First, go read this story about some Very Unpopular Decisions the Saskatoon school division has just made. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
It’s a pretty dumb idea. It’s dumb because, like the whole “we won’t fail your kid because it will do your kid more psychological harm to be held back from his peers” business, it’s the kind of bee ess that eggheads come up with without really thinking things through. What’s more important in the long run? A child who does not have to suffer the horrible social stigma of being held back in grade four, or a child who can read and do basic arithmetic? A child who has learned that it doesn’t matter whether you do the work that’s required of you, or a child who doesn’t have the basic building blocks of his or her education? The people who came up with that asinine idea did so, I wager, because they weren’t actually teaching. They may have MEds and PhDEds (heh), but knowing education theory =/ being an educator and knowing how to teach.
And now this decision to refrain from penalising “bad” (read ‘unwanted’) behaviour and or/rewarding “good” (or ‘favourable’) behaviour. Before I get into how asinine THAT is and encourage you to stop doling out consequences to your own children when they misbehave and just keep giving them second chances to NOT hit their sibling, I’d like to make a point.
When I talked about how I thought it was really important that my kids learn about gender identity and gay/lesbian/transgendered/bi/questioning folks, and how I thought that should be part of the school curriculum, the point was made that it’s not the school’s job to teach our children morality and how to be Good People.
So, now it suddenly *is* the school’s job to teach our children morality and how to be Good People?
It’s okay for the school to teach our kids when it’s okay or not okay to steal or lie or cheat, but it’s *not* okay for the school to teach our kids not to make other kids’ lives miserable, regardless of the motivation? So what is it? Is it okay for the education system to teach and to reinforce our kids’ own moral/social education, or is it not?
I think the whole thing is a bit ridiculous, really. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t agree that positive reinforcement doesn’t work, and I don’t agree that providing consequences doesn’t work. I think children *need* discipline, and that includes punishment and reward. And I think that it’s just a little ridiculous to assume that any kid who comes through this system won’t be thinking anything other than “but if I learned where to *find* the information, that’s as good as putting it into my own words” or “but I *tried* really hard”. What’s happening here is pretty clear to me.
Here it is: We are devaluing primary education to the point where it really is just a glorified daycare. We bitch and moan about the “quality of education these days”, but how many of us have requested meetings with school teachers, principals, and superintendents? How many of us volunteer to work with the public school board? How many of us have even VOTED for anyone to take public school board office? How many of us are actually making an effort to affect change?
By the time our children get to University, they haven’t learned the most important quality for a higher education: The desire to learn. They don’t have the basic skills required to enter a University program, and so first year University courses are basically designed to bring high school grads up to a basic level of education. Most University students are so focussed on getting a degree so that they can get a better-paying job that the actual *education* is secondary. There really are no generalised study programs. At least, not around here. There are still some Universities that require their students to take foundation years programmes (usually anywhere from 1 – 3 years) which are condensed and focussed liberal arts or science-based programmes. …what I’m trying to say is that most students entering higher education aren’t doing it for a love of learning, and that, I think, is a great tragedy.
Good Lord, I’ve got myself derailed.
Yes, it’s a stupid decision that the Saskatoon school system has made, and I do hope that parents will *do* something about it if it bothers them as much as they say it does. But I go back to my original question: when is it okay for the education system to be responsible for your child’s moral/social education and when is it not?