Lets Not Look Over The Present

November 28, 2018
By Jens Nielsen, Editor, Saskatchewan Bulletin

In consulting the mirror these days, there is no point in denying that the number of white hairs are in the ascendancy. And if we’re being honest, they are clearly the winners.

Perhaps coupled with the fact that on occasion the memory isn’t always what it once was, the inevitable conclusion one might draw is that this veteran scribe is not as readily amenable to change as one should be.

The last month or so has served to provide an interesting reference point between the future and the past when it comes to education. While both have an undeniable part to play when contemplating the current state of public education in the province, it is my contention that, ironically, it is the present that is sometimes overlooked. It happens when people muse about what needs to be fixed; yes, there is fertile ground for such conversation.

Equally there is merit, and undeniably shared culpability, in some of the past mistakes made in the provincial education system. However, I would suggest that to pretty much dwell completely on the past without much in the way of concrete, ready-to-implement ideas for the future is also rather pointless. I refer herein to the Provincial Education Summit.

In the case of that laudable effort, which gathered more than 250 of the “education leaders” as we were told, there was an inescapable irony that very few of those in the audience had been in the classroom lately.

It brings to mind my “cup theory” that I gladly share with colleagues at the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. All too often it’s those folks who spend much of their time attending meetings and listening to their own musings (the ones inside the cup) who would have you believe they are the ones who are best suited to set forward-thinking education policy (for those outside the cup).

Here is something to ponder–though taken against that juxtaposition–this would suggest such grandiose initiatives as having to revamp the current system. It is not like there isn’t a lot of truly great and innovative work currently being done throughout the province, and sometimes even in the most unlikely of locales.

As I have stated frequently in this space, I would never presume to call myself a teacher. But to be frank, having spent the majority of my adult life in the world of journalism, one does develop a certain metre to suss out the admirable from that which is perhaps not.

Against that backdrop, I would challenge anyone to visit some of the schools I have been fortunate enough to check out lately like Loreburn, Outlook and most recently, Dorintosh. These schools have a commonality in that they are small, and in the case of Dorintosh, live with the very real possibility of review in terms of their future. But more strikingly, it is the passion and innovation that teachers are showing.