Education Action: Toronto

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Education Action: Toronto

Building Good Schools for All Our Kids

We are at the very beginning of a difficult journey.

This website, we hope, will let us chart this journey and help prepare us to take the steps we need to bring us a good distance along the road. We don’t expect sweeping large-scale victories any time soon, but we’re convinced the time is right to build a base for school reform that will last and will eventually bring us these victories.

In the simplest terms, we want to make a real difference to what happens to our kids in our publicly funded schools.

We want all our children to join their teachers in a genuine exploration of the world.

We want all our children encouraged to make judgments about what they find along the way:

  • what’s true, what’s false, what they don’t know;
  • what’s beautiful and what’s not;
  • what’s to be loved and what’s to be changed in their personal lives and in the world around them;
  • what it means to strive for social justice: and
  • what it means to live in harmony with the natural world.

Finally, we want to insure that what happens in school opens up and supports the extraordinary human potential of our students and teachers — at work and as citizens — and leads to their consistent building of community in the society that surrounds them.

We need well-resourced schools to strengthen this agenda, and we need significant local power in our schools — a working democracy of students, parents, teachers, school board workers and engaged members of the community — to carry it out.

What we want is, in many respects, in direct opposition to what the provincial government, through the bureaucratic regimes of our current school boards, is now imposing on our schools.

The cuts of the Harris years continue under Dalton McGuinty, though less dramatically. Each year under the Liberals the financial situation gets worse. In 2009, for example, the Toronto District School Board is entering its 13th year of provincial cutbacks and is now planning to strip an additional $39.3 million from its 2009-2010 budget. And for the two years following, it projects cuts of $37.1 million and $44.7 million.

Tory policies of centralization have not only continued under the Liberals — local boards are still bereft of their taxing and curriculum power — but Ministry of Education micromanagement has intensified as it reaches down into the classroom to impose a standardized testing regime while increasing the pressure on local boards to be “accountable” for test score “success.”

The Liberals have also intensified the Tory “human capital” (or “expectations”) approach to education. One of its key features is making sure that working-class children (especially poor children, children of colour, and children from immigrant families) learn their place on the bottom rungs of the society.

The “expectations” curriculum remains as fragmented and disorienting as ever, thoroughly hostile to children seeking their place in the human story of love and struggle. The emphasis on standardized testing continues to grow – to police provincial “expectations” and to begin the official profiling of working-class children and children of colour. This profiling (or pejorative labeling) is further expanded within a wide spectrum of intellectual and behavioural “disabilities.” Finally, comes the growth of the bottom stream programs in which profiled children –thoroughly alienated from the “regular” curriculum – are placed to prepare them to accept the “bad” jobs and the unemployment lines that also continue to grow in the economy at large.

solidarity

Education Action: Toronto, with your help, is working to develop real alternatives to these provincial policies.

In our Issues and Polices section we are currently developing 26 policy folders with drafts of policies we will be discussing and with links to background articles you might find useful. Not all of these files are up yet but should be in a few months.

Please help us think through these policies, including all of the difficulties of implementation. Send us your views and your alternatives. This is an expandable list, and if there are policy areas you feel should be added to the list, please let us know. We hope these alternative policies — brought together in popular form — can help us hold our trustee candidates accountable in the 2010 school elections and our MPP candidates accountable in the 2011 provincial election.

We have a section called Great Programs For All Our Kids. In this section, we want to open up discussion of great programs that are working in regular mainstreamed classrooms. We know there are programs with real intellectual substance and creative capacity out there. An important underlying assumption of these programs — backed by a thorough body of research — is that children who do badly in bottom streams do much better in the regular classroom, while those who are doing well in the regular classroom continue to do well when joined there by bottom-streamed kids. Let us know about great programs for all kids that you’ve experienced or taught.

In the immediate future, we are planning two additional sections to this website.

One of these sections will be entitled Organizing for Change, which focuses on Education Action: Toronto’s work encouraging parent, student, community members and teacher organizing at the local school level and the development of a network of educational activists across the city. Without this organizing — without the empowerment of our school-communities and a political network to bring their demands into our school boards and the Ontario Legislature — our program and policy work will be so much whistling in the dark. We ask you to join us in this organizing. In York West and Etobicoke North, we have self-governing branches under way, and we ask those of you who work or live in these areas to join them. We are also beginning local discussion groups and planning groups. Let us know if you would like to be part of one of these groups or help set one up yourself.

There will also be a What’s Happening section to keep you in touch with the everyday politics and items of interest in the Ontario educational system, with a special focus on Toronto. Again, we ask you to get involved and to send us news and comment on the latest events from your part of the educational world.

As we said at the beginning, this is a long journey, but it’s one that has real prospect of making a difference. We hope you will join us on it.

In solidarity,

George Martell (gmartell@yorku.ca) and
Faduma Mohamed (fmohamed@labourcommunityservices.ca) Co-Chairs, Education Action: Toronto,
David Clandfield (clandfie@chass.utoronto.ca) Policy Chair,
Dudley Paul (william.paul@rogers.com) Web Coordinator


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