Contrary to the opinions of many parents and Canadian taxpayers today, teachers, the teachers’ unions and faculties of education staff are NOT to blame for everything that is wrong in schools today. Yet, if you read the 300+ comments on a thread at EduChatter, it is obvious that there is an intense public anger and disdain against anyone and everyone within the public education system. And, that includes all those dozens of groups that are part of the Education Blob (Big Learning Organization Bureaucracies). Of course, that kind of discussion was not Paul Bennett’s intention given his post was just about how the various teachers’ unions resist reform. [Sentence added after posting.]
Perhaps, the anger and disdain are caused by looking through rose coloured glasses to a time when kids sat in rows and were taught the same traditional curriculum from itemized government documents. In fact, I still have a copy of the Ontario Department of Education’s “Grey Book” from the 1940′s through to the 1960′s where lists of content and skills could be quantified. Now, with the advent of the personal computer, the Internet, E-Books and Smart Phones, that is simply no longer possible!
Yes, I acknowledge that there are an awful lot of things needing improvement within our public education systems today. I also acknowledge that this post is fairly long because I didn’t want to take anything out.
To start with, there are the social promotion and no-fail policies that only seem to encourage and reinforce mediocrity.There is the all-pervasive “teacher/parent wall” when teachers communicate with parents with a “we know what’s best for your child better than you do” attitude rather than working with them as school partners.
Plus, there is the extremely divisive and controversial issue of quality teaching and teacher evaluation. In the United States, for example, they are turning to the results of standardized tests to evaluate and, even, to fire teachers. Here is a link to the Washington Post that claims 200 teachers were recently fired for just that reason – a decision that is just going to lead to a teacher shortage.
The reality is that many kids will admit that they don’t try to do very well on standardized tests. Moreover, teaching is not a passive activity. True, teachers are taught to motivate children but the reality is, politically correctness aside, that children have differing academic abilities. I mean, both my husband and I have taught in different school contexts and our standardized tests results varied from year to year and location to location — depending on the children.
All that said, there obviously needs to be some type of generalized teacher accountability criteria developed. However, it is not going to be the teachers themselves, the teachers’ unions, faculty of education staff or others in the blob – unless they get direction and orders from the politicians who are the governing party.
In other words, classroom teachers do not develop or set generalized board of education policy. Nor do principals or members of the Education Blob. Rather, teachers will implement board of education procedures which are based on government policy. They will do that, for example, a week before school starts at the end of this month. Specifically, they will decorate their bulletin boards, organize desks and tables and learning centres. Plus, they will develop and revise unit plans and day plans, depending on whether their grade level or subject specialty has changed, as well as whether or not there are any new board or government directives.
In other words, at the end of this month and all through the school year, teachers will not be thinking about reforming anything. Rather, to not put too fine a point on it, they will be doing what they are told!
Faculty of Education staff will also not be setting school board or government policy either. Rather, they will be preparing teachers who will want to be hired by school boards to teach. Yes, there is a teacher surplus but that is not what pre-service students and their instructors think about. They think positively because they have no way of knowing who will be hired and who won’t.
So, at the end of each academic year (usually in late May or early June), faculty meetings are held to determine what curricula and modules will be included for the next group of pre-service students. Do the education faculty themselves decide what they should teach without examining government policies or curriculum guidelines? No, they don’t.
In fact, having developed and implemented pre-service courses myself, I can confirm that education faculty are very careful to teach the knowledge and skills school boards want new teachers to know and do — because preparing teachers is what a faculty of education does. It does not try to reform the system.
Put another way, faculties of education do not chose, willy nilly, what studies are going to guide their courses and practicum counselling. Rather, they follow the direction of the provincial government department/ministry involved — which usually sends memoranda to the Deans of such faculties.
So, as with classroom teachers, anyone who blames the faculties of education for all that is wrong with our education system today, is simply involved in scapegoating.
It’s actually similar with teachers’ unions in that they still have to convince the government of the day to make the changes they want.
A case in point: Dalton McGuinty campaigned in 2003 and again in 2007 as the “Education Premier.” He promised that, if his Liberal Party was given a mandate to govern Ontario, he would implement smaller class sizes, have fewer drop outs and an increase in the number of high school students who would graduate with an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).
Well, Ontario now has more split grades to accommodate the smaller class sizes policy and fewer students dropping out and graduating from high school because of “no-fail” and “social promotion” policies. As this “Letter to the Editor” states: “Ontario is one of the ten best education system’s in the world.” Says who? On what basis does the writer make that claim?
Well, to begin with, the letter is written by a McGuinty Liberal MPP by the name of Dave Levac, which only reinforces my opinion that it is politicians who are primarily responsible for education reform.
Levac claims, for instance that: “It’s clear that we have achieved a great deal since 2003 – taking our public education system from a declining state to one of the best in the world.” Declining state? Again I ask: Says who?
My opinion is, therefore, that no matter which political party is in government or which province or territory is involved, when Canadians are dissatisfied with public education policy and practices, they should lobby and blame those who really are in a position to bring about change and reform — the elected politicians that represent the governing party, no matter which party that is!
And given the number of provincial elections this fall, that time is NOW – MAN on Oct, 4th, NFLD/Labrador on Oct. 11th, the NWT on Oct. 3rd, Ontario on Oct. 6th, PEI on Oct,. 3rd, SASK on Nov. 7th and the YUKON sometime in 2011.