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Everyone deserves an education.... don't they?

The title/ subject for this blog entry has been rattling around my head for about a week. Actually, not rattling – more a roulette ball spinning on its every slowing, ever rickety wheel, waiting to land on the “WRITE THIS” slot: but I was having trouble. I couldn’t really figure out why, so I did what I often did when I experienced minor writer’s block – I turned to the internet!

Now, now, let’s not get crazy. It’s not what you think. I didn’t turn to “the Google” to steal ideas – I turned to it for definitions: it’s often what I did when I had a thesis writing block. I probably should have looked things up more considering that my thesis took me a decade to write (in comparison The Beatles released 12 studio albums, 13 extended plays (EPs) and 22 singles from 1962-1970 – thank you Wikipedia)

When I looked up the word “deserve” I found this:

Definition of Deserve – from Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary

Transitive Verb

to be worthy of : MERIT deserves another chance

Intransitive Verb

to be worthy, fit, or suitable for some reward or requital … have become recognized as they deserve.— T. S. Eliot

When I read that, I finally understood why I had nothing to write – it’s because I’ve been saying the wrong thing all of this time. For my entire career in education, I’ve always said/ heard/ understood that all young people “deserve” an education: that regardless of social economic status, living location, or family status etc. etc. everyone “deserves” the best education possible.

But maybe that is why our system is still so geared towards those who can navigate it and “do school well”; maybe that is why that there are kids who don’t seem to “be a good fit” for our very regulated public-schools – because we have been using the word “deserve” this entire time. Using that word, I think, inadvertently allows us to subconsciously, or, God forbid, consciously judge that some kids don’t “deserve” an awesome public education.

I’m going to trash that phrase in my vernacular and teach everyone to do the same. Instead of saying everyone “deserves” a great public education, I will now be saying every child “needs” one: especially from K-12 (I think post-secondary as well, like in many countries in Europe – but that’s another topic for another day). The statistics for chances of success post high school graduation vs. having no high school graduation are easily available on “the Google” – I won’t bore you with them here. Suffice to say the stats are starkly different; graduating high school greatly increases the chances that one can contribute as a citizen in this great Province and Country of ours compared to those who don’t graduate. We need to help kids get there. We have to get them to graduation and beyond.

To close, I’m going to call on the ghost of Surrey Superintendent’s past and utter the phrase used by Mr. Mike McKay which has driven my education vision these past 15 years:

Every child, every chance, every day….

THIS IS what I believe in. If I had started with this as a title, maybe I wouldn’t have had writers block. It’s much easier to write about stark truths rather than trying to figure out meanings to phrases that should never be uttered. Indeed, “every child, every chance, every day” is how we need to operate to reach everyone.

The reality is that well a rounded, fully encompassing education should not be a gift or a privilege to be earned; rather, it is a basic human right – like food, clothing, water and shelter – that needs to be given. The education system and, society as a whole, must ensure that every child: regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, family location, cognitive ability, gender, religious beliefs or status etc etc…– receives every chance to receive the best education possible, every single day.

Every child, every chance, every day: let’s “Make it so” (Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Starship Enterprise)

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