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Back to school with Doug Ford in power

Children boarding school bus. Photo: SouthernWI/Flickr

As I write this, I have a four-day-old daughter. Looking at her, I think about what I want her to learn. I want her to have the tools to stand up to bullies and to own her sexuality. I want her to be able to, for instance, analyze how the Trump government is using prejudice as an excuse to separate children from their families and, perhaps, draw parallels with the residential school system and hence point out the dangers of such a policy.    

We want an education that keeps our kids safe and helps them go into the world better than us, without bowing to the biases and prejudices we carry.

As we send our kids back to school, let's make sure our MPPs know that we do not support the politicization of our kids education. We support the people who are on the frontlines working to improve Ontario schools.

Here are some efforts we have been amplifying. Send us any others which you feel are important.

1. Fix our schools

There is currently a $15.9-billion backlog of repairs needed at Ontario schools. Click here for photos submitted by supporters of FixOurSchools.ca which show mould, caved-in ceilings, dead animals, and rust. These are not even the major repairs needed! The $100 million from the cap-and-trade programs which the Liberal government had dedicated to school infrastructure repairs was a much-needed drop in the bucket in terms of the investment needed in our schools. Fixourschools.ca has lists of the repair backlog by school and by riding. Find out if your MPP signed the pledge to fix our schools and follow up with them about the school repair backlogs in your community. Kids in Ontario deserve to have safe schools and cutting much-needed funding is irresponsible.

2. Sex-ed and snitch lines

The 2015 health and physical education curriculum was developed to address the real environment in schools. The curriculum is not a "how to" on sex as some parents and politicians argue. However, misrepresenting the curriculum was one of the issues Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives used to gain power. Now they are circumventing the school boards, some of which have been standing against the politicization of school curricula, and have developed a complaint line directly linked to the Ontario College of Teachers. Our kids' curricula should not be determined in this way and our teachers deserve our support. Visit Ford government's the new fortheparents page, and tell them what you think. Many have been posting funny posts, but also let your MPP know what you want as the initiative should be for everyone in Ontario. Also, we are not addressing the flawed school funding formula. Our schools need funding reform.

3. Real reconciliation

The Ford government was quick to act on the health and physical education curriculum because, according to them, parents were not "consulted enough in its development." However, one of their first acts was to end the consultation process to incorporate findings about residential schools into Ontario curricula. How dare the government unilaterally decide on what "reconciliation" means and deny our children education on what happened? Here is the Activist Toolkit's call to action about restarting the consultation. The structure for the curriculum proposed by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation about residential schools is available online here

We must support educators and allies who want to help our kids broaden what they know, above and beyond just pushing them to be more viable in the workforce one day. An education in science, math, technology can be broadening and amazing, but I am concerned about the wording of the newly announced "unprecedented consultation on education reform." Let's make sure our MPPs hear us about what we value about education.

Photo: SouthernWI/Flickr

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