Letters to the Editor

Letter: Grade 12 student considers her future

To the editor:

My name is Isabella Thomson, and I am a (or hopefully soon will be) a Grade 12 student attending Kelowna Secondary School. I wanted to ask a few questions about the teachers’ strike.

I guess my biggest question is: What will happen for high school students? Particularly Grade 12 students? I am fully aware that the government will provide $40 a day for children under 13, but what about the rest of the school-aged children who are in that awkward middle—between 14 and 17?

I understand this stipend is to cover childcare costs, and obviously middle and high school students are old enough to find their own daily arrangements, but I am referring to the compensation aspect of it—the ‘pacifier strategy’ being used here to keep parents at bay whilst the two parties keep doing whatever they are doing.

But what, may I ask, are you planning to do to keep teenagers ‘pacified?’

As I can assure you, most high school students right now are not very happy with the way things are going. I would like to know what you plan to do to compensate us for this confuddled start to our year? We only get three years in high school, and if one is, so to speak, taken advantage of, then where are we left?

I guess I am very upset at this because, like thousands of other Grade 12s across the province, I have planned my year according to my future goals, and have no room left for ‘adjustments.’ Maybe I am sounding like a selfish, whining teenager by saying this, but I have genuine concerns. So much of high school is spent telling us to plan our years according to, and to prepare for our future goals. Is this still of no importance? Shall I give you a personal example, an “exercise” in what you may be faced with should this year become anymore muddled than it already is?

I have had a passion for cooking since I was little. I used to read cookbooks as my bedtime stories, and watch Food Network as my Saturday morning cartoons. When I moved to the Okanagan two years ago, I was so excited to finally have the opportunity to study culinary arts in one the best food cultures in Canada. And then I discovered the Culinary Arts Dual Credit program offered through Okanagan College, which would allow me to start my program early, and have the tuition subsidized by the school district.

So, last year I got all of my paperwork done, and received my acceptance letters, and got everything in order so that I would be able to start the program in February. In participating in this program though, the only outstanding requirements that remain are that I complete two foods courses, and my English 12 in my first semester. But now, because of everything that has happened with the strike, I have some very big concerns that I won’t be able to do my program, or that it will have to be pushed back a semester which may mean I may longer be part of the subsidized program.

And this is only my story.

It is also within all of this kerfuffle that I am beginning to question what public education means to you. What it means to me. What it means to the 550,000ish students and their parents living in B.C. Have we forgotten the meanings of being a student, being a teacher?

Here’s a provincial exam-worthy question, in which I am anxious to hear your answers.

1. Please define ‘public education.’

A. A government-run business in which to assimilate younger minds into the mindset of the country.

B. A way of getting rid of the kids for six hours everyday.

C. A basic right which teaches children the necessary skills to be able to enter the world prepared, and be able to pursue higher knowledge; as well as gaining the encouragement to be an active citizen in our society.

D. Another 100 year old tradition/problem that no one knows what to do with, so it keeps getting put on the backburner.

I just wish there was someone who understood what public education is truly meant for. I have always taken my education seriously, and put my greatest effort into it, and in turn gained so much.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” said a very wise man with a history of resolving conflicts.

Your schools are raising the next world leaders, your succeeding politicians and changemakers. They are still young though, and impressionable to the world around them. And you need to be aware that we are certainly not learning anything about conflict resolution in this situation. We are learning that money is of greater value than our education. We are learning that a government’s power is set in stone, and has no will to budge. We are learning that compromise is so last century.

But maybe the answer is in the question.

Children can have a very interesting perspective on conflicts, you know. They see the world in a way that no one will ever understand. Maybe you need to be consulting the children you are affecting instead of your political advisers for solutions to this little situation.

Ultimately, it feels like there is just no surface at this point, only backsplash. It is like you are trying to solve world hunger, but forgetting about the breakfast program you wanted to start at your local elementary.

Instead of trying to determine a long tern agreement at this point, I think you need to come up with a short term agreement so that schools are running smoothly for this year, then giving you a longer period of time to truly discuss and compromise.

Some may look at my letter and say, “Oh, it’s just another kid taking the teachers’ side,” and I will not deny my support for the teachers, but if you take a moment to read between the lines you will see that I am a concerned (and sometimes opinionated) young women, who is exercising her right to freedom of speech, and her right to education.

Isabella Thomson,

Kelowna

 

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