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Saturday, May 3, 2014

The travesty of the Toronto District School Board's alternative schools and other bad education developments

The father of one of my childhood best friends is a man named Murray Shukyn, who in Toronto in 1968 founded the oldest public alternative secondary school in North America, SEED.

The original concept behind alternative schools was admirable. There are students who have great potential but don't have the disposition to fit into traditional education models.

Alternative schools are smaller, with a higher staff to student ratio than the other schools in the board, and as a consequence, cost more per student to operate. The extra cost was seen as a worthwhile benefit to prevent some students from abandoning their education. The goal was to provide an excellent education through alternative means and SEED, in its early days, did that.

But things have changed both for Toronto's public schools as a whole and for the alternative schools within the School Board.

With the advent of Marxist-influenced "critical pedagogy" that has permeated the education system, alternative schools proliferated and became training centers for radical activists. The TDSB's contemporary alternative schools now often provide students with a type of education that is effectively useless for anything but a sad future pursing unmarketable grievance studies.

The Toronto District School Board's new alternative schools are places where radicals can send their children to be immersed in their own ideologies by exploiting taxpayers who provide huge subsidies to them.

In other developments in local education, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, which is the largest teachers college in Canada, is eliminating its Bachelor's degree program, and will only admit students to its Master's Program.

I have had more than one university professor tell me, possibly unfairly but worth noting nonetheless, that a Master's degree is in essence the consolation prize for students not smart enough to pick up a PhD. At OISE, that quip does seem to have borne itself out. However in the case of other faculties, in many instances, I know that not to be the case.

But regardless, even if it reality it may not be true, the perception is that a Master's degree does convey an implication of significant knowledge. A new study has shown that almost a third of Canadian university graduates are functionally illiterate. The garbage taught at OISE as "critical pedagogy" and spread by its graduates in the TDSB's and other school boards' curriculum is the major contributor to that tragedy. And now with their advanced degrees in hand, for which OISE graduates require neither intelligence nor research skills, more politicized polemicists will be spreading OISE's poison in the schools.


Anonymous said...

My children were fortunate to have attended alternative schools in the TDSB throughout their pre-university education (1992-2009). The three schools were uniformly excellent and responsive to both parental concerns and student needs. Instructional programs were actually made interesting and were delivered by superb and caring teachers, some of whom had post-graduate degrees from OISE. My children excelled and have completed their degrees in the sciences, and two have gone on to graduate studies.

Thus I think your comments about both alternative schools and OISE are unfair over-generalizations.

Richard K said...

I would imagine that out of the three dozen or so alternative schools in Toronto, a couple of them are decent. But I also know that in most cases, the parents who send their kids there are quite happy with having their kids indoctrinated to their own sociopolitical way of thinking at the expense of the rest of the public. That happens in a disgraceful way at the TDSB's "The Student School" and many others.

Whether an anonymous commenter falls into that category or not is something I have no way of knowing.

I even know some OISE profs who aren't politicized idiots, although they're in the minority at that institution.

And I know some OISE grads who are excellent teachers. They told me there strategy was to keep their heads down while realizing what they were learning at OISE was at least 95% pure bullshit, and then ignore it when they got in the classroom.