Yesterday and today the Sun New Network has been covering a mini-protest outside the Toronto Public Library in Parkdale by students, teachers and parents connected to a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) alternative “holistic” school called Grove Community School.
Above is a video with SNN’s David Menzies, as well as this one with Joe Warmington.
According to teacher Lee Hicks, the purpose for the “protest” was to allow the Grade 3 children to express their views about the “unfairness” of the B.C. Enbridge Gateway pipeline. As well, you will hear a parent expressing her view that both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Sun News are biased because they are pro-oil.
Hicks also said one of the main purposes for the school was to train children to become activists, particularly about the environment.Yet, interestingly, when I first checked out the website for the school, at least the one on the TDSB site, I did not find a single word, phrase or sentence about activism or the environment or that protests would be one-sided. However, later in the day I did. The school’s site is here.
On the TDSB main site it read that:
“Collaboration is also modeled through democratic decision-making. Teachers encourage all students to share their ideas, opinions and feelings,and to explore different points of view.”
Then, at the main website under Core Values it states that:
“We are committed to creating a school that challenges individual and systemic biases that cause inequality, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination.”
So how is teaching children about the “unfairness” of the proposed Gateway Pipeline project exploring different points of view? And, how is it that the parent in the video can consider the PM and SNN biased when the focus of the entire Grove protest theme is about bias — the school’s systematic bias?
Plus, as a former curriculum specialist, I would suggest it is pure hogwash for Hicks to suggest that the students chose the topics themselves — given how complex the issues were. Look, I have taught Grade 3. I have also tested and worked with Grade 3’s in my private practice.
Even the brightest eight and nine-year olds don’t choose such complex abstract concepts without the help of the adults in their lives — an idea that is consistent with developmental theory.
However, perhaps saddest of all, is that what happened yesterday is the antithesis of holistic education. For that you need to read about A.S. Neill’s Summerhill in the UK. True holistic education provides ample opportunities for freedom of expression, differences of opinions and freedom to learn, create and play.
Whereas yesterday, there was only brainwashing and indoctrination against a legitimate energy sector and a legitimately elected federal government which has to look out for the economic interests of the whole country, not just downtown Toronto.
In my opinion, then, the Grove Community School protest we witnessed on the Menzies video was a form of child abuse because children were being used as tools to represent their parents’ views — the opposite to what might have occurred had the children been presented with both sides of this issue.
Update 1 @ 8:30pm: I have updated the text because when I wrote the original post, the only website that was available was the main TDSB site with no indication of a school site. Yet, when I went back this evening, the link to the school site was not only there, but live. So, the minor revisions include information from the Core Values of the school.
Update 2 @ 10pm: I just did some research as to where Grove Community School is located and there is a certain amount of irony. Dufferin Grove includes the Dovercourt, Bloor and Ossington neighbourhood where I grew up. In fact, I attended the old Dewson Street Elementary School building (which was demolished and rebuilt in the mid 1960s) for a few years before my family moved to Quebec and then Ottawa where I attended high school.
Mind you, the demographics in Dufferin Grove would have been very different back in the 1950s. But I can certainly visualize the area. I remember two teachers’ names : Miss Moore in Grade 5 (who I didn’t like because she used a ruler across my knuckles in front of the whole class for asking the student in the desk next to me for help) and Mr. Nicholson in Grade 6 (who I liked very much because he encouraged me to excel which I did).