Questions from Constituents #2
Updated: Oct 17, 2022
I've received versions of these two questions multiple times from different people who are not comfortable having them posted verbatim. I've re-written them to get the gist of their concern, along with my answers.
Update (Oct 17, 2022):
I have contacted the UGDSB and have been told that there is no specific policy that would prevent multi-night trips. In fact, the policy on school trips specifically mentions requirements for multi-night trips in Section 7.7. This seems to be an issue at a particular school, rather than something the board level.
I was informed through our school council that students would not be going on the Grade 8 trip this year as there is a new UGDSB board policy that limits trips to two days. This will impact many other trips, including high school trips, which are important developmental experiences that all students need access to. The change in policy has been described as an "equity" issue, but my concern is that kids who are economically privileged will still get to go to go on these trips because their parents will be able to afford to take them while others without those advantages won't. Students who could have gone on trips with their school, thanks to assistance from the principal's fund or parent council, will now lose that opportunity. What is your position on this issue? I absolutely support multi-night school trips as these are often something of a rite of passage for students and provide opportunities that students might not get at home. I remember going to camp in Grade 8; as a school we raised funds specifically so that students whose parents couldn't afford the trip could get help to do so. I see no reason why we can't continue to do what has worked for at least 30 years. I am quite concerned, although not particularly surprised, that this decision is being justified through the lens of "equity". My understanding is that this Critical Race Theory term refers to "equality of outcome", rather than equality of opportunity (this is not how the UGDSB defines it, however their definition is circular through the term "inclusive" and thus nonsensical). This ties directly to students not being able to afford the trip. Through the lens of "equity", it is better that no one be able to go on a trip than accept the possibility that one person might miss out, because the "outcomes" would be different. I want to return to operating according to "equality", that is everyone gets the same opportunities, and "community", which means we all work together, at the school level, to make sure those who are struggling get the help they need.
Climate anxiety is part of the growing mental health epidemic we are seeing in children and youth (here is an example). Outdoor education and physical activity have been show to help alleviate anxiety generally. I'm worried that my children are not getting enough of this at school despite having amazing teachers who take them outside to engage in with their local environment. How would support environmental education and work to reduce climate anxiety? I am very interested in the expansion of outdoor learning programs over the last few years. As a parent, I understand how hard it can be to find time to take your children outside on a daily basis, especially after school when you're trying to help with homework and get dinner on the table. Since they spend a large portion of their time at school, it only makes sense that they get daily exercise there. I want to review how the existing programs are working and expand them where appropriate. While I understand the importance of ecology and sustainability, I worry that by prioritising action when teaching students, we inadvertently make them feel personal responsibility for an issue that the most powerful governments and agencies in the world struggle to grapple with. Yes, there are things we all can do in our own lives to help our environment but when we concentrate on potentially apocalyptic, global-scale environmental problems, it creates a disconnect between action and outcome that is hard enough to conceptualise for adults, let alone children. There is also a lot of alarmism around climate change, whether warranted or not. For example, in the study you reference, students are specifically asked how much they're "worried" about climate change. This primes them to think about climate change in negative terms before they even consider their own feelings. Further, students are not asked what terms they would use to describe climate change, rather they are given a list of extremely negative terms (sad, helpless, anxious, afraid, guilty, etc.) which, again, primes them to think negatively. While we, as adults, are more emotionally prepared to deal with these questions, children are still discovering how they feel and what they think. Giving them information couched in negative language can cause anxiety in and of itself. If we're going to encourage immediate action, I'd like to see a focus on observable results. Let's teach children how to recognise environmental problems in their own lives that they can fix themselves. It could be as simple as cleaning up trash in the neighbourhood, to working on a garden, to recycling or up-cycling used products to reduce consumption. By showing students the difference they're making, even though it's small, we show them they can do good in the world and alleviate their anxiety. If we're going to talk about complex, global, environmental issues, we should focus on academics with as little ideology as possible. Let's educate students regarding the carbon cycle, supply chain logistics, fuel energy densities and battery chemistry, agricultural and waste management techniques, and so on, without calling on them to immediately address these complicated subjects. Once students have mastered the science behind our global systems and have also been instilled with the idea that they can make changes for the good, they will be ready to go out, as adults, and lead us to a sustainable future.