Dear High School Students in the 21st century,
A new semester begins next week and I find myself feeling compelled to apologize to you. Despite our best efforts, we teachers have failed to persuade the people who have the political power to change our public education system, to do so. We can't seem to convince our premier that an investment in your education is an investment that we will all benefit from, an investment that would not cost us polluted water and toxic air.
So, until your education needs prevail over the needs of foreign corporations, please accept this apology from me.
I'm sorry that you have to be at school so early each morning despite neuroscience research indicating that teen brains do not function optimally until 10 a.m.
I'm sorry that you have to ask my permission to leave the classroom to pee even though you have a driver's licence and a part-time job, and are making significant decisions about your post-secondary life right now.
I'm sorry that you are forced to sit for six hours each school-day despite research that reveals the detrimental cognitive and health effects of excessive sitting.
I'm sorry that you are age-batched, forced to move through the school system with people your own age as though chronological age had anything to do with intellect, maturity, skills or ability.
I'm sorry that many of you who struggle to cope in school do not get any learning support because prevailing economic policy does not prioritize funding your needs.
I'm sorry that you have to study subjects that you are not interested in at a time when the sum total of human knowledge is doubling every 12 months.
I'm sorry that you are made to believe that there is a scarcity of A grades for which you have to compete, when all human progress has been the result of collaboration, often considered "cheating" in schools.
I'm sorry that you have textbooks with outdated information and classroom technology that is not maintained and practically obsolete.
I'm sorry that what is being called personalized learning is not actually personal at all. Truly personal learning costs too much, you understand?
"I'm so sorry that you are made to believe that the only learning that counts is the kind of learning that happens in schools."
I am sorry, that despite all the hype, based on the current government's track record, the recently announced BC Innovation Strategy, is unlikely to yield any significant changes apart from new ways to count what you do in schools.
But most of all, I am sorry that the education system is focused on your participation in an extractivist economy while our environment, without which there would be no economy, undergoes a climate crisis that will force a rapid reconfiguration of all that we currently do socially, politically, and economically, and for which you will be utterly unprepared.
I am so very sorry.
I wish you had not had your curiosity crushed by classroom conformity.
I wish I could wave a magic wand to give you the kind of school that would have spaces in which you could examine and explore, experiment and experience learning in diverse ways.
I wish I had the power to re-ignite the passion for learning so evident in your eyes in the weeks before your first day of school.
I wish I could help you to remember that before you were a student, you were a scientist, experimenting, discovering, questioning, making connections.
"I wish you had not had your curiosity crushed by classroom conformity."
You were a poet too... remember how you'd describe things in ways that amused and amazed the adults around you?
You were born to learn. You cannot not learn.
I'm so sorry that you are made to believe that the only learning that counts is the kind of learning that happens in schools. And only then the kind of learning that happens in a classroom. But not all that you learn in a classroom. Only the things that will be on the test, count.
I wish I could whisk you away to other places where the public education system is prioritized by politicians who believe that the characteristics of their country's future society depends on the characteristics of their current education system.
At a time when all our lives depend on ingenuity to solve our most intractable problems, we are wasting your minds' potential for creative solutions. Adolescence is when we humans reach the peak of our cognitive development. Evidence of your amazing "out of the box" thinking and your capacity to create solutions is everywhere these days.
I wish I could show the powers-that-be what they need to see before they can clearly see what you can do, if you only had the chance. If only ...
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