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Assessment, Engagement, Leadership, Opinion

What is the question?

Politics get in the way of improving learning for ALL learners

Note: I wrote this a few nights ago but posted it this morning.

It is Saturday night and it is my husband’s turn to be out with friends while I stay home with our baby. Life has changed and I’m contented (and yes, at times thrilled, overwhelmed, excited, terrified, and challenged) with this new reality. I have a glass of wine in one hand and a book I picked up at the library in the other: Hot Spots.

About an hour ago I read a page about igniting questions, questions which cause an immediate combustion of creativity, curiosity, innovation, and commitment in a group of people. Despite me having read past that page my mind won’t leave it. I’m wondering about the question.

We need a question here in BC, in my union (we are on strike), in my government (which is in the midst of legislating our contract). We need a question that will ignite those who care about education to work together in a flurry of mutually dependent innovation and collaboration. And we should all care about education.

It is time to stop with the rhetoric. Rhetoric sells papers and wins elections but it does not serve education. It does not serve our students. It distracts from them – from that deeply personal, vulnerable, exciting and complex state of learning.

Today my husband and I took our little girl to the Vancouver Aquarium, introducing her to the most amazing variety of marine life. I saw her learn, as I see her learn everyday because everyday she does something or sees something for the first time.

Today I also saw something for the first time. A small boy with Tourette’s syndrome and Autism hit another child; his mother apologized for him explaining his challenges. The other mother, in what I imagine was a blind protectionist rage, spat out, “What did you do to make your kid have Tourette’s and Autism?!”

Such cruelty. Ignorance. Fierceness. And I wonder about this mother’s education, this mother’s challenges. For the other mother, I felt so sad, and – although I have no right to feel anything on her behalf – I felt angry. I wonder what kind of experience she lives. And I see a situation which could have been different had there been less ignorance, more learning. And I see this scene as a microcosm of the larger world and the potential for education of quality and equity to shape it. 

When we talk about education we are talking about people’s children: the most precious, most amazing, most important people. There is too much at stake for us to be playing politics.

I don’t know what question will ignite us to engage with one another in a mindset of collaboration and committed curiosity, but I sure hope we ask it soon.