. Work Study Supervisor in a school system. This spring his pilot project had blossomed to include 900 students, who were posted to 175 participating companies for two-week periods. They were in banks, funeral homes, beauty salons, television and radio stations, architectural firms, community centres, dataprocesses complexes, hydro installations, and a wide range of shops, offices and industries. Some technical students were able to have two sessions of one week each; if a boy liked both wood and metal work, he had one session in a furniture factory and the other in a sheet-metal shop, and the opportunity to make an educated choice.

The students are supposed to be tactful spectators, but often they get from craftsmen a running commentary of instructions and advice, and some-

times a chance to assist or take over the task under supervision.

The results have exceeded even Ulan’s extravagant expectations. In many cases the students came to the decision that they needed more preparation for work than they had expected. A few made the helpful discovery that they didn’t like the particular job they had been planning to hold. The companies are pleased; only three pulled out of the scheme, two of them for reasons that had nothing to do with the students. Ulan has jubilant plans to enlarge the arrangement. He once was a salesman and he says he has little difficulty persuading companies to co-operate. “I guess it’s the first time in history that a man got out and sold students.”

Curriculum reform is going to need a lot of selling, in all its variations: it's very, very expensive. As a sad example to the rest of the country, take Saskatchewan, where the handsome decision to ungrade elementary schools has been almost nullified by a low-budget priority for the curriculum change that should have accompanied it.

To illustrate just how' expensive reform is. the Ontario Department of Education over the past two years designed an oral examination for grade-13 French students, to count for seven and a half percent of the final mark. It cost $80,000.

JUNE CALLWOOD