As we all get used to the new reality of educating young people in Alabamberta during the era of the Edmonton Hillbillies (Let me tell ya a story ’bout a man named Ed), wise counsel for teachers preparing for the new term arrives in this morning’s mailbag.
One Skinny Dipper, a blogger from Ontario who sounds like a teacher to me, suggests notifying parents right from the get-go that all learning during the upcoming term may turn to such topics as sexual orientation, sexuality, religion or … God help us all! … evolution at any moment. (OK, I added the E-word myself, but I’m sure Skinny would approve.)
“Alberta teachers need to fight back by sending a permission form to the students’ parents and guardians that lasts for the whole school year,” writes Skinny.
A teacher could do this, Skinny suggests, by declaring “world studies” to be their classroom’s theme, explaining what that might mean and making parents and guardians agree on Day 1.
“Essentially, it is a 10 month permission form that the parents would need to sign,” he (or she) says. “It puts the onus on the parents to accept a whole-world concept of teaching and learning rather than a piecemeal approach of exclusive teaching and learning.”
Skinny notes that some Ontario schools do this now with permission forms for such commonplace activities as tours of nearby natural areas to study science. “This is much easier than sending permission forms every time a teacher wants to take his/her students offsite.”
This strikes me as sound advice for public school teachers. The problem, I’ll wager, will be principals, most of whom didn’t get where they are now by being bold.
I expect that the typical school principal, in Alberta as elsewhere, will counsel trying to fly under the radar, hoping against hope that one of the forbidden topics never comes up. Say, for example, what if someone asks, “How old is this rock?” (Recommended answer in the Hillbillies’ Alberta: “Very, very old.”)
The problem with that, of course, is that some kids ask the darndest questions, and others are sure to run home and tell their moms and dads how Teacher answered.
It’s going to come up. And it’s going to cause someone grief. Sooner or later, some bright spark of a kid who reads too much is going to ask: “Teach, what’s a ‘two-backed beast’?” (Suggested answer: “It’s just some metaphor that meant something to the author. These poets are always coming up with stuff like this. It’s impossible to know what he had in mind.” Thanks for that one, Mr. Kendrick!)
So why not do as Skinny suggests and sort them all out on the first day. Send the ones whose parents won’t co-operate down to the cafeteria for Cokes and deep-fried Twinkies. They won’t miss a thing.