So, what’s wrong with traditional values? That’s the question begging for an answer in response to the opposition facing a new traditional school, opening in September in British Columbia.
When a group of parents, disgruntled with an educational system that finds more students falling through the cracks with each passing year, decided they could institute a system which would emphasize a “back to basics approach”, the static which followed sent shock waves throughout the province.
Now that the Surrey School Board has approved the “traditional school” in response to a parental lobby, a back-to-basics push has spread to other areas. Consequently, the need for a revamping of the current educational system is overwhelmingly supported, not only by parents, but by teachers who find the idea of going to school “to teach” rather refreshing in these troubled times.
Traditional education includes an emphasis on academic subjects, letter grades, homework, regular tests, and increased discipline. The delegation of Surrey parents convinced the elected Surrey school board to give it a try.
The ink had hardly dried on the paper, before the B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Ray Worley declared that all teaching positions in the planned new school were “in dispute” – a labour-relations tactic that bars teachers from applying. In essence, the new school was declared “hot”. Stay away of face disciplinary action, teachers were told.
And just what created all this fuss? According to the Vancouver Sun, Surrey Teachers’ Association president Kelly Shields suggested “a small parents’ group that lobbied for the school is motivated by an intolerant right-wing agenda.” Shields has openly admitted she is concerned about who is behind the school and is worried about the possibility of an elitist school paid for by taxpayers.
However, a number of involved parents who do come from a Christian background, insist that the school will stick to an academic format and has no religious agenda.
Interestingly, John Pippus, so-chair of the parents’ council and atheist, states the school will welcome students of all races and all levels of ability, as required in the School Act.
Surrey school trustee, Robert Pickering blamed Kelly Shields for “inflaming the debate”. “I’m amazed at the opposition to this, and it’s only coming from one quarter – the union. These parents aren’t asking for anything more than choice”, Pickering said. “It’s absolutely illegal to teach any sort of religious doctrine in public schools, so there’s no way that can happen.”
Nonetheless, there is one significant factor which differentiates this school from others. Parents and teachers must agree to traditional teaching methods where classes are more structured, academics are stressed and students are more disciplined. Instruction in life skills will be left to parents. This method of education will eventually enable youngsters to make informed choices based on the ability to think for themselves.
And people are clamouring to join the ranks of the revised educational system. Already 240 families have signed their names to the waiting list for the September opening.
In the meantime the battle is heating up. According to Surrey school trustee Robert Pickering, “if the board’s plans are thwarted, trustees may apply for a court injunction against the union.”
However, despite the ban, a number of teachers remain interested and enthusiastic about the latest approach to modern learning. “To work in a school where discipline is the No. 1 priority would be very attractive to me,” claimed one Surrey teacher who preferred to remain anonymous.