• Carmen Marie Fabio

Playing it safe

Our kids are expected to do well in school, to get good grades, participate, be kind to one another, etc. It’s all part of the master plan whose seed is implanted in kindergarten and fed throughout elementary and most of high school. By the time they make it to college, some kids may have grasped the notion of critical thinking and the fact that some, if not much, of what they learned in school was either outdated, biased, open to interpretation, or – in some cases – just plain wrong.

Seeing three kids through the public school system has given hubby and I a combined total of roughly 36 years’ experience in trying to comprehend the logic of some school board decisions.

We’ve butted heads over policy decisions that saw school libraries close, unilingual Anglophones teaching French immersion, and disruptive transfers of existing students to lesser populated – but geographically further – schools.

We’ve seen top-heavy administration and scandal-plagued shenanigans at the board level.

And to add a big fat cherry on the public education cake, we recently learned that school boards, initially blustering defiantly that they would not enforce Bill 21 that would ban teachers from wearing religious symbols on the job, now meekly complying. In the words of one school board chair, “Not following the law would be unconscionable.”

In the words of Charles Dickens, “The law is an ass.”

It’s not a question of the adherence to the now-law of being conscionable – rather, the law is being followed because it’s the ‘safe’ thing to do.

Safe as in every student gets a medal. No one fails. Sports activities are dumbed down so that nobody gets hurt. Everyone gets an ‘A’ for effort lest self-esteem be compromised.

Safe may be good at staving off legal action, keeping parents from complaining, and ensuring kids remain clean and dry throughout the day. But public schools should not be a risk-free vacuum.

Now is the time for the school boards to set an example by refusing to kowtow to draconian laws that set societal tolerance and acceptance on a negative trajectory.

The United Nations has recently expressed concerns about the law stating it is, “…likely to undermine the freedom of conscience, religion and equality of citizens.”

What a perfect teaching opportunity to explain to students why critical thinking is necessary and that sometimes it’s imperative to step outside the comfortable boundaries of ‘safety’ and into the realm of questioning, and challenging, the status quo.

Things don’t change for the better if our kids are not given the tools to flex their moral muscles.

Anything less would be unconscionable.