Teach our kids to compete, excel

The recent news, reported in the Red Deer Advocate, that Wolf Creek School Division may soon give students every second Friday off sent an alternating current of rage and despair through me.

The recent news, reported in the Red Deer Advocate, that Wolf Creek School Division may soon give students every second Friday off sent an alternating current of rage and despair through me.

As a working parent, as most women are these days, I rely on school as an advanced form of child care. Does that sound crass? It’s true.

What do working parents do when their children suddenly get fall break or a raft of professional development (PD) days? How professional are our teachers going to be after 72,000 PD days where myself and a thousand other parents had to scramble to find a caregiver/supervisor and our children slumber into a day of Nintendo DS, Wii or hanging out at the mall?

For the lucky few kids who managed to get on the registration list for the limited number of openings at the Youth Centre, there is something supervised to do that may even enrich them. The rest of the brats will have to make do while their parents check the clock, weedle Granny and Grandpa into helping out, trade with friends or just phone intermittently to check up on the latch-key kid.

According to the report, Wolf Creek superintendent Larry Jacobs supports both the cost saving and that it “gives our teacher time to collaborate with each other and to talk about new teaching strategies.”

What? I thought they were all teachers already!

Have we forgotten that we live in a competitive world? If not, have a boo at the following link about the coming future. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY

In this clip, future forecasts illustrate that the highly competitive, emerging societies of China and India will run over us like a Mack truck with their intellectual power — learned with a good old fashioned pencil and paper and lots of blood, sweat and tears — while our kids are entertained in class by clever illustrations on $5,000 SMART boards; coddled with movies when the substitute teacher is in, and encouraged not to compete with each other — just participate. That’s the most important thing.

The Woody Allen theory of life — 90 per cent of it is just about showing up. And now they won’t even have to show up every second Friday!

Despite the fiscal challenges, I’d say our entire school system, and perhaps our society, is losing sight of reality.

The reality is, as our Chinese-Canadian friends tell me, that in China classes have 60 students per class.

Children go to school all day until 4:30 p.m., come home and do homework until 7:30, whereupon they eat and go to bed to get up for another early day in class — six days a week. One day a week, they get four hours to do some physical activity with their family — swimming or such — then back to the books.

You’d think they’d rebel, but no! Because the reality is that in China and India, with a billion-person populations, if you ever dream of earning more than a dime or a dollar a day, you have to have a higher education. You’ll only get it if you are one of the best of the best.

Layabouts and those who are incapable are quickly sloughed off and ejected from the system.

It’s all about survival of the fittest — something we are failing to teach our overweight, under-educated, under-motivated, under-challenged next generation and hey — we are the ones who will be under the wheels of the Mack truck of Asian excellence! We will all suffer.

So I say this to Wolf Creek School Division, the parents, teachers and the community:

We have school facilities that our taxes have already bought and paid for. We have to raise capable and competitive children and we are not doing that.

Rather than emptying the school of kids every other Friday, fill those classes and gyms with children — challenge them with hands-on projects that are fun, educational and directed by parents, retirees or substitute teachers.

Instead of having the teachers “talk” about new learning strategies, let’s have them experiment — apply the strategies on test and control groups! (On my child? Yes — you’re already doing it with ‘new’ math where they’ve learned to sort into sets but can’t add 2+2 effectively.)

And let’s have results oriented competitions.

Let’s run them on the Fridays off and after school in the school. And all summer long.

Let’s have a LEGO First Club; a chess club; a debating club; a computer programming club; a school band; a space sciences course; a school community garden — and let’s tell these kids that we don’t want them to try, we want them to be the best. Ever. And compete.

Because if we don’t tell them that life is about survival of the fittest now, the rest of the world will simply squash them and us in the next decade.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.