Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Province Column

Keep the candidates on their toes with tough questions on learning

David Berner The Province
Monday, September 08, 2008

The kids are back in school.

And elections -- municipal, provincial and federal -- are on the horizon.

A perfect time, then, to reflect on what learning really means in our lives, and what those who seek your vote will really do about education.
There is no purpose in life higher than learning. Wealth, fame, sex, food, and other pleasures are all transitory. The only thing we can still be doing until our last breath is learning. To contribute in any way to the opportunities for young men and women to learn is an honour and a core duty.

As the various political contests heat up, ask the candidates pointed questions about the specifics of their commitments to learning. Here are four good sample questions to get you started:

One. Utilizing dead quiet buildings for everyone's benefit is fiscally-responsible. Will we open school buildings during evenings and on weekends for yoga classes, language labs and the like?

Premier Gordon Campbell said recently that he would like to see schools turned into neighbourhood centres of learning, for people of all ages to use, all year round. "Maybe the best thing is to make schools the centre for the community again," said Campbell. "They are actually centres of learning for everyone."

To this end, the $30-million Neighbourhoods of Learning pilot project will see three Vancouver schools accommodate additional services. Queen Mary Elementary, General Gordon Elementary and Lord Strathcona will be renovated to include new learning opportunities.

That's wonderful, but do we really need all that money spent and only three schools to benefit? How about making hundreds of schools across the province available to their neighbourhoods for those bake sales and clarinet classes?

Two. Drug Prevention. Every school corridor in the land is a drug mart. If you don't know this, you don't know your own kids. Ten minutes a week on drug prevention is better than nothing.

Will we invest in counsellors or recovering addicts to add some real girth to drug prevention? Or, are we going to continue to say nothing about this epidemic?

Three. Obesity. Education Minister Shirley Bond has declared that at least 30 minutes-a-day exercise is now mandatory in B.C. schools. But has she backed it up with a budget? Where are the phys-ed teachers or playground supervisors? Do math and history teachers still "volunteer" for these duties?

Four. Even with the availability of Google and Wikipedia, school libraries are essential. But we are closing and starving these sanctuaries too often in B.C. The heft and smell of a good book in the hands of a student leaning over a wooden table are treasures not to be lost. "School librarian" used to be an honourable title. Is it still?

So challenge the political wannabes for the sake of your children, for the sake of the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David: You ask why $30 million for only three schools. Bang on!

Maybe we'd better look to see where the schools are, what the connections are, and whether more municipal/provincial votes are needed in those three communities.

You also query the wisdom of Shirley Bond's announcement in the face of a lack of funds to back it up. Again, you are bang on.

Memo to Mr. Campbell: Perhaps a few minutes of actual planning might have suggested to you that there was a better place to put our 30 million tax dollars?

You don't need $30 million, to get a few school principals' heads together to find expanded uses for our schools. In fact, they've probably been suggesting ideas to the Ministry of Education for years. Like being allowed to use half-empty schools to provide functional space for desperately-needed daycares - in the most logical place for them, instead of attracting unwanted traffic and noise into residential areas.


Liz J.

PS: If so many parents are having to line up - sometimes overnight - in order to sign-up their kids in too-few daycare spaces...why are we closing schools for lack of enrolment? Are all those families going to leave the province before Grade One? Or will we be back into portables five years from now? Just asking.