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OPINION: Back to school

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Gary Walker

Guest Opinion

Ah, back to school! Shivers down the spine! For stores — a shopping bonanza, which for some families is hard, or impossible. Others — the most needy, or naive — look forward to free babysitting.

Teachers wonder about the coming year. Many adults interact with only a few situations or persons a day. Not teachers. Many see the whole gamut of human emotion — happiness, to sadness to fear — every day.

It is not easy to be that flexible, especially in the higher grades, where many students are experts at hiding their true feelings.

Don't believe me? Try it. Never mind ‘talk the talk’ — ‘walk the walk’. Visit school for a few days.

For students, a time of anticipation, or fear. Do you still remember your first day of Grade 1? And more? We remember teachers — some good, some ‘mean,’ classmates — friends or bullies. Kindness or cruelty. Success or failure.

Failure? Many of us baby boomers thought that university was a necessity, if not a right. Technical learning and trades were for those who couldn’t cut it. Cut it at what?

Students whose talents weren’t reading, memorizing and strong verbal skills were considered out of the education loop. What a huge mistake and waste of talent. Have you tried to get a good carpenter, or plumber, or electrician today? Everywhere, technical and hands-on skills are in incredible demand. And expensive.

School really only has two jobs — to help young people find the gifts that they possess, in whatever area, and to encourage critical thinking. I love the arts — music, art in all its forms. I also enjoy some sports.

But faced with an accident, I would rather have an EMT (emergency medical technician) with me than a PhD.

Our legacy for the coming generations has to be more than an endless loop of ’60s and ’70s music.

University has its place for some, but the incredible changes happening in technology and global warming, loss of animal habitat, migration of entire peoples, as well as protecting the most precious resource of all — water — is the reality that all our children and grandchildren will have to live with.

Parents and guardians have to talk with young people about what they, not you, will be able to do to adapt to it. Your, and school’s job, is to develop thinkers and doers.

Some proposals for schools: That students be allowed to jump to the level that will be of most use to them. No more ‘doing time.’

Research has shown that teenagers need a great deal of sleep for their growth. Why don't some schools operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.? Or weekends? Not for all, but an option for students as well as teachers.

Also, that home repair, or some variation of it, depending on each student’s talents, be mandatory, and measured individually, according to each student's skills.

Lastly, for young peoples’ sake, as well as for all society, that to receive a high school diploma each student should have donated 100 hours of volunteer work with non-profit groups in the community.

We owe it to our children to see what real life is about; not imagine it through a video game.

Don't wish and hope for the best — it is a very poor strategy. Remember the old adage: As you sow, so shall you reap.

Best new school year ever to all.

Gary Walker is a resident of Charlottetown.

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