Plenty to dis­cuss after long sum­mer

Truro Daily News - - OPINION -

It cre­ates a lot of mixed emo­tions, this back-to-school mo­ment.

For par­ents, there’s an in­evitable feel­ing of re­lief as stu­dent-aged off­spring pack up and head to class; in some cases, that’s ac­com­pa­nied by a spasm of sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety if the young­sters in ques­tion are start­ing school for the first time. In other house­holds, parental re­lief might be tem­pered by wist­ful no­tions of how sum­mer was or wasn’t ev­ery­thing that was hoped.

For stu­dents, the post-Labour-Day re­turn to school is likely to be greeted with a mix­ture of sad­ness, dread, ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion, as the mourn­ing of free­dom’s loss is lay­ered over thoughts of the new school year’s pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Ed­u­ca­tors, of course, al­ready have been in back-to-school mode for weeks, pre­par­ing class­rooms and les­son plans for the mass in­flux of stu­dents that for­mally sets the aca­demic cal­en­dar in mo­tion. And this year might prove to be a bit more chal­leng­ing than most, be­cause in ad­di­tion to the cour­ses aimed at ad­vanc­ing skills in pre­scribed sub­ject ar­eas, teach­ers also face the un­en­vi­able task of giv­ing con­text to what’s been go­ing on around the globe dur­ing the last two not-so-care­free months.

Let’s put it this way: if the world were given the wel­come back as­sign­ment that awaits many stu­dents — the in­evitable “What I did on my sum­mer va­ca­tion” es­say — the sum­mary line would nec­es­sar­ily state “a whole bunch of scary, dis­turb­ing, nasty, in­ex­pli­ca­bly self-de­struc­tive stuff.”

From the wild­fires of Western Canada to the hur­ri­cane-in­duced dev­as­ta­tion of the U.S. Gulf Coast to the mon­soon-flood car­nage in South Asia, and from the racist ug­li­ness of Char­lottesvill­e to the “Proud Boys” dis­rup­tion of Canada Day ac­tiv­i­ties in Hal­i­fax to the quickly es­ca­lat­ing nu­clear ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and North Korea, this sum­mer has given stu­dents and teach­ers much more than the tra­di­tional “three-R” cur­ricu­lum to dis­cuss, dis­sect and di­gest as the new school year be­gins.

All of which, of course, makes the process of ed­u­cat­ing young peo­ple a very tricky busi­ness. Stu­dents in the dig­i­tal age are bom­barded daily with im­agery, in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion which, on bal­ance, is prob­a­bly more likely to in­flame and dis­turb than to en­lighten.

Teach­ers aren’t tasked with merely im­part­ing the knowl­edge con­tained in text­books and other ap­proved ma­te­ri­als; they also must coun­ter­act the end­less waves of false ma­te­rial pre­sented ei­ther in er­ror or with ne­far­i­ous in­tent that has be­come an ever-larger part of the on­line in­for­ma­tion stream.

It be­comes harder for teach­ers to re­quire stu­dents to show their work when most of what passes for in­for­ma­tion on­line ex­ists with­out at­tri­bu­tion or cred­i­ble ref­er­ences or trace­able fac­tual ba­sis.

New chal­lenges emerge con­stantly, as so­ci­etal con­texts con­tinue to evolve. How has the process of teach­ing his­tory changed if the school in which it’s be­ing taught is con­sid­er­ing a name change be­cause the his­tor­i­cal fig­ure it memo­ri­al­izes is the sub­ject of pub­lic de­bate?

Ed­u­ca­tion in the 21st cen­tury is a mov­ing tar­get and the chal­lenges fac­ing both teach­ers and stu­dents are light years re­moved from the one-right-an­swer prob­lems posed in class­rooms just a gen­er­a­tion ago.

The task, how­ever, re­mains cru­cial. As has al­ways been the case, what hap­pens in the class­rooms of today will have a di­rect bear­ing on how our city and our coun­try and our world func­tion in years to come.

As this new school year be­gins, we wish teach­ers and stu­dents ev­ery pos­si­ble suc­cess. In par­tic­u­lar, we should all sup­port stu­dents in ev­ery way we can. The fu­ture be­longs to them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.