How community-based approaches can make education more "public"
Focusing on kids' needs at grassroots level gets results.
In the fourth instalment of a five-part series, Rick Salutin debates how the public education system is no longer truly public because it does not serve all Canadians equally, particularly new immigrants and aboriginal peoples. Salutin highlights the success of Pathways to Education, a program that originated in Toronto's Regent Park and expanded to cities nationwide, as one viable solution, among others. Ultimately, Salutin suggests that community-based approaches are more effective than far-reaching government programs out of touch with localized needs.
"From its 19th-century beginnings, public education here was a venture in equity - another way to say fairness. The public back then was mostly white and Protestant, with British or American roots. But the rich among them had their own private schools. Public schools arose to equalize access to schooling.
The public grew more complex through immigrant waves: German, Jewish, Italian, etc. They often arrived poor, without knowing English or "our" public values. The schools taught their kids those values along with the skills they needed to rise economically. As prosperity came, the values tended to follow. So public education was an exercise in assimilation, and it generally worked. Public schools created public citizens..."
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Saving public education: The series
It's called public education, but the "public" part has never been more under threat. Tighter budgets and growing demands mean changes are likely.
In a five-part series, writer Rick Salutin examines our public school system. Where is it succeeding and where does it fall short? What are the pitfalls — and possibilities — of mimicking trends elsewhere?
A grant from the Atkinson Charitable Foundation allowed Salutin to spend several months exploring these issues in Toronto, as well as travelling to Finland and Saskatchewan.
Posted: May 19, 2011
Public Values (PublicValues.ca) is a project of the Golden Lake Institute and the online publication StraightGoods.ca