Rant # 1 – Where Do We Draw the Line

Rant # 1 – Where Do We Draw the Line

I just read an article in the Globe and Mail titled, How should Canada teach financial literacy in schools? It included the statement, “School is an excellent place for young Canadians to learn about smart money-management habits and practices.” This statement brought back a number of memories.

I recall, one Saturday, driving into the city to meet a buddy for coffee. On the radio was someone expressing concern regarding the seemingly lack of physical fitness among young people. During this person’s argument, he said the words, “Schools need to be doing more to combat the problem.” I arrived at the coffee shop earlier than planned, so I started reading that day’s newspaper. In it was an article detailing the poor diets of many of our youth. It included the words, “School need to be doing more.” At the same time, the coffee shop was airing a local radio station. The news came on and one of the reports dealt with the high rate of teenage pregnancy in an area south-west of the city. The person being interviewed said the words, you guessed it, “Schools need to be doing more.”

I am an avid CBC Radio listener. Four years ago I started collecting quotes. Most of them come from the regional radio show out of Halifax; however, a number were from national programs:

Jan 13, 2011 – schools should be teaching our kids how to budget their money.

Dec 3, 2011 – teaching prescription drug awareness should be is as important as                               teaching math.

Dec 8, 2011 – Re mental health issues: Schools need to be doing a better job in                                   identifying adolescents with mental health issues.

Feb 13, 2013 – Re the dangers of power drinks: Schools have a role to play in                                       educating our youth.

Aug 23, 2013 – Ontario schools should let parents know when their child is overweight.

Sep 1 2013 – Regarding binge drinking: We need to start educating students as early                                    as middle school.

Jul 2, 2015 – Schools need to make our children aware of  Stoop-and-Scoop bylaws                      (picking up after your dog).

All of these are important issues. I certainly don’t want to step in my neighbour’s dog’s business, but it seems that whatever significant social ill we are facing, ends up being put on the backs of schools. Parents seem to be getting off easy.

I believe, out there somewhere, there is a manual that is given to newly-elected politicians. It is titled, How to Solve Political Problems and includes the following steps:

When faced by a societal concern brought to you by either the electorate or the media carry out the following steps:

  • Inform the media that you are forming a task group to study the issue. This will buy you at least 6 months during which time you can respond, “We are studying the problem. We do not want to rush into any action until relevant stakeholders have had the opportunity to offer input.”
  • After 6 months, have the task group inform the Department of Education that it is to write a new policy, or set of guidelines, informing schools how they are to deal with the problem.
  • Just before students arrive in September, have superintendents present the new directive to principals and tell them that this is to be a high priority matter.
  • You can now respond to the media by saying, “We have dealt with the issue. Schools now have the tools they need to fix the problem.”
  • In the years ahead when either parents or the media point out that the problem still exists, simply say, “I guess schools aren’t doing their job. We’ll look into it.”
  • Appoint another task force. Go back to Step 1.

As a principal, I used to imagine I had a cupcake in my briefcase. I also had a number of containers of different colour icings. When I attended a principals’ meeting and was given a new policy to implement, or a new set of guideline to follow, I imagined putting another layer of icing on the cupcake. I so wish I actually had the nerve to do this during our meetings (that would have made for a great story). If ever we were told to remove a policy from the manual I would have gladly scraped a layer off the cupcake. That never happened.

There  seems to be few gatekeepers in our system. More and more is being asked of our teachers. The message being delivered is, Be all things to all people.

Sorry- we can’t


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