Emily Burke on The Education System

I was a double cohort kid–a guinea pig–sent through the Ontario education system on untested curriculum and shipped off to university a year younger than those who came before me. Growing up in the ’90s, I also enjoyed the occasional unexpected holiday when unionized teachers were required to take mandatory unpaid vacation days, and even lengthier school vacations during the (many) teacher’s strikes.

Teachers were fed up. They were vocal about it in the classroom and I drank it all in. Educational turmoil shaped me and informed my politics.

How will the next generation manage? The distraction of iPhones. The rising number of teen suicides. ADHD. With political unrest and economic decline, it’s more important than ever to invest in our youth.

Emily Burke is a writer and journalist living in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in The Grid, Toronto Life, Maclean’s, OpenFile and BlogTO. She loves dogs, ballet and cheese, but not necessarily in that order. Follow her @emilyburke

1. Sir Ken Robinson on Changing Education Paradigms

The education system needs a total overhaul, says Sir Ken Robinson. Our current model was conceived during the Enlightenment. No wonder most kids don’t fit the mould. In this speech, which is set to an engaging animated video, Robinson debunks what he calls the myth of the ADHD epidemic and argues collaboration and creativity are key for a more effective education system.

2. In praise of Anti-Bullying Legislation

Until recently, any student in Ontario attempting suicide after being bullied would subsequently face two unappealing options: Switch schools, which is difficult for any teenager, or go back to sharing hallways and classrooms with their bullies. But after an alarming number of teen suicides, Dalton McGuinty’s anti-bullying bill stipulates that bullies can be expelled. “Bullied students will no longer be the ones who have to transfer schools; instead it’s the tormenter who will have to go,” says writer Kelly McPharland.

3. Who killed Canada’s Education Advantage?

Canadian education, particularly in Ontario, went from model student to class clown over the course of the 1990’s, argues Roger Martin. Investing in education now means prosperity later, especially with the rise of the knowledge economy leading into the 21st century. Between the reforms of politicians Mike Harris, Paul Martin and Bob Rae, there’s a lot of damage we have yet to undo.

4. At Top Public Schools, the Arts Replace Recess

Who needs recess when you could be painting murals and building mini rollercoasters? Though many studies show that plenty of kids perform better in class when they’ve had a bit of a break and some fresh air, a growing number of top public schools in New York City are using recess time to instead squeeze an extra 20 minutes of artistic and creative pursuit into the school day.

5. iPads are in, Cursive is out (and other education trends)

Not only can iPads help kids learn grammar and the alphabet, they may be therapeutic for kids with autism and physical disabilities. And in the wonderful world of social media, an English professor is using hashtags to track student Twitter conversations about Shakespeare. He monitors their level of engagement in the text while also teaching them about brevity. Shakespeare in 140 characters!