6 11/25/2010 parenting Education


“Tell me, and I’ll forget.  Show me, and I may not remember.  Involve me, and I’ll understand.”
imagesCAMELSMV.jpgNative American Saying.

As you may have inferred from my posts here, and here, I have some problems with the Canadaian School System.

 This is a huge topic, too large for one post, so I will be dividing up into sub-topics and posting separately for each one. 

 Some of my issues with the school system are:


  • It stifles creativity.  Although Ontario has an extensive Arts curriculum, the reality is that it cannot be adequately covered along with all the other subjects.  And, it’s too prescribed, imagine, an Arts curriculum that stifles creativity itself, sad but true.  Check out The Arts curriculum here.  Also, check out this Ted Talk by Ken Robinson, he addresses the creativity issue.


  • There isn’t much experiential learning in school.  Although constructivist theory is taught in Teacher’s College, in reality it is very difficult to implement hands on learning conisitently.  The dense, contnent driven curriculum, along with compulsory Ministry  directives, leave little time for experiential learning.


  • Schools create an environment in which bullying thrives.  This is my impression from being in the school system as a child and as a teacher.  I have no evidence yet, but I intend to follow up this idea with some research.


  • Schools get too academic too soon.  In JK, children are sitting at desks or tables, practising their letters.  Research clearly shows that early learning should be play based yet schools are not implementing this research.  It remains to be seen how this may change as Ontario phases in it’s new full-time JK program with Teachers and Early Childhood Educators in each classroom.


  • Schools are designed to create cogs for the “Industrial Machine”.  They do not help children think critically about their world.  Watch this speech by Ken Robinson that is accompanied by drawings.  Public schooling was conceived of during the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution and were consequently designed to suit those eras.  The education system has not changed since then.  Check out this RSA Animate of Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms.  You can watch the full lecture here


  • If you read Jen’s post on technology in education and the Did You Know video, you will have realized how far behind be are with technology.  Most schools only use technology in the most rudimentary of ways.  Not good enough.  Interestinly to me, I posted a comment there saying I thought that public education was doing pretty well.  I’ve changed my tune since then. 


  • Children do not have much input into what or how they are learning.  They are fed extrinsic motivators like sticker, certificates, praise and grades.  I think that if they follow their interests then they will be motivated intrinsically, which is way better in my opinion.


  • I don’t think that the needs of children with learning problems are being met. 


I’m sure that as I continue to write these posts that I will come up with more reasons.  In the meantime, let me know what you think.  How is the ecuation system doing?

See below for the videos I linked to above.



  • Karen

    Kath I wonder if you know that teaching is the most represented profession among homeschoolers. Some formal studies show it as high as 10%. In my own circle of close homeschooling friends/colleagues it’s over 15% of the families who have at least one parent in a teaching/ed admin job and in many cases both parents have teaching degrees. At least 4 of my friends who are the primary teaching parent at home also teach in the public school system either part time, or supply. Given that statistic I wonder if it might be wise to reconsider dismissing homeschooling as an ineffective, poor substitute so quickly.
    I think that if we are going to have a valuable discussion about the future of education, we all need to avoid the drive-by assessments that unfortunately sometimes pass for true debate and discussion. Homeschooling rarely looks like “school” and so as a teacher a quick glance may cause you to form a snap judgement. However like teaching, the act of facilitating an education with a child is best not judged without context and mindful observations. I am sure you wouldn’t want me to judge the entire public education system on the horrendous gr 1 teacher who taught my son, the unruly students and questionable educational tactics of teachers I see on weekly field trips, or based on what I read in the local paper about politics, bullying, low test scores etc.
    One of the reasons I am interested in hearing Erin’s take on it is that she works within the public system and also open to seeing the real benefits inherent in self directed education.I’d love to get your take on the analysis in this paper about the effectiveness of homeschooling versus public schooling. It assesses costs, testing and social outcomes, civic engagement etc. .
    Our current public educational system is a mess and it is being crushed under the weight of the wrong objectives IMO. This is the information age. Gone are the days where meaningful education was about acquiring and assimilating factual data and yet our public schools are still structured on the outmoded approach of information flowing from one gatekeeper to many children whether or not it is interesting, valuable, relevant or helpful to them. Children – all humans actually – are hardwired to learn and be creative. And yet the Ontario school system has a dropout rate hovering between 25 and 30%, despite efforts of teachers to engage children, and “teach them how to learn”.
    I would love to see schools move away from autocratic environments to one that is more of a resource centre – like a library of sorts. I would love to see a situation where learning of skills is faciliated by allowing kids to delve into their own interests and passions, by giving them access to experts, resources, tools, peers of any age who want to explore with them and a group of supportive adults who can help challenge their thinking and assumptions in such a way that lets them make new connections in their learning. That’s what I try to create for my kids in our homeschooling life.

  • DesiValentine

    Kath, you’re right. I don’t want my kids to be taught the same way I was. I want them to have more options, better teachers, and the flexibility to explore what they love. The problem is that I don’t know how to make that happen for them. We like the idea of homeschooling, but don’t have the means or the patience to make it a reality. We afterschool and supplement likes lots of parents do. We would love a public school that serves our daughter the nerd and our son the daredevil equally well. Does it exist?

  • Erin Little

    I don’t think it necessarily comes down to crappy teachers (although they certainly exist). I think that the structure of the system often prevents being truly experiential, critical and creative. I am completely frustrated with the system because I can’t teach the way I want to. Sure the Ministry and the Boards pay lip service to a constructivist, collaborative approach but then they make it really difficult to implement.
    As for homeschooling, I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone homeschool. I would like to and I think I would do a good job of it. I think that we need to work to fix the system, I just don’t know how. I’m very interested in learning more about Finland’s system which seems to be the best in the world. I am a big supporter of public education but it needs to change to meet the needs of the students and reflect the changes in society, away from the industrialist model and towards a new paradigm.
    I think Kath is right about parents wanting the old style, I also hear about times tables and spelling lists. What we need is a societal paradigm shift about education, not just a shift within educator’s circles.
    So, I hope that more people will join this dialogue as I explore these issues more completely.
    Add your thought peeps!

  • Kath

    Unfortunately so much of it depends on the school, teacher and administration. As I’ve said before, my kids have experienced FANTASTIC teachers who nurtured their creativity, focused on inquiry and really engaged them in learning based on their own interests. But I know there are crappy teachers out there, too.
    And, as a teacher myself, I try to embrace the inquiry model and to make everything come alive for my students, building connections for them and helping them explore their own strengths and creativity…but then I am told by the curriculum that I HAVE to teach my grade 3s about Peru, Tunisia, India and Ukraine…and that really bugs me. The point is for the students to start seeing themselves in a global context, to make connections with children in other cultures and on other continents. Great. But can we at least pick our own frickin’ countries? Or – god forbid – can the kids pick??? NO. Has to be Peru, Tunisia, India, Ukraine. Frustrating.
    I love the Ken Robinson videos – Maddy’s principal showed one at our last school council meeting! Which shows that there are a LOT of educators out there who are trying to implement change in their own environments.
    You know the weird thing? A lot of the pressure to be “old fashioned” is coming from parents. I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked by parents “why aren’t they getting more homework?” or “why aren’t they memorizing times tables” or “where’s their spelling list?”, etc. etc. If kids are sitting at desks practicing letters in JK, I’d look more to the parents than the teachers…have you noticed how many people PAY for programs like “your child can read”, etc. even at 3 or 4 years of age, despite excellent research showing neural pathways responsible for reading aren’t even laid down until at least age 7! Can you imagine if we told parents, “we won’t begin teaching reading/writing until the second half of grade two…” UPROAR!
    It really drives me crazy – I have even asked parents, “would you be happy if you went to the doctor and she tried to offer you a treatment that was cutting-edge in 1974? No? Then why do you want me to teach your child in the same way YOU were taught?”
    So, yeah. There are things that need to be changed, I totally agree. But I can’t see it as a black-and-white issue. Plus: I’ll never be able to get behind home-schooling…I know it sounds great in principle, but I’ve rarely seen it be better than school in practice. And I’ve seen a fair bit of homeschooling.

  • Julie

    “there are so many colours in the rainbow
    so many colours in the morning sun
    so many colours in the flowers
    and i see every one”
    harry chapin song. couldn’t get it out of my head reading your post! 🙂 although i do love our school i find it hard to believe the same curriculum works for 21 different kids. i would love to homeschool but i know me and i couldn’t do it. instead, i try to have one or two of my own “classes” to really see how they are doing.

  • DesiValentine

    The public education system in Alberta does not serve multiple learning styles, stifles creativity, and seeks to homogenize learning outcomes based on age alone. This means that if we put our four-year-old in public school, she will spend two years watching the other kids catch up to her. Because in Alberta, the standard curriculum is exclusively based on age. Ridiculous! I tutor beginner English (grade 2 level reading and writing) to adults who graduated from high school here. Yes, the system is broken. My husband and I just aren’t sure whether we should participate in order to try to help fix it. Or opt out entirely to protect our kids’ love of learning.

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