what do we stand for in the 21st century

Several hundred Yukon teachers, educational assistants, tutors and First Nation language instructors will gather next week at Porter Creek Secondary School.

Several hundred Yukon teachers, educational assistants, tutors and First Nation language instructors will gather next week at Porter Creek Secondary School. These professionals who serve the more than 5,000 kindergarten through Grade 12 students in our territory’s 28 schools will be attending their two-day biennial Yukon Teachers’ Association (YTA) Conference. They will have some 150 sessions to choose from over that time.

Many of the conference topics focus on ways to improve teaching skills or understanding new pedagogical approaches, like Building Numeracy Skills in Mathematics or Using Promethean Technology to Enhance C3 (Critical, Creative and Collaborative) Inquiry.

Still other sessions take a distinctly psychological approach to enhancing a teacher’s knowledge of student behaviours like Understanding the Teen Brain: a Construction Zone or Rest in a Restless World: Addressing Anxiety in Children and Youth.

Tamara Strijack, a registered clinical counsellor working on Vancouver Island, offers the following description for this latter presentation: “Our world is not an easy place to live. More and more children and adolescents are being affected in various ways reacting not only to the alarming world around them, but often to their own internal alarm. Understanding the roots of anxiety helps us to make sense of the child’s experience and informs how we respond as parents, teachers and caregivers. From a developmental perspective, the dynamics of alarm and attachment are inherent to anxiety and its related challenges: sleep problems, learning difficulties, attention deficits, aggression, depression to name a few.”

The YTA Conference has gathered all of these topics under the title What Do We Stand for in the 21st Century?

Conference organizers obviously could answer “teaching excellence,” but it seems much more is implied by their conference title. The sense of general anxiety pervading our society that can certainly be attributed in great part to the increasingly alarming world that Strijack refers to demands that relaying values and visions be part of a teacher’s basic approach to their task, no matter what subject they teach.

Professor Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia shared his own anxieties right off the bat at the annual Maddison lecture at the MacBride Museum last Wednesday night.

His talk, Who owns the Arctic?, began with his recounting of the dramatic changes he has seen occurring in the Arctic right now. The fact that by 2013, Byers believes, the Arctic will be seasonally ice free means it is being opened up to possible intensive resource exploitation, maritime traffic and, as a result, our attention.

Professor Byers posits reasons for it that are undisputable and frightening. He cited that in his lifetime there has been a 40 per cent increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a 30 per cent increase in ocean acidity and a 50 per cent reduction in sea ice. With the removal of multi-year sea ice a negative feedback loop has been set up. Ice, he noted reflected back 90 per cent of the sun’s energy but now the dark, open Arctic waters act like an energy-holding sponge further accelerating global warming. Byers puts it very bluntly, from his personal observations and the accumulating mountain of scientific data, to deny climate change is akin to denying gravity!

To fail to prepare the Yukon generation currently being schooled to face a world confronting not only climate change and all its implications but the consequences of our resource wasting profligacy, the glaring gap between rich and poor, and a myriad of other concerns is irresponsible. A head-in-the-sand posture on these is downright dangerous.

We need to know what we stand for and act decisively on our beliefs.

It would probably be worthwhile for the many candidates aspiring to public office in our October 11th territorial election to take Strijack’s session. The Yukon electorate has a lot to worry about. Blindly imagining that just more of the same policies or further abandoning our fate to market forces hoping somehow that these non-efforts will magically reverse the ominous trend lines casts our future to the wind.

We desperately need calm hands on the levers of power and leaders with a clear, positive vision of the future to lessen our collective anxiety. We also need educators to give our students the tools, vision and hope that they need to truly face tomorrow’s challenges.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read