Children are more than “ market value ”

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During my career, I have asked thousands of parents what they want for their children because of their upbringing. Invariably the answer is “happiness,” by which they meant private content and public fulfillment.

Ironically, BEST (Better Education Starts Today – Putting Students First), the implementation program for Bill 64, implies that children – which he describes as “our most precious asset” – exist almost exclusively as children. interchangeable trade items in the free market economy. When education and the people who engage in it are treated as one more commodity, our individual and collective humanity suffers a great blow.

According to pillar 3 of the document, “students ready for the future” are determined by “the needs of the employer, entry into the labor market, success in the workplace of tomorrow, experiences related to career and employment, as well as responsiveness and alignment with labor market needs ”. All are representations of the predetermined usefulness of young people in the market without any reference to learning how to lead a responsible life outside the workplace as members of the community.

The education of children in a democracy is fundamentally different from what is called education in authoritarian economies. This difference is based on the ideal that democracies survive and prosper only because we recognize, celebrate and develop the potential for novelty that each child brings to the world.

Each child represents the possibility that different and more human perspectives can be brought into society and prevail, making the world more hospitable for all. It is not difficult to detect the glaring absence of democratic ideals in BEST. In fact, democracy and citizenship are never mentioned.

We are on a slippery slope when children are seen only as useful objects, commodities. They are not raw materials, resources or products, consumable and interchangeable goods and services intended to be refined and traded in the market. Although they exist in abundance, they are not exchangeable and replaceable likenesses.

They are unique and precious human beings to cherish, love and nurture in order to flourish in their individuality and their difference. These feelings are clearly absent from BEST.

Clichés such as “putting students first”, “focusing on student success” and “shifting resources into the classroom and investing in schools” turned out to be banal cover-ups. The sad reality of the rhetoric of “shifting resources to the classroom and investing in schools” in other provinces has resulted in larger class sizes, fewer teachers and less money for resources. educational. Teachers and local councils, not governments, have made students and their individual success a priority, often at the cost of great personal sacrifice.

The real problems are not misplaced focus and effort. The concerns of the education review – culturally insensitive curricula, faulty assessment tools, underfunding of some schools, severe teacher shortages in some areas, and lack of family and community support – appear summarily rejected in the BEST document. So are all the cohesive notions of what education and teaching are, and where they mainly take place.

Education is the way in which children and young people, in their own way, make sense of their lives and the world in which they live, in the hope that they can thrive wherever they are in their journey of life. life, in the midst of their own frailties and their lives. uncertainties. The educational trips are unique and endless, informed by the people young people meet along the way.

Teaching, as all good teachers know and recognize thinking parents and children, is primarily about a caring relationship, which awaits and helps children learn to govern themselves and contribute to the well-being of their lives. community, not just to behave and perform. At work. It is not a technical exercise of stuffing pre-arranged programs into empty minds in a predetermined sequence to be fed back onto the signal to create workers.

Learning to manage life is highly individualized and unpredictable, but when it goes well, it mostly takes place in a home or near home setting, at home school and in the local school community. Learning for the workplace shares the characteristic that it is more likely to be learned in the workplace itself.

The current structure of school governance recognizes the importance of children beyond their market value and recognizes the political and financial right and responsibility of everyone to participate in the education of our young people, a reality that is not recognized in BEST.

Instead, virtually all suggestions with educational merit and supported by knowledge, reason, evidence, and understanding heard by the Education Review Board are missing from BEST.

Our provincial government has displayed a stubborn intention to deliberately destroy public education and apparently has no idea how to plan or build an inclusive and assertive society.

John R. Wiens is Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. A lifelong educator, he has been a teacher, counselor, workplace education coordinator, principal, school principal and university professor.


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