Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Education and Elections

It’s a political junky’s favourite day – election day. I’m avidly following on television. So far my prediction is holding up pretty well, but it is still very early. As near as I can tell I’m wrong about one race.

We just left behind a municipal election. One election people pay very little attention to are the elections of school board trustees. Even though school board trustees are possibly the lowest level of government we elect, they are the highest officials in our educational system. The Minister of Education has a lot of power, yes, but much of the time the Ministry outlines broad policy and then school boards determine local policy. Local boards often overlook policy recommendations from Toronto, or put them in the drawer. Boards have a lot of power, more than people realize.

Yet most school board elections get only a few thousand votes. Most people do not bother to investigate the candidates. It is hard to imagine that in an area of such importance that we care so little. Education is often held up as the key determinant of economic competitiveness in the 21st century. How can we say we’re taking education as a serious matter if we don’t examine the policies being implemented in our area?

There are some matters that I think schools should take into consideration right now. Here are two ideas that I think if introduced would generate a healthy change. First, research has consistently shown that if schools start a little bit later that it makes a big difference. In my experience students don’t wake up until about ten, but we drag them in and whip them into paying attention. I wonder how different a school environment would be if we went from an 8:30-2:30 clock to a 10-4 clock.

Something else I think would transform schools is if we provided more free lunches and breakfasts. Too many of my students come to school hungry. They haven’t had any breakfasts, and if they do it is a poor one. I’ve seen students swigging from 750 mL Coke bottles at 9:30 in the morning, or eating from bags of chips during O Canada. I’m not typically an advocate of institutions intruding on what I consider the domain of personal and familial responsibility, but if some won’t take care of their children, then someone must.

Sometimes I feel no one is taking the education process serious. It’s either critical to our success as a city, province and country or it’s not. If it is, then we should treat it with the respect it deserves.

Now, I’m going to go watch more election results to get my fix.


Jake said...

The breakfast program is a good point. I remember there was not one at Turner, but I had a friend who volunteered at one in Bramalea. She said that even on their slowest days they had a minimum of 50 kids come in. I'm going to have to remember this next election.

SJL said...

One of the most common questions I ask my students if about their lunches, and if they are eating properly. Purchasing bulk amounts of milk, apples and granola bars would go a long way towards helping.