Dear Mr. Ford,
You are a lucky man to have inherited, through no effort of your own, a world-class education system. Through your reactive, reductionist and hasty action around math, sex ed and indigenous ed curriculum, one wonders if you actually realize what awaits you in September when our learning communities in schools reconvene – and that’s the voice of Ontario students! You’ve likely seen how social media has ignited the collaborative efforts of students south of the border…I would argue that Ontario students will not be quiet when their freedom is at stake!
You see, I’ve served the students and families of Ontario as a public educator for 31 years. I came into the profession in 1987, at a time when our existing progressive education and our learning about learning kept us focused on the student at the centre. I shut my door, like so many other educators, when Harris’ accountability era of the mid-90’s hit us, doing what I had to do to be accountable, but doing first what I knew was right for students, as always. Luckily for our learners, we supplemented the ‘old math’ with real-life application: building things, coding, cooking, knitting, quilting, connecting math to art and music and everything else we could find. Our current math curriculum (2005) allows for both the procedural understanding and the conceptual challenges that help students understand how to apply their learning in real ways. It reflects the most recent understanding of the learning sciences in our education system – not a perfect system necessarily – but innovating and getting continually better in the service of our students. Teachers continue to find engaging applications for mathematics to avoid the ‘drill and kill’ that so many of us grew up with, which, quite frankly, did not often inspire continued learning in math beyond the compulsory courses.
I’ve spent the last 10 years of my career working with amazing Ontario educators and school leaders, including the education officers and policy people of the Ministry of Education. I have the utmost confidence in these dedicated folks, like Jeewan Chanicka, who aptly describes why you will not be able to reverse the essence of our sex ed curriculum in Ontario. All of our schools have been focused on equity and inclusion, well-being, deeper learning and critical thinking. What you’ll be realizing soon, is that the students of Ontario are intelligent, caring, connected learners who aren’t going to put up with your antics around their education. Their teachers have been working hard to transform their classrooms and involve students in being active agents in their learning, developing global competencies, and taking social action. Our way of being in Ontario schools is to welcome THEIR voices and to deal with the realities of THEIR world, no matter how uncomfortable the issues or the terminology might seem to the adults around them. And their world is NOT 1998. They are coming out to us AT SCHOOL about bullying, their gender and sexuality, violence, mental health concerns, and social and economic inequities, and we are here to support them. They are teaching us how to be better people in a diverse world. We hear them and we act on what we hear to make their world better and to help them learn how to take appropriate action against injustice.
How could we possibly teach them to be critical thinkers and then not help them act on their decisions?
Once you understand what they’ve been up to in collaboration with their teachers, communities and the Ministry of Education, over the past decade or so, you will see that you are in for push back if you try to deny them their rights to information or progress in their learning environments. They have been Speaking Up and will continue to do so!