Mean-spiritedness Or Responsiveness — What Guides School Decision Making?
The decision by the Nanaimo School Board to designate a K-7 elementary school as Departure Bay Eco Academy does not come without political overtones.
In a statement to the press Board Chairman, Steve Rae, said, “We're hoping this kind of thing draws kids back from the private system.” Thus one must wonder if this move was based on educationally sound principles or adopted as a recruiting tool to boost enrollment.
Unfortunately in BC right now, if one follows the social media, we would note a persistent undercurrent of activism trying to undermine the rather harmonious relationship currently in place between the public and independent systems in education.
This Nanaimo decision reminds me of what happened in Maple Ridge School District 15 years ago.
In their effort to appear responsive the Maple Ridge school board decided to survey parents as to their preferences. The survey form clearly stated the results would “help plan the future direction” and listed 10 choices including “other” or “None of the above”. The models listed were:
– Traditional (emphasis on basics, discipline, parent involvement)
– Progressive (children learn by discovery, less emphasis on grades)
– Self-directed (emphasis on independent learning)
– Fine Arts (e.g., music, art, drama)
– Skilled trades
– Sport academies
– Technology academies
When the results were released a month later the media headlines picked up on the leading result — Support for traditional school. The tally was 63% for traditional, 53% for fine arts, 32% for sports academies, 31% for progressive, and 28% for environmental.
But the politics soon kicked in. The “progressive” school of thought (the predominant philosophy operating in BC public schools) rallied against the conventional parent point-of-view (which is generally your back-to-the basics, traditional expectations) and guess what? It was an environmental school that was the new program!
It is really too bad that parent choice and voice are so dismissed by those who push a totalitarian progressive approach. In Nanaimo it was parental choice of private schools that was the target. In Maple Ridge it was the parent voice showing a preference for traditional schooling that was skillfully thwarted.
I think it’s time that the provincial government, through new laws, provided a level playing field for all parents in BC. There should be a uniform code of behavior that applies equally to both the public school sphere and the independent.
There is a little known clause in the Independent School Act that forbids the practice, promotion or fostering of “social change through violent action or sedition”. In simple terms sedition is the subversive undermining of the peace and authority of the established social order. It’s time that the Public School Act had a similar clause applying to the 89% of schools that are public. Families should not be under constant bombardment from activists who would deny education alternatives in our free province of BC!