Editorial: How about just doing the right thing

May 22, 2019

The word innovation itself is not that difficult to comprehend, but equally it can be ambiguous and rather vague when it comes to the realm of public education.

Even in a one-on-one conversation, Education Minister Gord Wyant acknowledged that while it is paramount in his mind when it comes to envisioning the future of PreK-12 education in this province, he isn’t sure what innovation actually means.

Sure innovation sounds great, but it depends on whose innovation we are talking about here. Until there is more clarity and agreement on what that means, it is quite understandable that the good Minister is not certain what it will look like.

Here is something to consider in my humble opinion at least. Instead of looking for the next shiny thing, how about personalizing this whole sector. In recent times, I have had the pleasure to interview a couple of young Indigenous educators. They are not only, by their very presence, wonderful role models, but more so if the powers-to-be would sit and listen to what the educators have seen and personally experienced. That could be invaluable and perhaps even applicable.

It is one thing for the suits in Regina to talk this great game about improving on-time graduation rates for First Nations and Métis youth, but it would be a considerable stretch to suggest most of those folks are aware of the realities many of today’s classroom teachers and students face.

For sure restoring funding for educational assistants, speech pathologists and librarians, for example, would be a major step in the right direction if we’re really supposed to believe the rhetoric about how important it is to have a holistic education model in this province.

Perhaps this sounds overly simplistic, but how about just doing the right thing? And yes, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Patrick Maze is right when he says funding public education is always going to be costly.

Yet we know all too well how costly it can be if the supports aren’t in place. The reality though is that there will always be those students who have all the pieces in place and so they and their parents will blissfully believe there is no real problem in the current climate. It is the marginalized students who face a litany of challenges outside and inside school who will be the ones that will pay the ultimate price.

Let’s not talk so much about the importance of turning out 21st century learners. Unless there is a realization that things need to change, a percentage of these aforementioned students will not be around to worry about the notion of being 21st century learners.

No, it might not be particularly innovative, but sometimes maybe a reality check is more in order. Sure, you might not garner the votes that a fight against carbon tax or an impassioned battle on behalf of canola growers would get you.

It is well understood that education isn’t going to translate to the bottom line overnight, but to see and listen to some of the stories out there makes it pretty clear that something has to change.