By Russ Walsh
Abbotsford School District appears doggedly determined to impose on an unsuspecting public an initiative that research shows beyond any reasonable doubt is an unmitigated educational disaster. The research shows that Middle Schools reduce academic performance by 30% when compared to K-8 schools, increase rates of bullying, and increase dropout rates by 25% which, in the USA, costs the economy $16 billion annually in lost productivity. I was inspired by the article from one such Middle School study, called “Mayhem in the Middle: Why we should shift to K-8”. You read it right. Other Districts that currently have Middle Schools are clamouring to move to the K-8 system. Ironically, that's the system rural Abbotsford schools already have! Minus the 8. The article is a well-researched, well-referenced, must-read for anyone with whatsoever any concern for their children's welfare which should include Abbotsford School District as well.
From personal experience, having spent many years as a teacher - there is an aspect to this initiative to which the Abbotsford School District personnel appear oblivious. And that is the 'association' factor. Psychologically, humans emulate one another. That's why languages are common to groups of people that associate together. Children of English speakers speak English; children of Punjabi speakers speak Punjabi. Translating this to the Middle School debacle, removing the upper grades from elementary schools deprives the lower grades of role models to which they normally emulate. In the secondary schools in which I taught, the grade 9's and 10's were positively influenced by grade 11 and 12 students. Hey, they were taking courses like Chem 11, Biology 12. They were people to look up to. Like in a family, younger children tend to look up to older siblings and learn from them.
Another factor is behaviour. In my experience younger students are kept in line by the mere presence of older students, primarily because they don't want to seem immature in the older students' presence. The presence of older students tends to have a strong dampening effect on students in younger grades. They seek to be more like the older students and their behaviour as a result is adjusted accordingly. For obvious reasons the presence of younger, less mature students did not cause the older students to revert to primary student behavioural patterns. The emulation, the parroting of behavioural patterns is generally a one-way phenomenon.
During a challenging stint at teaching the Alternate Program in the Surrey School District, a very instructive, poignant thing happened with my students, in respect to the influence broad-age-ranged groups have on the younger, less mature ones. Students in any school district's Alternate Program are, by definition, quite disengaged, quite immature, and quite a challenge to teach. However, taken by a random fit of divine inspiration one day, I decided to pack all my students – 8 of them – to UBC for a field trip. A remarkable thing happened. We arrived on campus and as we mingled with the thousands of UBC students a visible transformation came over my students. They became instantly more mature. More poised. Much, much quieter. No hitting, punching, shouting, kicking or swearing, together with some other things that will forever remain in the proverbial 'Vegas'! The 'child' in them simply vanished. They 'blended in' like chameleons. And then I took them into the Faculty of Law building...!
The Law Faculty was filled with young Mike Ross's, Harvey Specter's and Rachel Zanes (Characters from the TV series Suits). My Alternate students were instantly inspired. They were like mice. They were awestruck. One of them – Shayna – actually went into Law and is now the personal assistant to BC's Chief Justice in the Court of Appeal - the highest court in the province, hearing appeals from the Supreme Court.
What does this have to do with Abbotsford's misguided Middle School plan? By separating students along rigidly defined, graded lines, we deprive them of the intrinsic benenefits of co-mingling with more mature, more advanced students. Children most certainly learn from adults, but it would be a serious blunder not to recognize the fact that children also learn from each other. Remove one age group from the mix and the learning dynamics change. And all the research shows that those dynamics change for the worse.
Aside from the direct issue at hand - Abbotsford's ill-advised decision to create Middle Schools just at a time when those with Middle Schools are reverting to K-8, one is left wondering just how competent is Abbotsford School District? Have they not done any research? One would think they must have done it. Why would anyone in their right mind not take the time to simply research the efficacy of tectonically shifting an entire school district, decimating and destroying a hundred years of rural school history in the process? We'll leave that question to a future article and the ballot box!
We are in an age where it has become very necessary to keep a watchful eye on School Districts and their schemes for remodelling our children's minds. What if Abbotsford decided, like many other school districts have already done, that if a male student simply pronounced that he 'feels like a girl', he can use the girls' showers? The girls washrooms? The girls' changing rooms? With whatsoever no requirement that the male student, having XY chromosomes, first demonstrate that he now, magically, had XX chromosomes. Until science comes up with a method of interchanging male and female chromosomal structure, XX for female; XY for males, it is impossible to change one's sex, irrespective of the propaganda. The point here is that many school districts have run amok. They've seriously lost the plot and perhaps their collective minds. Just as the fact that the XX and XY chromosome barrier strikes a death knell to any form of sex change, the fact that the Middle School concept is demonstrably a disastrous failure, as school districts continent-wide are abandoning it! It appears to have no effect on school districts intent on ramming these initiatives down an unsuspecting public's throats. Just watch what happens in the coming weeks when Abbotsford School District is presented with Middle School facts. My bet is that they will ignore those facts, obfuscate, limit debate, terminate debate, denigrate the presenter and generally attempt to manipulate any meeting at which these facts are presented. For school districts, this kind of disconnect is called SOP, Standard Operating Procedure! They actually have manuals on how to do this sort of thing. I've seen them.
About the Author - John Walsh has been a Bradner resident since the 1970's. He is a blueberry farmer, former teacher, Candidate for the BC Reform Party and entrepreneur - cablevision owner (Pioneer Cablevision – Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs) satellite television pioneer, radio studio owner (Pat Burns Hotline). His father, John Walsh, was the former Superintendent of Policy and Legislation as well as Assistant Deputy Minister of Education for the BC Government.
All four of John Russell Walsh's children attended Bradner Elementary, and he currently has three Grandchildren attending Bradner Elementary, the oldest is in Grade 5 - and is being slated by the Abbotsford's 'Long Term Facility Plan', to enter Middle School in September 2016, forcing his daughter, Heather Walsh, to choose between the rural community school and the withdraw of her three children to a neighbouring School District along with many many other families from six schools - Bradner, Mt Lehman, Ross, Aberdeen, Barrowtown and Upper Sumas Elementary's.
Help the Rural Community Schools STAY Open!
Join the Facebook group Save our K-7 Schools.
Please send LETTERS from yourselves, businesses or whomever from all of the communities affected! (the more letters the better) contact info below and spread the word about the meetings, POST SIGNS, lets get all demographics there from the all communities attending - the MEETINGS are:
Tuesday, January 19th, 7pm at Upper Sumas Elementary
Thursday, January 21st, 7pm at Mt. Lehman Elementary
Tuesday, January 26th, 7pm at Aberdeen Elementary
Tentative - Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016, consideration (decision) of the reconfiguration at their regular meeting at the DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION/SCHOOL BOARD OFFICE - 2790 Tims St, Abbotsford, BC V2T 4M7
Please send all correspondence and letters to:
Trustee, Kevin Godden, Superintendent’s assistant: Corissa_Stgeorge@sd34.bc.ca
Abbotsford School District Contacts can be found here.
Thank-you in advance for your support!
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