We don’t need no education

Pink Floyd may have been right that kids don’t need what a lot of public education has to offer them. Nonetheless, and despite the fact that is it many years since I have gone to school, every fall I feel the same sense of anticipation and excitement I did when I was a kid.

In fact, I liked school so much that I played school during my summer holidays, lining up defenceless younger neighbourhood kids in my backyard so I could read to them and tell them very important things about the state of the world, as I had gleaned it by reading UNICEF pamphlets.

Getting ready to go back to school

There was the return to school itself: the gleaming floors, fresh chalk, clean chalkboards, crisp notebooks and new pens and pencils.

But there were also the middle-class accoutrements to the return to school: a new pair of shoes to be broken in, a new outfit to accommodate the 2 inches of growth since school let out in June, a new pencil case and a whole pack of brand new, unsharpened Laurentian pencil crayons – if I was lucky, a set of 24.

And the trip to the stationery store! It is just not the same to stand in the aisle of a big box store as it was to stand in the aisle of our local independent stationery story and breathe in the smell of pads of paper and pencils.

Of course, there was nervousness, too. Would I like my new teacher or, perhaps more importantly, would this year’s teacher like me? Would I have new kids in my class? How popular would I be this year? (By the way, the answer to that, year after year, was “not very.” However, every fall, hope sprang eternal that this would be the year for my popularity to soar.)

2017 wish list

As I look at the school year ahead for my grandsons, I can’t help but think about the state of the world, and wonder how relevant school really is in terms of what they need to know to survive, to help others survive and to help the environment we all rely on to survive. 

And so here is my wish list for children and young people going to school in 2017:

  1. I wish for every child and young person to be supported by their school, their communities and their peers to be whoever they are, without question, criticism, discrimination or hatred
  2. I wish that federal, provincial and territorial governments would properly fund schools on reserves, which presently receive 30% less funding than schools falling under provincial jurisdiction, so that Indigenous children and youth have access to quality education
  3. I wish that more boys would feel comfortable learning about household management, cooking and sewing and that more girls would feel comfortable learning how to use power tools
  4. I wish all kids had role models of all gender-identities to look up to; in their teachers, as well as in the curriculum and reading materials
  5. I wish that schools would replace multicultural education with anti-racism education
  6. I wish schools would spend money to encourage all kids to be physically active rather than focusing on competitive sports
  7. I wish for schools that would help kids – especially urban kids – connect with their environment, touch the soil, grow some food, care for some animals
  8. I wish more teachers and schools had the creativity of Saskatoon teacher Keri Albert, whose grade 6 class spends the year going to school in a long-term care facility
  9. I wish organizations like Kingston’s Loving Spoonful, that teaches elementary school kids about community and collaboration, local food systems and stewardship and gardening and cooking, had long-term secure funding
  10. I wish that all parents had the resources to send their kids to school with full bellies, a healthy lunch and enveloped by the love and affection of their family.

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