I began writing this post early this morning as a way of communicating to new Ontario premier, Kathleen Wynne, my hopes for a renewed conversation about the purpose and vision of education in this province. The entry took a little bit of a different turn in the writing. I hope that you will join me in “thinking out loud” about this place we call school!
It is unlikely that anyone coming within 50 feet of this weekend’s provincial leadership convention in Toronto got much sleep last night. For those who spent the better part of this past Friday inside the historic Maple Leaf Gardens, it will likely take a few days for the electricity that both surprised and delighted convention delegates to dissipate. Outside the Carlton Street cathedral, tens of thousands of vigilant protesters were both galvanized and warmed by a different sort of energy. Both experiences will, no doubt leave their mark on participants.
In the end, Ontario is waking up to the potential of a new reality under the vision of newly-minted Liberal leader—and, by default, premier—Kathleen Wynne. It’s a potential that, I believe, could change the face of education in this province.
But it’s a hope and sense of possibility that carries well beyond closing the ugly gap that has been opened up between teacher unions and the government. To deny that the gap exists and carry on as if everything is suddenly OK would be folly. Kathleen Wynne recognizes the need for a new process to deal with the ongoing reality of public sector labour negotiations, and I would be very surprised if she didn’t move immediately to ensure that conversations around that process took place quickly and very publicly.
But there is another conversation that needs to emerge just as quickly and just as publicly, and it turns around the question of purpose and vision for Ontario’s education system. I’m not calling for another Royal Commission. I still have full documents from the last two on my bookshelf and they are full of wonderful research, ideas and recommendations. But high level commissions and inquiries are unlikely to resonate with the general population, or are they likely to affect the deep transformations that we have the potential of realizing in the coming years.
Instead, Ms. Wynne has an opportunity to take the pulse of this province in a way that no other premier could at the beginning of their term. Through the use of social media, Web 2.0 tools and blog technology, it is possible for citizens to connect with the democratic process and its leadership (and vice versa) in ways that could be life-changing for students, educators, parents, and the tax-paying public.
Kathleen Wynne entered the political spotlight as someone who cared deeply about the cuts to education being made under former premier, Mike Harris. As a trustee and, later, as education minister, she became known as a bit of a policy junkie, but with a heart for quality schools. I think that’s a pretty good combination, and we need to leverage both of those passions in moving forward with the education agenda in this province.
We have a unique opportunity in the year 2013 to rezone that intersection where vision and policy meet so that it is no longer considered private property with limited access, but a bustling public square where opinions, ideas, dreams and passions can be brought together in a new type of dialogue about what we want for our education and schooling in this province.
Yes, the rather contentious relationship between the government and its teacher associations must be healed—quickly. But, as important as it is, labour peace can’t be seen as the final goal of the new Liberal government at Queen’s Park. No, in order to re-energize the conversation about education in this province, we need to engage in active and vibrant conversations, not about the system that we used to have but about the system that we could have.
So, I’m suggesting a type of blogging campaign designed to express the deepest hopes and dreams that Ontario students, parents, educators, and citizens have for their schools. In the weeks leading up to the recall of the provincial legislature, why not write an entry about the education system that you dream about, and what you would want to see on the policy table this spring?
And when you do, send me the link either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or as a comment to this post. I will collect the entries as they come in and include them here as links for your reference.
Let’s seize this moment in our history to speak clearly and confidently to our leaders about what is possible. It doesn’t matter that our perspectives might be out of sync with each other; it’s only important that we speak—and dream!