Editorial: Students or sheep?

Is the Upper Canada District School Board educating sheep or future thinkers, leaders, and policy-makers?

After a student walkout at Glengarry District High School in late October, UCDSB Superintendent of Schools Tim Mills expressed his disappointment in students for voicing their opinions in a non-UCDSB-sanctioned way.

“We want our students to understand that we are here to support them in their efforts to become engaged and involved in a wide range of matters…,” Mills stated. “With this in mind, it is worth reminding our students and the general public that they can share their thoughts and opinions by completing the online Building for the Future survey, attending public meetings scheduled at various locations throughout our district, or by e-mail.”

For many who read Mills’ full statement, there may be a number of clear ironies. Mills did get one thing right, however. The school board should be encouraging students to become engaged in community matters and issues that affect them, their families, and their neighbours.

Schools are meant to teach students how to think for themselves, not how to regurgitate the thoughts and opinions of their teachers, principals, superintendents, or school board trustees. Unfortunately, it is this last part that seems to be causing some confusion for Mr. Mills.

The UCDSB is attempting to control any and all responses to its controversial proposal by limiting opportunities to be heard to a few impersonal and well-controlled avenues. Using these avenues often requires the permission of board administration itself.

The school board has released what feels like a bombshell on the community and, for some reason, the UCDSB “powers that be” seem to expect that the recipients of this bombshell should respond only by following the strict and limited options laid out by the board in its original 188-page proposal.

Why are they surprised this is not happening?

Afghani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai did not follow the limited options with which she was presented. Martin Luther King did not follow limited options in his struggle to be heard. Nellie McClung ignored limited options.

Isn’t thinking for yourself the mandate of education?

Seaway District High School students walked out Tuesday, November 1. Will the UCDSB applaud their organized, thoughtful, and peaceful protest? Or will the UCDSB continue to tell students that only “approved channels” are acceptable when you disagree.

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