On Architecture of Education

A couple days ago John Ibbitson wrote “Native education is in crisis, and it’s everyone’s failure” in the Globe and Mail. In the column under the pretense of education he pushes for a move on native governance. He writes, “Provincial governments know how to deliver education, and would do the best job of running native education programs.”

I’d suggest Ibbitson look a little more critically into the ideas on which he so comfortably rests. Provincial governments are failing to educate children from lower economic situations. There are studies that show this. So sending provincial programs into these economically deprived areas will only reveal our education system for what it is.

Today native education is modeled on provincial programs. That’s why it’s failing. Studies show that children of university graduates are more likely to go to university. Others show that children who are read to daily perform better in school than children who are not. And children in low income situations are less likely to have an educated parent. Those low income children are also less likely to have a parent who reads to them. It’s clear that a child’s success or failure can be accurately predicted by what is happening outside the school. That’s because provincial schools simply exercise the education children receive at home.

If child who isn’t educated at home will not succeed in school,  what exactly is happening in schools? Our education system doesn’t work. It fails to educate the poorest students in the provincial system, and as it is modeled in native communities it fails there also. If you look at the professions that matter, architecture, medicine, law, for example, and compare their training to the eight months a teacher sails through, you can see that teaching doesn’t stack up. Qualification, in the case of teachers, does not translate as ability. The reality is that ability to teach isn’t necessary for qualification. Kids come to school with the skills that are being exercised in the classroom, or they fail. There is no teaching. And when these kids fail, we are all failing. Imagine an architect who’s been hired to build on poor soil. Our society needs building to stand up so we’ve got a collection of over-educated constantly learning professionals working to rigid standards, who are strictly judged and highly regarded for what they do. If the building fails, the architects and the engineers fail. Because of this there are a variety of building techniques for building on a variety of surfaces.

That the tools to educate are traditional as opposed to scientific, that the duration of teacher training is about an eighth of the highly regarded professions, and that standards of education slip while the standards in other professions rise, speaks more strongly to the crisis in Native education, the education of Canada’s underclass, than any allocation of funds. An analogy would be throwing money at front line doctors to cure a disease before the treatment has been developed.

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