EDITORIAL: Speaking up merits praise
It may not have helped their curriculum grades, but students who staged walkouts at Earl Marriott and Lord Tweedsmuir secondaries last week deserve an A in the school of life.
Faced with the onset of a split timetable due to overcrowding of their schools – a move that is proving unpopular with students, parents and the teachers' union who point to complicated ramifications of such measures – they took the course of protest.
But. contrary to what some might have expected of a student protest, their actions weren't unfocused, unruly exercises in rowdyism.
At Marriott, students timed their walkout to create the least disruption to the school day, leaving classes at 2 p.m. At Tweedsmuir, a core group of 60 protesters showed the courage of their convictions by marching to Surrey-CloverdaleMLA Kevin Falcon's office, where they subsequently met with him and presented their case.
The students showed they were serious, respectful and articulate in the expression of legitimate concerns about their education. They were organized, disciplined and, in fact, exhibited a level of responsibility that would put some of their elders to shame.
And in the process, they learned some important life lessons.
Their very seriousness of purpose was rewarded – by being taken seriously. The students not only found the ear of school and school board administrators, they also won the undivided attention of other local politicians – including Liberal MLA Gordon Hogg, and NDP MLA Harry Bains who were present at the Marriott protest.
Adopting split schedules which stagger student usage of facilities through the school day is just one possible – and imperfect – solution harrassed administrators are considering as a means of accommodating exploding enrolment.
But the student protests brought to the fore the deeper underlying problem – that Surrey School District has not had any new capital funding from Victoria since 2005, and can't even afford to add new portables due to budget constraints.
In an era characterized too often by shrugging dismay, the students have learned that people not only have a right, but also an obligation, to stand up and be counted on a contentious issue.
They have also learned – as those who resisted the introduction of the HST learned – that sometimes it is not enough to pursue an issue through official channels.
The problems with Surrey schools did not crop up overnight, after all, and the politicians who met with the students were surely aware of them before.
Top marks to the students for discovering that direct action, and a media spotlight, are sometimes key elements in making our public servants sit up and take notice.
- Peace Arch News