June 5, 2014
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A cartoon appeared in the Québec City daily le Soleil a couple of weeks ago depicting a gangly young student on the basketball court attempting to make a basket. The basket was placed at waist level and the coach was saying, “We have an excellent success rate.”
There would be cries of outrage from students and parents alike if such a thing ever happened in high school sports. However, the title of the cartoon was “Department of Education Exams,” implying that it does happen in the classrooms.
One hundred years ago, the academic basket was placed at the standard height of three metres. It has been surreptitiously lowered at the rate of two centimetres per year so that it now sits only one metre from the ground. Educational bureaucrats and teachers unions point to the excellent success rate as evidence that public schools are still doing their job.
The change has been so gradual that it has escaped the notice of most parents. Yet students are now graduating from university with limited literacy skills and unable to do basic math without a calculator. Occasionally a copy of an old exam is circulated and we realize that one hundred years ago students who had completed Grade Eight had more genuinely useful academic skills than many university graduates today.
Some parents are supplementing the shortfall in the public education system themselves or by hiring private tutors or sending their children to commercial learning centres such as Kumon, Oxford or Sylvan. Others have withdrawn from the public system altogether, opting for home schooling or private schools. These children are the fortunate ones, employers will readily discern their abilities and advancement opportunities will open up before them.
What about those who succeed in hitting the one metre high basket of the public school system? They are the ones complaining that employers are unfair.