| Jun 18, 2009

Back to HomeEditorial - June 18, 2009 PARC: Ministry of Education Could Be wrongEditorial by Jeff Green

Throughout the whole program accommodation review process for Central and North Frontenac schools, the Limestone School Board Officials have been dutifully repeating edicts from the Ministry of Education.

Now, I don’t question their integrity. They have shown a bias towards building a new school in Sharbot Lake as opposed to anywhere else, which I grant is pretty irksome to people who aren’t from Sharbot Lake, but even on that score they have been transparent and forthcoming with information.

The idea behind the PARC is to bring the same information to the PARC members, who broadly represent the different communities, and see if they will come to a decision that is workable.

In the end, the board may take another route, and they very likely will in this case because the option the PARC has recommended will not likely be supported by the Ministry of Education in the only way that counts - through a grant to build a new school.

The underlying premise that was brought to the PARC is that all of the schools in the Sharbot Lake family are “prohibitive to repair”; they can be maintained but not improved. School board officials need to accept this; they are beholden to the Ministry of Education. But after a year of this talk I realise that we, the rest of us, don’t have to accept this.

This became clear to me this week when it was announced that five-day a week, all-day kindergarten and school-based daycares have been endorsed by the provincial government and will begin to be implemented next year.

This idea has been floated for a decade or more by Charles Pascal, who is now the grand old man of early education reform in Ontario.

The problem is that, in my humble opinion, Pascal is wrong. He takes a well-studied insight, that kids learn a lot when they are very young, and leaps to the conclusion that they should therefore be locked in school all day from the age of four, or even 3½.

I’ve hung around three-year-olds. Once upon a time I was a three-year-old, and three-year-olds belong in the mud, they belong in the back yard, they should be climbing the walls. There is a lot of learning that goes on in a mudpuddle.

The idea that kids should be locked in a school doing “educational play” for nine hours a day while both of their parents are safely at work, confuses imprisonment with learning.

Parents need to work, and it is laudable for the government to decide to help out by providing care for children, but all-day kindergarten from the age of four is more than that; it is a trap for little kids, who will have been working 9-5 for 36 years by the time they reach 40.

Back to the PARC.

If the province can be wrong about all-day kindergarten, they can be wrong about “prohibitive to repair” as well.

After the whole Sharbot Lake PARC process, all that is being promised is that if one or two or three or even four schools are torn down, a single utilitarian school will be built. All of the information indicates that the new school will be an improvement over existing facilities by being newer, more energy efficient, and fully accessible, but it will not improve the overall facilities. The only real improvement will be that it will have a much better gym than the one at Sharbot Lake High School.

Students at Land o’ Lakes, Clarendon Central and Hinchinbrooke presently enjoy excellent gym facilities. In a new JK-12 school they would actually have less access to the gym during their elementary years than they do now.

So, why not chuck the “prohibitive to repair” concept, spend a million dollars on a free-standing new gym at Sharbot Lake High School with extra space for a youth centre, and call it a day?

Leave all the local schools open.

Oh, and if I wasn’t clear earlier, I think the schools should leave the little kids be.

There are other things for humans to learn besides ABC and 1, 2, 3: things like “how dirty is dirty”, “how wet can you get” and “how far can you run”, and the most important one, “how free can you be”

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