I have been reading in recent days about how our high schools are turning out students who are ill-prepared for many university programs. It seems that not only do teens today have trouble with writing, but they are also lacking in numeracy skills (math). Universities in Ontario are now scrambling to shore up skills of students who, without the advantage of Grade 13, bring less maturity and knowledge to the post-secondary table.
Far be it from someone like me to point a finger, but there is obviously a great leap in what is expected of high school graduates moving into the university system and it is not fair for those who have worked so hard to reach that point in their education. I know for a fact that many first and second-year sudents are becoming so discouraged in attempting to bridge the gap that they simply chose to drop out -- and that's a crying shame. They are not failing, they are being "failed".
Our politicians are paying lip service to a concentrated collaboration between colleges, universities and school boards, but that is exactly what is needed. The curriculum, starting in elementary school, should be closely reviewed as well as all-important supports for teachers.
Personally, I have reservations too about the kind of history that is being taught in our schools today. That point was driven home to me as recent as last week when I was doing some research on Ontario settlement in the 1800s. At almost 72 years of age I was learning for the first time about the history of an area in which I was born and raised and I began to ask myself why I was not taught about this in school.
I'll be the first to admit that as a high school student I was bored out of my mind by history class and at least one teacher who had absolutely no enthusiasm for the subject. When not half asleep or day-dreaming, I listened reluctantly to the uninspiring monotony of tales about "colony to nation" read to us directly from a text book.
Why did my generation, and subsequent generations, not hear about the trials of immigrant slaves from the United States settling in our very community; why did we not learn about what immigration has meant to our country (i.e. our forefathers); what about aboriginal peoples (first Canadians), the struggle of women to win equal rights, regional development, and what about the political, diplomatic and military history of post-Confederation Canada?
Educator and author Jack Granatstein hit the nail on the head the other day when he said that balance in the teaching of Canadian history "demands that differing interpretations be presented to students for them to argue about." That is how we learn and that is how we strive to uncover the truth. History is indeed the story of our arguments, and the difficulty of discovering the truth about those arguments. Students need to be encouraged, stimulated and involved by teachers who can bring history to life in the classroom.
"We study history to learn how our predecessors lived and erred and, if we can, to learn from their mistakes in the hope we will not repeat them," Granatstein added.
The real mystery in all of this is why Canadian schools do not teach history this way. Surely there is nothing to hide. Heaven forbid if political indoctrination has created an unbalance in our education system...That would be totally unCanadian, wouldn't it?
Good God almighty! In talking about young people who cannot write, are weak in math and have an unbalanced appreciation of history, I've been talking about myself. Canada does not need another generation of under-achievers like me. We'd better smarten up!