Graduating with distinction

Graduating with distinction If I were as cynical as some, I would accuse Brendan Kelly, principal of Porter Creek Secondary, of obfuscation and diversion, on account of him tying two unrelated issues together in an attempt to put a positive spin on somet

If I were as cynical as some, I would accuse Brendan Kelly, principal of Porter Creek Secondary, of obfuscation and diversion, on account of him tying two unrelated issues together in an attempt to put a positive spin on something not quite pleasant.

The Fraser Institute ranked schools on a quantifiable topic.

While Kelly’s statement regarding fatherhood and school family are certainly laudable - and representative of a significant portion of the educational effort in Yukon schools - it does not remove the explicit mandate, namely to educate kids and equip them with the skills needed in their futures.

Using test scores as a benchmark is very reasonable. And the argument they are but “snapshots in time,” an argument thrown into the discussion of school success from many different quarters, is not a valid one. All assessments of one’s competencies, in school and in life, are mere snapshots - the skills and/or the knowledge, which an individual can demonstrate in one specific moment. Sometimes these snapshots are mere tests or quizzes; mostly, in life after school, they are the product of one’s training and efforts.

That is why even Porter Creek kids, among many other activities, go to sporting competitions, are encouraged to try out for all sorts of events and opportunities and are being indoctrinated into writing their job applications with a view to make their impression in one or two paragraphs.

If one were to extend the attitude that, “Everybody has different things that affect their test scores. Most of them have other things that go on in their lives that affect it,” the delivery of goods and services in the Yukon would be greatly affected, because nobody asking for and/or paying for a service is much interested in “the other things,” and we do kids a disservice to let them think otherwise.

If Kelly does not like statistics because he doesn’t think that people are numbers, his detailed numbers just a few paragraphs into the piece prove differently.

As for his statement “when you’re dealing with education, you’re dealing with human beings,” well, talk about obfuscation. As if his administration were not driven by dry statistics, and as if there were any fields of activity out there that do not deal with human beings, directly or indirectly.

Naturally, the people from the Fraser Institute (a conservative think-tank, according to the reporter of the piece: information, which I fail to see the relevance of in this particular context) don’t get it. At PC, we “try to treat it as family. It’s not what some institute might say in Vancouver.” Well, truth told, they did not assess the school staff’s parenting skills, just students’ skills. Something measured in the context of test results; fair enough.

The Fraser Institute did nothing out of the ordinary, very much like the auditor general did some years back: measuring input versus output, and considering the mandate.

I do not have any problems with Kelly’s fatherhood aspirations. Substitute parenting is a reality in Canadian schools, as a matter of fact in schools almost anywhere. I would assume the effort that goes into “parenting” at schools has grown to alarming proportions, and this is quite possibly the reason for poor rankings. But please, do not try to defuse a valid critical statement by changing focus.

Yes, kids need to be fostered in school, and maybe it is on account of the vast amounts of “contact time” that are being spent on parenting that the academic scores are as low as they are. I am almost tempted to take a bet on this; that’s because of the shift in focus, a shift that has sneaked into the public education system without discussion or explicit consent, a shift that emphasizes the socializing aspect of schooling to the detriment of knowledge and skills, that this shift has, as an inevitable result, produced a lowering of academic scores.

It is reasonable to celebrate the “good feelings” of self-worth and accomplishment in students as a school success. I am sure that PC would rank very high in that category.

It is, however, equally reasonable to admit shortcomings in academic scoring. The former should not be used to “rectify” the latter.

As for the statement that “It’s not fair to let someone in Vancouver judge our students,” well, when it comes to performance, skills and knowledge, unfortunately, our kids will always be judged by someone from Vancouver (or Montreal, or Winnipeg, or É.)

One last thing: Dee Balsam, vice-chair of the PC school council, believes “We need a whole system that helps us do that (educate the kids).” This statement is followed by the reporter’s statement “That system is coming, she said.”

I am wondering what “system” this may be.

Name withheld by request