Message to TDSB’s Grove School — Holistic education is “NOT” indoctrination

Click on image for SNN video on TDSB Grove School Protest

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).

18 Comments on “Message to TDSB’s Grove School — Holistic education is “NOT” indoctrination

  1. I don’t think that this particular alternative school in the TDSB is any different than others schools that look to indoctrinate students. Indoctrination towards one-side of an issue, Climate Change and Green “anything” being a prime example within schools in the public system is the norm these days rather than the exception. Look at the money wasted by the McGuinty government making sure that every school had a copy of Inconvenient Truth. We also know too well how the system likes to spin those left-leaning ideals, without balancing it off with the other side of the coin.

    I have an example to post here to illustrate how even at the University level indoctrination rather than learning anything close to the basics seems to be the goal.


  2. thank you thank you thank you … If you are willing, may I suggest that you send your post to the “media” … at least Sun News.


  3. WCT — Yes, I have already e-mailed SNN on this and got a reply.


  4. Catherine — This post has nothing to do with alternative schools or even holistic education. Like you, I am in favour of parent choice. What I am against is indoctrination and arts schools and other types of alternative schools do not brainwash — although some would argue that religious schools do.

    What would have been okay in this situation is if the teacher and parents had said something to the effect: “We are protesting today but later in the week the children will debate the other side of the issue. Plus they will do projects about both the pros and cons of fossil fuels and different forms of energy, including green sources.

    No, this issue is about truth. One of the little girls, cute as a button, said the pipeline was illegal. That is the kind of indoctrination I am talking about.

    So, I am simply giving voice to that other side of this issue since, besides SNN, no other mainstream media has picked up on this.

    Others can take on other issues because as you say, there are lots of them.

    In other words, rather get into other examples of indocrination, let’s not change the subject. Rather, let’s stick to the topic of this particular situation.


  5. Catherine — I just reread my reply to your comment and my apologies, because it sounds angry. I didn’t mean it to sound that way. That’s the problem sometimes with words.


  6. Catherine is having problems getting into this wordpress blog. Why I am not sure but the new security sign in is causing a lot of headaches. Anyway, the example of indocrination she was speaking about had to do with an enviro course at Univ. of Western Ontario. The prof gave fourth year students a list of topics and all were biased in some way. I’ll try to write about the issue at a later date.

    I mean even I remember having profs who were biased but the extent of it now is getting ridiculous.


  7. it would seem there is s great deal of mind forming going on. my kids were never exposed to this sort of silly brainwashing for want of a better word. teach the kids how to read and write and do math and science without any particular political slant. it is not some teachers right to tell children the lies that are part of the so called green movement. we will need oil for our survival for at least another 100 years and beyond. there are no other practical sources of energy as of yet. all the windmills and solar panels will not plow a field or get food to the market. these sources have about a twenty five year life span and will require enormous amounts of energy from oil to be replaced. try making a solar panel without oil or steel without coal or oil. i hope someone told the little girl that pipelines are not illegal.


  8. Sandy – this story has everything to do with alternative schooling because THIS particular school IS an alternative school within the TDSB. Those parents and students DO have a choice, as do teachers who teach there.


  9. Catherine — So glad you got into this blog again. I have missed you and your different points of view.

    However, I should clarify that my point in this particular post is not about alternative schools as much as it is about kids not getting to hear and learn about both sides to a political issue. I would say the same thing even if it was a regular school. Parent choice does not make everything right. Sometimes parents are wrong, as I believe they are in this case.

    As Old White Guy says, pipelines are not illegal. And, wind turbines and solar will not provide the energy we need. Yet, that cute little girl is already convinced of both.

    However, one of the issues that really ticks me off is that these downtown Toronto folks think all of Ontario lives like them. So, the mother rides her bike and shares a van for emergencies. Well, like you, I live in a rural area plus I am older. Meaning, I couldn’t ride a bike everywhere like city folks can even if I wanted to. We need cars to get to the post office, to medical appointments and to shop. The closest hospital is 15 kms away as is my doctor (in a different direction).

    It is all about Toronto and, yes, they are primarily responsible for the McGuinty Liberals winning another Liberal government of destruction.


  10. Should anyone wonder how the Gateway Pipeline topic could be done fairly, think about this. Let’s say the children had the protest they had yesterday. That would be showing them how to protest in a democracy.

    However, the teacher and the parent might have not pre-determined what the children should think by saying something to the effect:

    “Well, later in the week, the children are going to do a project about the fossil fuel industry, how we need oil and gas and how we benefit. Then, after that there would be a debate on both sides of the issue, make spelling lists and write short descriptions of both positions. And/or, they could do art work by folding a sheet of cartridge paper in half (or make paper mache dioramas) showing examples of the pros and cons of each position. “

    That is balance and that is what eight and nine year old kids need to learn to understand alternative points of view. They would also see that sometimes issues are complex and not all hot or cold.


  11. In “my day” in school the teacher would have framed the issue/problem/teaching moment such that we came up with our own ideas, presented them and had a discussion. We were in groups or on our own. When I went to University I was “some what” prepared (couldn’t spell and am left handed but that’s another issue!!). I chose commerce and my father said: “You will go in a communist and come out a capitalist”. A wise man he was!

    Thanks for sending your post to SNN … I’m sure that they are impressed!


  12. Thanks WCT. Re your comment at 8:05pm.

    The difference in this incident is that eight year olds do not yet have the abstract skills to do the kind of research needed to take a side. So, they have to depend on the adults in their lives to explain things first — all sides to the issue. Which, from all appearances didn’t happen. But, the group work is another approach that would work too — including a debate — as long as there is a parent or teacher leader in each group. Or, even an older student. They’re still too young to lead themselves, at least topics such as “the pipeline’s negative affects on Indigenous peoples.” That was a leading statement if ever there was one.


  13. I understand exactly what you’re saying Sandy. I agree with it, however, because this particular school IS an alternative school tells me that a choice was made by parents to send their kids there. If that’s the case then the parents know exactly the kind of bias their kids are getting and are ok with it. Far be it from me to make choices for other parents, if they chose this for their kids it, the bias may be wrong in our eyes but it’s a choice those parents and kids will have to live with. IF on the other hand they chose this school not knowing the leanings of the teachings here….well, that’s another story all together. Parents need to be responsible for their own choices and as long as Toronto, Centre of the Universe that it is offers a variety of choice alternatives to choose from there’s not much we can do about it.

    I remember going toe-to-toe with a very vocal TDSB trustees years ago when it was discovered that students in the TDSB were getting their 40 hours of community service by attending anti-Harris protest rallies. That trustee thought that it WAS a community service much in the same way this teacher at Grove Community School does re: the pipeline. Oh, and that trustee later became the Education Minister.


  14. Catherine — Let’s assume the parents know what is going on in the school and still allow it to happen. IMO they don’t have the right to that choice if it adversely affects their children. That is called child abuse.

    I recall a situation in Manitoba a few years back when a mother indoctrinated her kids with Nazi symbols like the swastika. Scaring kids not to heat their homes or to buy computers made with fossil fuels is just as bad.


  15. The parents who make the choice they make from the variety they have to choose from don’t likely think it’s adversely affecting their kids though, because the parents themselves possess those same views.

    If that’s what they want for their kids, that’s their right but, if down the line it’s proven that they made the wrong choice it’s the parents who have to live with that.

    I think that the type of indoctrination going on at Newton goes on in non-alternative schools as well. No hearing too much of a rallying cry against it from parents these days.

    That does make me wonder how many parents have been co-opted in to the biases as well.


  16. Catherine — You wrote: “That does make me wonder how many parents have been co-opted in to the biases as well.” Agreed.


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