Educators As a Co-Parent?

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2013

The story of Ben Levin underscores why we need to keep curriculum as simple as possible.

Levin is the 61-year-old former deputy education minister for both Ontario and Manitoba who is facing seven counts of child exploitation, including charges of possessing, distributing and making child pornography, and agreeing to or arranging for a sexual offence against a child under 16. His lawyer says he plans to “vigorously defend” the charges.

Just days before the charges were announced I read an essay by Levin in the Literary Review of Canada about improving the education system.

While there has been much ado about Levin’s potential involvement in Ontario’s controversial and subsequently abandoned sex-ed policies, there was none of that in the essay.

But one narrative in the essay underscored how some educators think they should be involved in aspects of a child’s life traditionally outside the core domain of teaching. Levin essentially argues for the expansion of the education system into realms that were once the sole domain of parents:

“For example, students work with an environmental organization to extend their knowledge and engage in public action on local issues. Or a partnership with a food co-op and an adult education program creates engagement for poor families around both literacy and improved nutrition. Or a community centre uses local college students to provide tutoring as part of an after-school program.”

This is nonsense. If parents want their kids to volunteer at a food co-op after school or on weekends, then the parents will take them there. Levin clearly believes in the educator as co-parent. This is particularly alarming given the unproven charges he’s now facing.

But here’s an interesting little hiccup that compounds the troubles that could result from this expansion of the educator’s role.

Levin writes that bringing in all these people to co-parent your kids “can be made more difficult by various rules with good intentions but sometimes bad consequences, such as the requirement that all adults working with students must undergo criminal record checks.”

Well, the “bad” consequences of these background checks are convicted criminals can’t just waltz in and do stuff to your kids. They’re there for a reason.

That someone high up in the education system — let alone someone facing such charges — thinks background checks are unfortunate even though it bars schools from having convicts take kids to local food co-ops, we have ourselves a crisis in our philosophy of education.

The solution? Education needs to go back to basics. Remove all these irrelevant side issues — the social justice campaigns, the overreaching sex-ed programs, all the co-parenting nonsense.

Here’s a novel ideal: Teach them. Hold them to a high academic standard and teach them subjects. Expect a lot out of them. Give them homework. Make them do tests. Fail them if a fail is warranted. It’s worked for years.

No one in the education system seems to talk about excellence in learning anymore. Or about good teachers in the classroom teaching subjects well.

Education has become like government in general. It’s just like how politicians are too obsessed with making safe-injection sites or giving the vote to non-residents to realize that basic infrastructure is crumbling around them. Focus on the basics!

If you focus on that, there are just fewer opportunities for abusers to do bad things to kids. Our education priorities should not be to hand your kids over to criminals so they can take them to a food co-op.