I hadn't initially planned on blogging about the case of Mr. Lynden Dorval. In case you aren't familiar with the details, Dorval is an Edmonton high school physics teacher who was suspended by the Edmonton Public School Board for (horror of horrors) giving zeros to students. It seems story just keeps getting more interesting and I've been playing it over in my mind the past couple days. At any rate, it is an important issue and one that looks as if it won't drop out of the headlines too quickly. Because really, it shouldn't.
This issue deserves to be discussed and debated. A healthy education is a valuable thing in a democracy. I'm sure there are many school board officials that would prefer it be quietly swept under the rug. I also wonder where the Alberta Teachers Association is in all this? It seems to me they are little more than a political lobby group. Shouldn't they be defending this guy? After all, assuming he's spent his entire career in Edmonton, he's been paying them union dues all this time. Perhaps I should phone up the ATA and ask them. In all likelihood, I'll just get the standard line of "We are not at liberty to comment on this matter," or some or such nonsense.
I do think we have a serious problem here. Education is becoming divorced from reality. Its really one of the reasons I haven't pursued a Masters degree myself. I don't think the average person is all that interested in boring theory and really, do I want to spent a year writing an academic tome that in all likelihood will just sit collecting dust in a university library?
In the real world, I've encountered situations similar to Mr. Dorval's. No, I was never disciplined for them but I did find it frustrating. And it wasn't just in Alberta that I've encountered this.
Rather than fix issues and help students achieve a standard, why are education officials taking the easy way out by lowering standards? Attention, Edmonton Public School Board.....the real world doesn't function like this. You can produce all the academic tomes, journals, studies and peer-reviewed gobbley-gook you want, but you can't change reality. In the real world, there are standards and expectations. If you don't meet them, you fail. A simple concept, yet one not so easily grasped by education officials in Edmonton. I can only assume that these people were the slackers that barely made it through the system themselves. The ones that showed up for class and put some pride and effort into their work must have been the ones that went on to become engineers, doctors and skilled trades people.
One of the criticisms I heard a lot was that the education system doesn't prepare students for the real world. I don't see how this kind of garbage helps. Challenge them to meet their potential. Don't molly-coddle and dote on them. The real world certainly won't do that. There is a big difference between encouraging and supporting students and simply letting them "get by". At my work, if someone doesn't bother to show up or is too lazy to put in effort, they get fired. At my work, if people take short cuts or lack care or don't pay attention to what they are doing, people get killed. I don't think I'm over-blowing things here. Kids have to learn that deadlines and best effort are important things in life and school should ingrain this.
It's always amazed me that the simplest of concepts in life get forgotten or misunderstood once some people get that university degree or that big promotion. Or in the case of some principals, superintendents or school board officials, once they've been in a position of power for too long and surpassed their "best before" date.
With a little digging, I found the actual suspension letter written to Mr. Dorval by his superintendent. You can find it here. My favorite part was the bottom of the first page....
.....when clear practice expectations and guidelines, also based on accepted philosophical and pedagogical reasoning, have been authorized for mandatory implementation.....blah blah blah.
Pushing students through the system and not giving them the mark they earned, even if they do no work, is "based on accepted philosophical and pedagogical reasoning"? Are you kidding me? Who in their right mind accepts this nonsense? Thankfully, my son won't be attending any Edmonton school and have his mind and character polluted by this crap.
The superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools is a man by the name of Edgar Schmidt. Public officials are supposed to be accountable. Obviously, this is beyond you. Sir, you're a moron.
I also found a survey by this school board, examining all matter of things, from school services to how welcome parents felt in the school. The part that stuck out for me is found at the bottom of page 5 regarding how useful students in grades 10-12 (which are high school grades in Alberta) found their report card. According to the numbers, only 71% to 74% of students found their report information useful. No wonder, when you replace a "0" with some silly phrase like "unable to assess" or some such.
I could go on but I'm sure I've made my point, if only to call attention to this issue. Critical thinking skills, common sense and reality have left the building as far as education officials in Edmonton are concerned.
Thank God there are students out there who succeed despite the efforts of education officials to screw them up.
This young man gets it, and has begun a petition to support Mr. Dorval. Good on you, young man. Shake up the ossified idiots in our education system.