During the first week of May 2015, Ontario parents of pre-teen children organized a protest against the Ontario government’s sex-education curriculum. One public school in Toronto reported an absenteeism rate of 90% on the first day of the parents’ protest. These protests help shed some light on a larger issue: the arrogance of government officials who assume infallibility in their role as nanny to citizens’ children.
Take the whole-word recognition method of reading, developed by American theorist John Dewey. This is a prime example of government’s assumed infallibility in education, dismissing the philosophers who originally developed written script where distinctive sounds correspond to individual letters. The book entitled Why Johnny Can’t Read and its sequel Why Johnny Still Can’t Read exposed the failure of Dewey’s reading method. While some school districts allow teachers to teach reading using phonics, Dewey’s reading method is still being taught in American and Canadian public schools. State education is based on coercion, beginning with compulsory school attendance, followed by all children being taught using a single method of instruction.
Pediatric physician and professor at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Mel Levine, authored a book entitled A Mind At a Time based on research involving several hundred children. CAT scans of their brains revealed unique and distinctive brain structures as unique as fingerprints and DNA, and also that each child processed information in its own distinctive way. The state’s method of instruction may only be suitable for a minority of children, which may help explain why only about 20% of children are regarded as high achievers according to the classical bell curve for academic results.
A visit to overseas schools revealed shortcomings in the instruction methods of North American schools. In the USA, government departments of education have introduced a new compulsory method of calculation that produces the exact same answers as the old method. When children in a South Korean school had completed a math assignment, the teacher instructed them to solve the same problem using a different method of calculation. The approach recognized and affirmed the existence of multiple methods of solving mathematical equations and recognized that different children were more adept at using different problem solving methods.
The sex-ed program developed by Ontario education officials caused outrage among parents who subsequently connected with each other through social media to protest the new curriculum. Social connection now enables parents to explore numerous other areas where government schooling may be short-changing their children, such as the ineffective method of reading instruction that is believed to lead to dyslexia in some children. Protesting parents may expand their discussion to examine the ongoing issue of school bullying and their children’s general safety and emotional well-being in the contemporary government-run school environment.
Despite short-term gains, government policies and programs often achieve the opposite of their original intention over the long term. In this case, a percentage of protesting parents may opt to remove their children from government schools. Social media discussions could result in the formation of parents’ home-schooling support networks that might seek support and guidance from existing home-schooling associations. As of 2010, some two million children across North America had been successfully home-schooled in learner-paced environments that sustained children’s joy of learning and respected each child’s unique learning style.
The information age has provided ordinary citizens with access to a wide range of educational options that are available through CDs, DVDs and downloads. Computer games are a big industry that attracts large numbers of customer-players. While a majority of computer games involve violence, some entertain players by challenging them to earn points by solving successive problems. Other educational programs are presented as documentaries. Prior to the protest against Ontario’s government sex-ed curriculum, very few of the protesting parents were aware of the wide range of easily available educational programs. Now they know, and knowledge is power.
* Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.