Hey! Welcome to round 2 of my blog! I first started blogging for university purposes last semester in EC&I 833. Although I was a bit skeptical at first (and frequently got frustrated with WordPress), I eventually grew to enjoy blogging so I am glad that this will once again be my primary method of interaction throughout a course.
For our first blog of the semester, we’ve been asked to look at ways in which we’ve seen schools used as agents for the maintenance of existing unjust power structures in society. Turns out, the list is long. For starters, one only has to look at the curriculum and its priorities. As Kirsten and Stephen mentioned throughout their lecture, there is an inordinate amount of attention paid to the 4 r’s – readin’, ‘ritin’, ‘rithmetic and regurgitation. Meanwhile, physical education and the arts often take a backseat. Out of curiosity I went back in time to my days as an elementary school itinerant and checked out my timetable from the 2010/11 school year in order to see how much time was allotted to certain classes. Since I was merely an itinerant, I was assigned non-core classes such as physical education, core French, music, as well as Social Studies. The time allotted to each is as follows:
Physical Education: Primary classes (K-5) = 90 minutes/week. Senior Classes = 120-150.
Core French: Primary classes = 60 minutes/week. Senior classes = 90 minutes.
Music: Primary classes = 60 minutes/week. Senior classes = 90 minutes.
Social Studies: Primary classes = 90 minutes/week. Senior classes = 120 minutes.
It’s not particularly surprising that the time allotted to these classes paled in comparison to literacy, English Language Arts, and math. While I don’t have those numbers handy (remember, I was a lowly itinerant), I recall time spent on both literacy AND numeracy being at least 60 minutes per day. Now, keep in mind these numbers are from a timetable from 8 years ago and it has been 5 years since I’ve taught in an elementary school so perhaps things have changed (I’m assuming an elementary teacher can correct me if I’m wrong – Adam Williams, I’m looking at you). In the high school realm, on first glance, it appears as though the discrepancy between the value placed on courses evens out a little bit (see the list below).
When you dig deeper, however, the amount of time spent on ELA (‘readin/’ritin’) is potentially worrisome (note: I say this as a high school ELA teacher). You’re going to have a real tough time graduating from high school if you struggle to read/write which many of our disadvantaged/at-risk students do (many of whom don’t speak English as their first language). To make matters worse, the Sask Party’s failure to prioritize education has resulted in increased class sizes, fewer educational assistants (even though Premier Moe attempted to address this recently) and less learning resource time. Those that are struggling are going to have an even harder time getting the support they require. Next semester I have 30 students registered in my ELA 9 class and 32 students in my ELA A10 course (which includes two modified students enrolled in ELA 11). It goes without saying that these numbers are far too high and it makes both the teacher’s and student’s job much more difficult.
Next up. Our Indigenous students. Years could be spent discussing the litany of ways in which the system has failed them over the years. The fact that a wide achievement gap continues to exist between Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students is further evidence of this (something that government’s fail to point out when trumpeting the “good work being done to increase graduation rates”). Unfortunately, recent budget decisions make it unlikely that this gap will shrink anytime soon. The Sask Party’s canceling of the NORTEP program combined other budgetary decisions such as requiring guidance counselors and Indigenous advocates to also teach classes (thus limiting the amount of time they can provide support to students) have further diminished support for our Indigenous students. This, combined with the aforementioned emphasis on the 4 Rs is proof that the status-quo remains acceptable to those in power. Remember, the second premise highlighted in this week’s lecture was that “power sustains, protects and reproduces itself”.
While this post has largely been doom and gloom, all hope is not lost. Even though counselor time has been reduced, there has been an increase in programs available to at-risk students. Drumming groups, ACT, and GSAs can be found throughout schools in Saskatchewan. Cree is being taught at some community schools in Regina while Regina Public also hosts a feast and round dance each year. In addition, there has been an increased emphasis placed on Social Justice issues in the ELA curriculum (hopefully the senior Social Sciences curriculums which haven’t been updated since 1994 will follow suit). Also, this is my 12th year in Regina Public and I’ve had a female principal for 9 of those years. Good work is being done and some progress is legitimately being made.
All of this having been said, it is obvious that, while our schools are doing good work, more needs to be done (I haven’t even mentioned the digital divide but for the sake of time and space, I’ll save that one for one of my classmates). The fact that many Canadians believe there to be an “Indian Problem” shows just how far we still have to go and just how much work our education system has to do in an attempt to overturn decades of colonial attitudes.
People care. But whether the people that have the power to help make change truly possible care remains to be seen.
Status-quo. Rinse and repeat.