Human beings are learning machines. We spend our lives learning. We can't help but learn. The only question is what we will learn and how it will affect our lives. Unfortunately we have been conditioned by the school system to think that learning can only take place in a classroom. We need to take charge of our own learning.
Buried in a department performance report, we learned the shocking news of the failures of literacy and numeracy in First Nation schools. In the Ontario region, students who participated in provincial standardized testing in 2013-2014 ended up with an average literacy score of 21 per cent for boys and 32 per cent for girls. What are the results of educating children in a system that has been systematically underfunded for decades? Unless we are willing to break this cycle of underfunding and negligence, the question will need to be asked -- who will stand up to apologize to this generation of children who are being deliberately left behind?
September 8 is International Literacy Day, marked with events in schools and communities around the world, and highlighted by a United Nations celebration and conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Despite the promising gains of the UN's worldwide "Literacy as Freedom" decade that ended in 2012, more than 770 million people over the age of 15 cannot read or write.
Mrs. Maryon Pearson, famously witty wife of Canada's 14th Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Lester B. Pearson, once said: "Behind every successful man, stands a surprised woman." Mrs. Pearson disliked politics and the demands public service placed on her husband and family. I wish she could have met my wife.
Living conditions on some reserves are now so dismal that they are routinely likened to those of the Third World. Needless to say, youth literacy and education have not thrived in this environment. Working together will not only hasten progress, but elevate the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Ontario to a new level of friendship and respect.
Reading is among the last truly subversive acts we can perform, time spent in our own minds, active and imaginative, alone with our emotions, judgments, and dreams, where no one can reach us. Yet frequent readers are also more likely to participate in community and to trust the people in that community.
National Aboriginal Day, June 21, is a day of recognition that celebrates the cultures and contributions of Canada's First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. In celebration, here are a few key points about literacy and essential skills that have broad application in supporting better outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
Our cultural lore suggests that curiosity may claim the lives of a few cats. Moving from lore to a distinct possibility, we really should add poverty to that list. Connecting their theme "Stay Curious" the 2013 Projecting Change Film Festival, is pushing forward the conversation that can't be ignored. Closing the festival with a showing of Girl Rising, the vital importance of educating women around the world lit up the screen. Learning is about staying curious. Education is a key to curing poverty.