Declining schools will affect university

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

High school is a much scarier place since I last walked through my alma mater’s halls.

In Toronto, teachers are being accused of covering up the random acts of violence that plague their schools’ halls - apparently some press is bad press, as a Toronto District School Board panel claims a “crisis of confidence” has befallen Toronto schools.

Although I can’t speak for all of Ontario, and certainly not for all of Canada, in my experience the general malaise surrounding the province’s school system has been around for a long time.

Unfortunately, simple band-aid solutions are all the school boards can come up with. A good example is the TDSB panel’s 120 recommendations to rectify the current situation in schools " nothing more than bureaucratic damage control.

The truth is, the school system has been in shambles for a long time, and though I don’t want to point fingers at specific premiers who may have crippled the education system, damage has been done.

The provincial government must realize the potential consequences of a damaged school system and the ramifications on postsecondary education in this province.

Any solution requires involvement on all levels. Parents must make an honest investment in the lives of their children. I know it’s not easy, especially when parents struggle through multiple jobs to put food on the table, but sometimes all it takes is a parent showing respect for their child while at the same time enforcing discipline. Tough love.

Yet parents are ever more willing to turn a blind eye to their child’s misdeeds.

After all, how often are charges of discrimination levelled against teachers who maintain some semblance of order in their classroom? It’s not just a charge based on ethnicity, gender, or academic ability. Increasingly it’s an avoidance technique for parents to overlook the problems their children cause.

Perhaps a solution can be found in positive role models: teachers who care.

A friend of mine died last week. We weren’t especially close, and it is unfortunate it took his passing for me to realize what an instrumental role he played in my life.

For a fair amount of my formative years, my former principal was simply another grown-up in a building of grown-ups, but now I see how he embodied much more.

He was someone who would greet all of the students in the school by name " someone whose sense of humour resulted in an April Fool’s where all the students hid from the teachers.

Most importantly, he was a positive role model: an important figure in a place where children spend a lot of their time.

A good educator and a good role model must be many things " a teacher, a guru, a disciplinarian and, best of all, a friend. It’s too bad the teachers who embody these qualities are becoming harder to find; they are driven out by an under-funded school system that lacks faith in its own teachers.

Already in university we’ve seen the negative effects of four-year high school programs, as less mature and less academically-inclined students try the patience of first-year teachers. The irrevocable damage this current generation of youth may wreak on the system cannot be underestimated. Solutions need to be applied before it’s too late.

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