• Carmen Marie Fabio


Shutterstock photo; Copyright: Thinglass

The school year is barely underway and I'm already off on a rant which is some kind of record, even for me. Before my son even stepped foot in the public school, we received paperwork after dropping off the $415 school fee cheque for 'free' education (a separate rant for a later date) with information about an upcoming career fair.

There, in the second paragraph, was the phrase, “Thanks to our diverse group of presenters, our students will be exposed to a wide variety of educational pathways and career opportunities that are available as they begin to make palns [sic] for the furture [sic].” Presumably, English teacher will not be among them.

I am, admittedly, a grammar extremist and have been accused of having ridiculously high standards. I make no apology for doing a job well, for having a good work ethic, and for instilling certain values in my kids. I don't believe in the notion that everyone is a winner or that we should celebrate mediocrity lest we risk hurting someone's feelings. What kind of Olympic Games would we have just watched if everyone won gold medals in every event?

I believe in working hard, playing fair, and learning from our mistakes. But I also believe that those who are left with the monumental responsibility of educating our children be held to high standards justifying everything from their community status to their paycheque which, incidentally, comes from our very pockets.

When I was a student, I was expected to learn my schoolwork, do my homework, and demonstrate my knowledge of the subject matter during exams. Today, my kids are allowed what’s called 'Memory Aids' in which they're permitted to write down as many formulas and equations on two sides of a piece of 8.5x11 bond paper to bring into math exams. Do the math (hah!) - if you write small enough, you can jot down an entire term's worth of work. It might reflect well on the school's 'high graduation rate' but ultimately does the students no favours.

I would have serious reservations about climbing into a car or onto an airplane designed by an engineer who couldn't pass a math exam without a cheat sheet. And by extension, I have misgivings about a public school system that, despite the wonderful invention of spell-checking software and what one has to assume is a basic education, sees fit to submit this document to thousands of students espousing their education standards. While typos never have a proper place, some appearances are decidedly more inappropriate than others.

I wasn't a great high school student but I did my best and, with the grace of some good teachers, flourished in both mathematics and English.

And though my second year of high school was interrupted with a family divorce and a move to another city, I did well enough to receive an award for achievement in English.

The text that accompanied the small medal read:

“Twenty-four centuries ago, the great Chinese philosopher and statesman, Confucius, when asked what he would undertake to do first were he called upon to rule a nation replied,

'To correct language... if language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant;

if what is said is not what is meant,

then what ought to be done remains undone;

if this remains undone,

morals and art will deteriorate;

if morals and art deteriorate,

justice goes astray;

if justice goes astray,

the people will stand about in helpless confusion.

Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said.

This matters above everything.'”

Post script: I received an email from the school board this week with information about my son’s ‘Busspass [sic].’


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