There has been a lot of talk about the current structure of publicly funded boards of education in Ontario recently. I have no energy to go over the troubles that trustees in my board and the TDSB have been involved with recently and the challenge that their roles have faced. I have no energy to address the debate that wages about super boards or smaller boards, or pre or post amalgamation. I know the question about publicly funded Catholic school boards is always a sensitive one and I know that there are a lot of stats and arguments on both sides of that debate, that all make sense to some people. The question I have wrestled with is not what’s the difference in the Catholic boards: I know lots of those. I have spent a lot of time over the past few years looking at how we can use what is different about our schools to make a positive learning experience for our students.
I have been working through this and it really took me looking at something that has been around since the beginning of this century to get a clear answer. The Catholic Graduate Expectations are truly superior when it comes to this question. They serve as amazing guidelines for not only a strong Catholic upbringing but sincerely a fine 21C education. These goals are an amazing articulation of what any 21C School should be looking to do. As Catholic schools, we are able to draw on our faith and Gospel lessons to add a foundation to our education. That foundation is articulated in the Catholic Graduate Expectations. I encourage any teacher, (Catholic or otherwise) to look to these expectations and see the value that is contained within them. They are by no means soft or ambiguous, which is what many people associate with faith conversations. They are consistent and the part that I like most is that they are ACTIVE. They do not ask for blind faith or to have someone wait patiently for a better world to be delivered to them.
Consider a reflection on the Collaborative Contributor:
Or possibly the Responsible Citizen:
These are only 2 of the 7 CGEs (video reflections for the rest are found at the bottom of this post), but they speak to the active and participatory nature of these amazing expectations. We are blessed in Catholic education to have these as an integral part of our learning but also to have the context in which to deliver them. Do I think our system is better than the other public board? No. Do I think our system works to serve Catholics and (in a secondary setting) non Catholics alike? Absolutely! And perhaps that is the best way to answer critics who say that it is high time to get rid of publicly funded Catholic education. I mean, I can go into great detail about the educational gains or our learning and the success of our schools in comparison to provincial standards, but I think the best argument is to say, if this is working, then why take it away. I mean all the people that are currently being served by the publicly funded school boards across the province will still need an education, so why change it up just to achieve a level of standardization?
Different models work for all different people and this is another option. I would welcome discussions that look to explore different ways of organizing schools and more importantly, different ways to approach learning, but it is far too simple to say that as long as it is the same for everyone, it is better. In fact, if a 17 year teaching career has taught me anything, it is that same very rarely means better; it just means same.
Let’s not try to make our schools worse in an effort to make them standard. Let’s instead look at amazing things like the Catholic Graduate Expectations as models for more to adopt.