A salute to Education Week


If your job does not relate directly to the education system, or perhaps you are of a certain age and your children have already passed through the school system, you probably were not aware that last week was Education Week in Canada. Well, you’re not alone; we missed the boat on this one as well.

But the boat has not sailed. And it couldn’t, because the celebration of education should be a year round affair.

Given the changing nature of this most diverse country, which is still young and will continue to be so as the world keeps coming to Canada with generations of youth continuously replenishing our human resources stock. That means that somehow this increasingly diverse and multicultural country must be constantly at work building a harmonious and tolerant society where the world meets.

But if this Canadian world is to behave as if we are one, then there is no substitute for a public education system that holds the promise of being able to harmonize a society that embraces both religious and non-religious beliefs with manifold cultures that live, eat and sleep in diverse ways.

The public school system has been created for exactly the purposes just described. Therefore, the system was designed to address the need for building harmony and equality not just for academic purposes. The basic mission of the public system is to: provide universal access to free education; guarantee equal opportunity for all children; unify a diverse population; prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society; prepare people to become economically self-sufficient; improve social conditions.

According to Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin, “What’s unique about public education isn’t only the education part, it’s the ‘public.’ In public schools the medium really is the message; the classroom is the curriculum.” It is to nurture children regardless of religion, race, economic status or intelligence.

While at the same time, education has to do with knowledge that allows you to find your way through a complex world and make a living for your family, it’s not a matter of filling one’s head with facts, etc, but as Plutarch, the ancient Greek Philosopher, wrote, “… the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth.” It is, as a number of thinkers insist, to light a fire in the mind.

Given how the integrity of public communication has been heavily compromised, where finding the truth in a morass of falsehood is now a major task, education for critical thinking is needed more than ever.

Public education is beholden to no one but to the people. It is and has been the only and perfect vehicle to deliver a curriculum that leads to critical thinking, to racial and religious tolerance, and to a diverse population that must live and build together.