Inclusion is held up as the ideal learning environment, and rightly so. Successful integration is possible, yet it doesn't magically happen when you throw a child with high-functioning autism into a class of 20+ children, cross your fingers and hope for the best. In many cases, though, in schools across the country, this is exactly what is being passed off as inclusion.
What's with the divide between arts and sciences? Has it always been the case? Historically, no. Google the word "polymath," and you'll find a whole lot of thinkers whose ability to think both creatively and technically not only made them interesting, but also more successful. I'm not alone in thinking that this great divide has done us a great disservice.
Talking about consent from a very early age is about giving children and youth choices and reminding them every day that their body belongs to them; that they are in charge of what happens with/to their own bodies. Sexual health doesn't happen in a vacuum and it's about more than the birds and the bees. The well-researched and evidence-based curriculum that is being introduced broadens a narrow definition of health and to us it's a positive step forward.
The Supreme Court of Canada has decided that Loyola High School, a private Catholic high school for boys in Quebec, should be permitted to teach a portion of the province's mandated Ethics and Religious Culture course from a Catholic perspective. Compelling parents to do to their children that which they deeply oppose is immoral, even if most of us believe that the state's goals are wise and right.
"If you are not educated, you are nothing." This terse statement comes from a young girl in Zambia, who was an appreciative beneficiary of the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) program. While I can't agree with the extreme nature of the conclusion, this girl's statement illustrates the power of education, particularly for females.
The provincial government announced it's introducing its proposed sex education changes. As expected opponents pounced, including Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Monte McNaughton. He gave Wynne the moment she needed to not only change the channel on her Sudbury scandal, but also to get the upper hand on the curriculum changes. There just aren't enough Ontarians looking to fight over sex education or who want to stand with folks who are actually homophobic or genuinely believe evolution should not be taught if people don't want it taught. They need to clear those last two issues up, very quickly and clearly.
Unfortunately, misconceptions and misinformation about this curriculum are continuing to make their way around the Internet, mostly because people seem bound and determined to willfully ignore the actual facts before forming an opinion. So today I'm going to address the most common myths about the new curriculum.
Last week, a teenage girl who was suspected of harboring drugs while in her Quebec school was taken by her female principal and vice-principal to a room where she was ordered to remove ALL of her clothing, including her underwear. I am continually struck by the notion entertained by certain people, including rather a lot of school administrators, that young people are not rights-holders.
A few months ago, we released a study showing that for at least ten years Edmonton students have consistently and significantly outperformed Calgary students, and furthermore the gap gets larger the longer the students are in school. There is no reason why every city can't get the same great results as Edmonton.
Our classes often look at cases and circumstances where a decision must be made about what happens to people's bodies, and indeed, to their lives. Do students who do not yet have the right to vote care about such issues? My experience is that they care deeply and passionately. They are profoundly interested in fairness and justice -- and they are waiting for us to listen.
A recent study in 43 countries concluded that children in schools where tobacco-free policies were firmly enforced were much less likely to smoke. However, anti-smoking lessons in classrooms had little impact on smoking rates. Not a surprise. Educational campaigns seeking to change people's behaviour regarding consumption are notoriously unsuccessful, by themselves, whether in terms of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, drugs, or non-nutritious eating. The claims of education can sometimes be pretty grand.
The Obama administration's proposal to offer free tuition to community college students for two years has ignited a discussion about the benefits of a college education. Canada is well aware of the important role that colleges play in improving post-secondary attainment rates. But there is much more to be done. Free tuition may not be the answer in this country but Canada definitely needs to do more to make college education a priority.
So much has been written about the cartoons published in the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. But should main stream print media re-publish them? What if children see the images? What then? Or, alternatively, should we actively show them to our children? If we want our children to live in a democratic society, we had better teach them that freedom of expression has two ends to it.
"Time to end poverty in Canada" has been the message from the Salvation Army coming across our TV screens this holiday season. A great idea from an organization that fights poverty every day in our country -- but is it realistic? Yes, it is. Poverty doesn't just cost the poor their dignity and a reasonable standard of living, it costs us all.
In the next few days, like many, I'll resolve to eat better, sleep more, exercise more, swear less, spend less, and keep the garage neat and tidy. I'll probably find these resolutions hard to uphold. There is, however, a promise I make every year, one that I work very hard at keeping. On January first, and on the 364 days that follow: I will resolve to try and help children become better thinkers. The problem isn't a lack of good intentions on our part. The problem is that we sometimes overlook some of the finer points of "good thinking" when teaching it to youngsters.