|(Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)
Public school used to be the place where we prepared kids for the adult world. Now it’s where we insulate them from the realities of life.
This is what I think whenever a new special interest group school is proposed. Toronto already has “Africentric education” at the elementary and secondary school levels. The public board’s director of education spoke in favour of a boys’ only school. And now people are advocating for gay-centric schooling.
Those in Ottawa should urge local public board educators to not use the results of their recently released survey to do the same. When the survey was announced in 2010 people complained that some of the questions – likely those focused on sexuality, religion and home life – were too intrusive. After reviewing it, Ontario’s privacy commissioner eventually gave it the green light.
In truth, the hot button issues yielded no shockers. Eighty-eight per cent of secondary students identify as heterosexual. In terms of religion, 36% are Christian, 28% not religious, followed by 14% Muslim.
However, one set of answers that’ll interest educators and parents the most is statistics on bullying. Sixty-eight per cent of high school students and 58% of elementary school students say they’ve been bullied.
This may seem like a high figure if you’re envisioning kids being beaten at their lockers and repeatedly tormented in class, then harassed after school via Facebook and text message. That would indeed be cause for alarm. But keep in mind the term “bullying” has widened recently. The survey defined bullying as “the use of one’s strength or popularity to injure, threaten, or embarrass another person.”
Asking someone if they’ve experienced bullying at the peak of the bullying craze is clearly a leading question.
Bullying became the cause du jour for very good reasons – after a number of young people throughout North America, many of them gay, killed themselves in response to social torments. But like all worthwhile causes that go viral, it’s turned into senseless mania. The whole concept of bullying has been rendered meaningless by its overuse.
Lumping all forms of bullying together, which the recent craze has done, does a disservice to everyone. Using strength to injure someone may be bullying – but it’s also physical assault. Police should deal with these serious matters. (In the report, 27% of the above 68% of students reported actual physical bullying and of that 10% is “sometimes/often”) But a popular clique embarrassing a student? Like it or not, that’s part of the socialization process.
If we all look back at our school years with honesty, all of us have been bullied and have been bullies. At least if you use the broad definition currently employed.
It’s only after our emotional shell has been broken by such treatment that we mature, and see why we don’t like that treatment and thus why we shouldn’t treat others that way too. It’s natural socialization. It’s the secondary purpose of the education system. Special interest group education attempts to shield kids from this socialization and naively assumes that a gay school, for example, won’t have its own forms of bullying.
The report’s recommendations include seeing if the background of staff correlates with the backgrounds of the students, to see that they have sufficient “cultural competency training” and also create proper channels to report bullying.
These ideas are broad enough that no one can argue with them. But if the information is used to create buffet-style schooling – where kids are only exposed to a bubble wrap view of the world – then our education system will fail to prepare them for entering broader society.