January was cruel for Toronto public schools, teachers, students and parents. Putting aside the resignation of the Director for alleged plagiarism, everyone has suffered from the lack of leadership displayed by most of the adults in this sorry tale. Parents had to arrange care for their young sons and daughters with expected school closings, only to wake up and find their local elementary school was open after all. So no “snow day”! I could hear the cries of “Not fair!” emanating from households across the GTA as stressed working parents tried to stuff uncooperative youngsters into winter attire and get them out the door.
But it’s not for me to talk about the legal niceties of the strike versus anti-strike positions or of how parents and kids cope when school is not functioning. With three grown daughters—been there, done that. Rather, I think it’s time we all had a discussion on what we really want or expect our schools to deliver. Are all our elementary schools just providing glorified babysitting, with secondary schools being the first steps to job and/or career training? Or as Saint John Bosco envisioned all those years ago, are our schools to be places of “reason, religion and loving-kindness”? Are we more interested in school, the bricks and mortar institutions, or are we as a society committed to school as a place of education for our kids? Is it time to recall education’s original Latin root, educare, to lead out from within? Personally, I think the time is now.