secondary education

Image Image __Secondary education in most provinces is mandatory up until the age of majority

Notes from CBC Radio Cross-Country Checkup 2005-03-20 on education which focused on secondary school concerns:

life skills

Practical study skills, writing skills and schedule skills:

Printer: "They can't communicate in writing...They couldn't leave a note...They have spell check on all the computers now... The other thing they have a problem with is attendance, and being on time... A lot of that is coming from the schools... You might have to get a note but you can still come in" which is not the case in the workplace especially the industrial workplace. Lame excuses tend to be offered, like "I had to get a double latte at Tim's."

"It's only in the last 25 years that our quality of applicants has gone down tremendously...are they preparing them for the real world? No they aren't... being able to read, being able to write, being able to be somewhere on time... You don't want to have ten careers in your first year of working." They lack "commitment" and "sense of urgency". "They don't have any real desire to make anything... They may have the skills... but they have to be able to function out there."

skills not fact based

role of music

"The arts are the most powerful builder of perceptual skills..." - Betty McKinn

Music teacher: corporate CEOs say everyting they look for in an employee is in music class: teamwork, problem solving, etc.

student control

Robert W. - put students in charge of at least a part of their own curriculum - see Living Curriculum

Teach students to be less dependent on the Internet, more on memory, research skills taht transcend technology, like discerning reliable from unreliable sources.


Shift focus to empathy from self-esteem - generate good citizens, not so much of a focus on good performers individually.


{(Private secondary school)) founder David Thompson - court failure and learn from it.

"The idea behind it... we can all be successful playing to our strengths, but it's much more difficult for us to be extraordinarily successful unless we play to what our weakness are... at our school we put the students through a variety of programs... kayaking for the very first time, canoeing for the very first time... or we have a community service program where we match students... with inner city... to go beyond the boundaries with which they are familiar."

"It's trying to get to... character education... successful people have a sense of self-worth and need to go through... self-knowledge before they can develop a sense of self-esteem.
When we look at our students as being 'successful'... we are more interested in looking at the character element... the only way to get to that... is to get at experiences that challenge them."


"In the City of Toronto there was an increasing emphasis on the academic program... students were being asked to sacrifice some of the things that they loved... the focus become solely on what was happening in the classroom... we were not providing life skills for those students so that they could be successful when they headed off to universities around the world."

"What we would like to do is ... develop good citizens who contribute to society in a meaningful way..."

"...one of the things we've done ... in this outdoor adventure experience... (with grade 9 girls)... it was cold, it was wet, they didn't reach their destination in the end... the next year... they did
better but didn't feel they had accomplished everything that they had wanted to... so this past summer they enrolled for a six week course in Alaska... we need to provide the skills necessary for them to be successful... if we look at some of our Great Canadians, and Terry Fox was one of those... he was a failure in that he didn't complete his run across Canada. But what he did was so much more."

culture and class

vocational values

White-collar university-bound academic vs. blue-collar trade school or college bound vocational "tracks" are obsolete, not helpful any more... inhibiting participatory management, workplace democracy and sustainable trades by not teaching workers, engineers, managers, the same language of decision making so they can easily collaborate. "The great BA became the only sanctioned ambition." - Rex Murphy


"In Europe, the apprenticeship system is better than ours... in Ontario we have closed down technical education departments...
I'm urging the young people of Canada to take a look at things other than university."


integrated learning

The invisible university model should be carefully considered as an alternative to bricks and mortar, especially for those doing on the job training and just in time learning sorts of applications.

integrated technologies

One gap may well be that technology in trades has become more complex, more integrated, and more difficult for secondary schools to keep up with.

Modern shop floor technology is more like the library, computer lab and auto shop combined - the actual use of technologies to support learning (so-called e-learning ), to communicate with others doing the same task or facing the same problem, and so on, is not being taught in schools. education thus doesn't simulate reality.

The worn devices the kids carry into class are sometimes more attractive and certainly feeding them information that might be a lot more seemingly relevant to their lives than what comes on chalkboards.

global society

A global society challenges us to think very differently about our resources, our commitments and duties, our rights, and so on. This affects education rather drastically:

sustainability gap

Despite the extreme emphasis on sustainability in global policy, many of the key priorities of the society itself are not reflected: shop students aren't learning how to insulate houses, cooking students aren't learning how to grow gardens - see Edible Classroom.

Worse, the business and accounting classes are still quite divorced from the ecology and politics classes, such that the implications. The "urge to consume, to dominate" is still built in.

culture gap

This may be part of the imperative to colonize that is part of our history and geography teaching, philosophy and even the teaching of science reflects a narrow focus on Western Europe that even denies the contributions of Islam to these fields. Consider:

Muhammad was one of the most influential figures on what we call "Western" mathematics, science, culture, politics and so on, but he was totally shut out of "Western" history for reasons of religious bigotry that have never been addressed. Most students know nothing of Muslim Spain, any more than a cartoon sketch of The Crusades, and so on. They are vaguely aware that we use "Arabic" numerals but not how these came to displace Roman numerals or what else might have come with them.

Asia is often ignored entirely, despite the fact that it is most of the world's population, half its major religions, and increasingly its industrial base. This suggests a rivalry which may well be disaster in the long run. Students who don't know Buddha, Asoka, Kong Fu, Lao Tse or Layman Pang or Miyamoto Musashi are unlikely to be able to relate easily to their counterparts who have Asian educations. Asian figures like Gandhi are often treated like saints or cartoons.

Given this ignorance propagated in the education system, it is not surprising that false or stereotyped images of other cultures are so common. Nor is it surprising that other cultures dismiss most North Americans as totally ignorant


Failing to teach other languages is probably the worst problem, and with the sheer number of potential teachers, a relatively easy one to address. While French is near-universal and Spanish common in schools it is also necessary to address Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Russian, and so on... at least to a rudiumentary level with the most basic cultural terms that are embedded deeply in the language's ethical and moral codes, e.g. the list of Islamic terms in Arabic and list of Confucian terms in Chinese and list of Hindu terms in Hindi and list of Buddhist terms in Sanskrit and list of sociology terms in Russian. These are, like it or not, the cultural core of the way those languages evolved and the way people who speak them are or were actually educated.

role of adults

age gap

Health care concerns mostly elders who are dependent on it, and who are eloquent and experienced with manipulating agendas and platforms of any political party. By contrast education is an inherent concern of the young, who do not have such powers. Aging as disease is an increasingly popular idea, with "cures" for it sometimes even discussed, and anti-aging "technologies" sold by infomercial.

Meanwhile the culture as a whole is still valuing and focusing on youth: Surveys in "the Teenaging of Modern Culture" establish that the age of 34 has somehow become the dividing line, creeping up, such that the concept of a 29-year-old teenager is no longer strange, and
"adult" behaviour is no longer expected of those who are under 35!

The dragging-out of childhood may be encouraging by youth-seeking parents. The relation between parents and children has changed drastically... "when I was growing up in the 1950s it would have been inconceivable to see my father wearing a T-shirt... the image of what it means to be younger, older, have been blurred completely... a kind of syndrome was in the culture where we celebrate youth."

A lifestyle that is centred on the social activities of the school... de-emphasizes the learning functions: "We cannot take people out of their social environment and consider them abstract entities..."


The sage on the stage versus guide to the side model of how a teacher should behave: are tney the source of the knowledge, or the guide to how to navigate conceptually? Again the organization of real world concepts on the Internet and differentiating a good source from a less reliable one matters. Teachers may lack these skills themselves or not know how to deal with challenge from the sources students use.

Willingness to suggest new things to try, work on goal formation and constructive criticism is also important.

"Teachers that get excited about teaching" are not optional, but the core of education itself.


Parents themselves can amplify the problems by being reluctant to let go of youth, and failing to take their own teaching or role model status seriously, some of whom don't even understand why teenagers can't come drunk to a dance, might need a dress code, or should meet commitments to each other.

Parents seem to be insulted when vocational training is suggested - as if it was inferior, "lower level" education that "closes doors", etc. Which it is, but that is entirely the message sent by "management".


"Do you in fact invite the federal government in... the education system within each province must become more connected with the other systems like the health system, the housing system... there are things we could do within our province to make our social policies hang together more."


Politicians never seem to ask anyone to do anything, commit to anything - they are either afraid to ask, or, unable to think of anything that needs doing that the ordinary citizen can do. Exceptions like Participation or One Tonne Challenge are almost remarkable - whereas they should be everyday.

business "leaders"

In the US Martha Stewart, Bernard Ebbers, Ken Lay go to jail. This may be a small proportion of the people doing wrong, but, at least SOME go to jail, visibly losing status. This does not happen to Conrad Black, Garth Drabinsky, Nortel, AdScam players or pump and dump Howe Street (Vancouver) stock promoters. Accordingly it is not easy to teach Canadian students that ethics actually matters in industry, business, politics.


Certain known trolls who are popular with teenagers and inspire them to defy authority with sources and evidence that they wnat to ignore, can inspire people to do better, one way or another, to challenge them. They also tend to reduce belief in words in general - which is always a Good Thing. "Trollish is the native language of the learning organization." - Craig Hubley