Having spent 35 years in the field of education, I read your special report with great interest (“What’s wrong at school?” Jan. 11). In the current debate, teachers alone cannot be blamed for the various problems in Canadian schools. The blame must be shared by others, including apathetic communities, school boards, superintendents, bureaucrats and politicians. The solution is not to be found in the “basics” approach or the “childcentred” approach. The former is an incredibly narrow concept of education, while the latter focuses education on the wrong objective, the student. First and foremost, education is about learning. Could the problem be that Canadian society is too soft and selfindulgent to embrace the challenge of discipline in the learning process?
Jerry Marek, Swan River, Man.
Teachers are expected to be teachers and social workers and guidance counsellors and sex-education experts and individual mentors and special-education consultants. We are expected to teach all material in three to five different learning styles to meet the needs of individuals. We must honor an ever-broadening range of social, cultural and linguistic diversities, providing equal time for all. Inevitably, there is not one penny of extra money to finance those activities. We had better stop making any additional demands on our schools until we are prepared to pay the price: the cost of hiring enough teachers and support staff so that schools can meet all those demands in a thorough, proper and professional way.
Elliot Lake, Ont.
Your focus on education made every attempt to be balanced in its approach, but tended to focus on the extremes. The best educators I know use an eclectic approach. The emphasis is on quality as opposed to how one child compares to another across the table. This is done by focusing on strengths and acknowledging areas for improvement. Each child is measured against his or her own progress and regularly provided with constructive feedback and new challenges. Could you give us an issue on the role television plays in reading, writing and homework? Perhaps an issue on the reasons for the apparent need of 16to 18-year-olds to have a part-time job to purchase all those essential items like CDs, designer jeans, alcohol and other addictive drugs?
Trevor Calkins, Principal, Rogers School, Victoria
Engage the children
Child-centred education means much more than letting a child learn at his or her own pace. It implies that teachers understand the internal structure of what is to be learned and provide opportunities that engage children at their individual levels of understanding. Child-centred education focuses on clearly defined standards and outcomes rather than standardized inputs and testing mechanisms that assume that children learn at the same speed and in the same ways. Mechanistic, behavioral learning theories of the 1920s through the 1960s do not address the urgent need to prepare our children for global competitiveness and higher functioning roles in the workplace.
Dale Shipley, Ottawa
In my 21 years of education, never once did I learn how to make a budget, present myself in an interview, hold a meeting, write a business letter or run a fax machine. We all learned to dissect frogs, but so what? All teachers should be made to work outside the educational establishment before being allowed inside a classroom. Maybe then they will realize much of what they are teaching is irrelevant.
Stephen Froom, Mississauga, Ont.
Your article fails to address the fact the we teachers are faced with students whose brains have been transformed into mush by constant exposure to the moral and intellectual wastelands of video games, mainstream Hollywood
films, celebrity worship and television. Parents who allow such diversions to flourish unchecked would do well to recognize their complicity in their children’s educational difficulties before they assail more convenient targets.
Andrew Milner, Lakefield, Ont.
Wisdom of Solomon
Diane Francis has struck more nails squarely on the head than I have ever before witnessed on one page. Her “Call for a new King Solomon” (Column, Jan. 11) was a masterpiece of wisdom. With a Grade 8 education, I formed a successful office equipment business and, because of its nature, I witnessed countless new operations started by knowledgeable people sporting the sheriff’s padlock on the front door within a year. Most immigrants succeed because they are well aware that they have to treat their business like a newly planted sapling and any magic formula will almost certainly kill it.
Warren Searle, Rothesay, N.B.
Diane Francis adds to the confusion by calling on Canadians to become self-employed. She conveniently forgets that Canada took free enterprise to a new dimension—entrepreneurship with a social contract. That Canada is rapidly disappearing. She overlooks the fact that Solomon centred his decisions on the basis of compassion, with an eye to wise economy and not the other way round. She would leave us with the bottom line instead of a National Dream.
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