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.

Ennie, Meenie, Miney, Moe

A good friend writes in about the very real dilemma of voting in a wasteland:

Hi David,
As always I enjoy your blog and your occasional unscientific polls. I voted in the most recent one, my vote was for "nobody".
I understand your sympathy for our most recent prime minister, but I have to say that I still don't trust him. I still think that if he gets a majority we will see a brand new government agenda, and it will be a socially conservative, not a fiscally conservative one.
Having said all that, I am incredibly frustrated as a Vancouver Centre voter. These seem to be my choices:
- Hedy Fry - Liberal who has achieved nothing for my riding in almost 20 years of representing us.
- Lorne Mayencourt - Openly gay socred MLA who achieved nothing in all the years he represented us and who now wants to be a conservative MP! Has he ever noticed or has anyone ever pointed out to Lorne that the BC Libs/socreds and the Federal Conservatives HATE GAY PEOPLE? Its like he is suffering from the Stockholm syndrome. He is only in this for himself.
- The UBC socialist wingnut running for the NDP.
- The Green Party candidate who is still out on the streets begging for people to sign her nomination form.
Whom from this list would you vote for?
What would a poll for Vancouver Centre look like?

Everywhere Boredom takes You

The CBC is spending scads of your tax dollars buying up full pages of papers across the nation to announce that they will now be showing those two great Canadian productions, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy."

They are so lost and confused.

CBC Television should be, simply put, the Canadian PBS. It should show Canadian and World drama, comedy, music and public affairs programs.

It should not be showing the same old syndicated programs that run on every American station available. It is not their mandate.

Rather than being ashamed at their paucity of ideas and courage, they trumpet it in daily newspapers at taxpayers' expense.

Corruption has many guises.