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#RallyForEducation: Educators, Parents Stand Up Because #CutsHurtKids

Updated on April 7, 2019
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

Educators Fighting For Kids And For Education

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Ford Nation, You Need To Listen, Not Dismiss

Today was historic.

Tens of thousands of educators, children, and parents descended on the government of Ontario on April 6 to fight for their kids' education and for the future of education in Ontario as a whole. Were they heard?

That, of course, remains to be seen, but based on the response to the student protest on Thursday, April 4, Education Minister Lisa Thompson and Premier Doug Ford need to step it up quite a lot. For the uninitiated, Thompson effectively stated in a press release that there was no way the students who walked out on April 4 could have organized themselves and that they must have been pawns of the teachers' unions. Nothing could have been further from the truth; teachers were in fact advised by their unions to not say anything to the students about the walkout.

Now, the question is whether Thompson and Ford will have listened to the tens of thousands of teachers that descended on Queen's Park today. While I understand that it's unlikely Ford or Thompson - or the rest of the government, for that matter - were on hand during the Rally For Education, given it occurred on a Saturday, I honestly wish and hope that these government representatives took the time and saw on the news just how much issues like education matter.

If people are feeling strongly enough about an issue that they want to sacrifice their time, particularly their weekend when they could be spending time with their families, and engage in civic protest, then that should be a sure indicator that something is important and worth fighting for. It should be a sure indicator that people have taken the time to organize themselves en masse in order to demonstrate solidarity and hopefully drive their point across.

This is not about political stunting. It's about fighting for what's right for the kids in the education system because "our education system needs investment, not cuts," Ontario Secondary Schools Teacher Federation president Harvey Bischof said at the Rally for Education, according to the Star.

Ford needs to realize that the proposed cuts will mean that kids who thrive in the arts and kids who thrive in trades-related courses could probably see their course options eliminated in the not-too-distant future. That could mean a huge job loss in the future in the trades, as there will be few in Ontario to replace those tradespeople currently working. That could mean those currently working in arts-related fields may find there's few who even have the high school qualifications to take arts-related university courses, let alone to work alongside them in their chosen fields.

There's also the thorny issue of teachers taking a math test to keep their certification that's under protest. While Ford continues to argue that according to the Education Quality Assessment Office (EQAO) tests, our provincial math scores show that there are more kids who are failing than ever before, that continues to be far from the truth but is his greatest argument as to why teachers should take a math test. According to Dr. Carol Campbell, a professor of Leadership and Educational Change at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, since the end of Mike Harris' tenure as premier and the end of Kathleen Wynne's Liberal leadership, most provincial math scores - save for Grade 6, which dipped slightly - have gone up, with well over 50 percent of students achieving the provincial standard or better on the test. This does not mean that those who did not achieve the provincial standard failed the test; it simply means kids didn't achieve the provincial standard, which is a B or around 75 percent. Not all teachers are math teachers, however; does it make sense that your child's high school English teacher would be required to take a math test to continue to teach in the province of Ontario? I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't know math, but I am saying that we need to have some logic here, and that's not present if the Ford government is trying to argue that all teachers should take a math test to maintain their teaching certification.

Then there's the issue of the proposed mandatory e-learning credits. So many students - adult and youth alike - thrive when there's a teacher at the front of the room engaging them. The four mandatory e-learning credits that the Ford government is proposing is going to put students under such stress from time management and simply not getting appropriate answers from a teacher - if this is not privatized - that students will simply disengage and possibly drop the credit. In addition, there are so many families who cannot afford the technology needed to complete an e-learning course and there are not an endless supply of computers available for students to access, so there are access issues inherent with requiring students to take four mandatory e-learning courses. There are also countless students who will be in Grade 11 or 12 when this particular change is slated to take effect in 2020, so does that mean they have to somehow cram four e-learning credits in prior to graduation? Grade 11 and 12, in particular, are very stressful years for students as they try and achieve the marks and the courses they need in order to move on to college or university; while I understand that many adults take e-learning courses as part of professional development, four in two years would be nearly impossible to achieve due to the sheer volume of work that would be added on to an already heavy course load.

Ford and his government will no doubt try and continue to argue that the unions are only trying to catch media attention and don't truly want to work with the government in order to make the "necessary" cuts to education. However, when you have a government that seems to prefer license plate and provincial logo rebranding over education, that's a significant issue.

It was long ago decided that education should not necessarily be for the rich. Under Ford's Ontario, it would appear that he's trying to tell Ontario students and teachers that it should be. We deserve far better.

He needs to listen to the students who participated in - and organized on their own - the #StudentsSayNo walkout. They are the future electorate.

He needs to listen to frontline education workers.

If he is truly "for the people," he needs to own it and prove it, finally.

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