Saturday, May 18, 2013

I guess I wouldn't vote either... help!

In a year when everyone in North American schooling seems to have caught their own particular version of the data driven flu I keep being reminded of my buddy Scott Hill's idea for measuring whether or not our schools were doing their job. Rather than focus so much on whether we were nudging out Denmark or staying well ahead of the States on international standards tests or whether or not our grade eights are reading at the magical grade eight reading level maybe we should just count the number of signs on lawns at the next election and compare that to the number of eligible voters.

I saw Joel Westheimer from the U of Ottawa (and perhaps more significantly also from Dr. Ruth) last month say something similar. He argued that we'll never get a perfect democracy but we might, if schools do the job of creating an informed, rational citizenry, get perfect participation. Imagine that - everyone votes, everyone insists on and then watches debates, everyone talks to their neighbours about something that matters - at least every four or five years. A peaceful revolution.

So that's what I kind of aim at in my work with students - encouraging and educating them for participation.It's not easy. Our political system is not an easy sell to teenagers. And that's what drove me crazy about the news this week:
  • A senator (try explaining the value of the senate to 15 year olds) lies and steals and then the Prime Minister's (Yeah, Johnny, the guy whose face is on that timeline on the classroom wall) trusted advisor pays the bill and the senator 'resigns' so it will all go away. (That's right Johnny, you'd be suspended for doing anything of the sort)
  • The Prime Minister says he doesn't think a governmental inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women will find out anything worth listening to.
  • Our mayor uses our money to tell us to send him an email asking him to sell our golf courses. And then says it was a mistake - which is almost, but not quite, an apology and definitely not a promise to not do it again.
  • Toronto's mayor gets caught smoking crack - maybe...
Well actually that last one did manage to peak kids interest - and allowed me to point out that anyone can become anything in this world. But still.

Please - I need help. It is hard enough to make the case that young people should get involved in this tired old democracy of ours. I need help from our politicos if I'm going to make the case for students to learn how to speak up, out and get involved. That's right - I need you politicos to be better if I'm going to get better at my job.


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