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Education goals misunderstood
With all due respect, School District 69 (Qualicum) board chair Lynette Kershaw needs to review the history of public education in Canada and North America.
Her comment (‘Per student funding is the issue, says Qualicum school board chair,’ The NEWS, Feb. 25) that “...the current system is still based in the agrarian world of 100 years ago when parents just wanted somewhere to send kids for the day” reveals a lack of understanding of the philosophy and objectives of public education arising from 19th century humanist goals to improve the lot of individual citizens and society in general.
The original concept of public education as an alternative to private or parochial schooling was to create a publicly-funded system that was mass, universal and affordable.
‘Mass’ would make it nationwide, ‘universal’ would offer a coordinated curriculum of literacy and numeracy across jurisdictions and ‘affordable’ would provide for government funding within its means to support the system from the public purse.
This new public system did not receive universal acceptance at first, especially from farm families who must send child laborers away for the day and others who didn’t support the formal education of females.
Compulsory attendance had to be invoked to ensure school-age children could participate. Schools were not intended to be daycare centers to free farmers to work without children under foot. Quite to the contrary, the public education model provided an opportunity for all children and youth to develop skills in the “Three Rs” not otherwise available from parents at home on the farm.
The current education system is indeed hampered by the 19th century ‘agrarian model’. The summer break is a vestigial remnant of an earlier time in history when crops had to be harvested and annual tasks performed.
If boards of education and school districts really want to provide a 21st century system of learning, they must consider keeping schools open year-round to offer greater opportunity and flexibility to the people they serve, while eliminating a dependency on under-utilized facilities.
This would be a campaign promise that could be kept and would eliminate the need to have an extended spring break to compensate for budget shortfalls.