EDITORIAL: A ‘teachable’ moment in history

Nothing to lose when students strive to learn from real world issues

Surrey School District has joined other jurisdictions (including Vancouver) in permitting students to miss classes to attend the Vancouver Global Climate Strike today (Sept. 27). There seems to be every good reason to do so.

READ MORE: Surrey school district to allow students to miss class for global climate strike

Like it or not, climate change has emerged as one of the big issues of 2019, thanks to the eloquent activism of 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, which has struck a resonant chord with millions – both young and old – around the world.

In a refreshing change – for once – self-aggrandizing elderly politicians are neither determining the narrative or setting the agenda although, predictably, they, and those who share their rapidly hardening social/political arteries, are having a hard time with it.

But no matter where you stand politically, it’s a very ‘teachable’ moment in world history, and as Surrey superintendent Jordan Tinney said in a letter sent to parents Sept. 20, climate change and environmental issues are already deeply embedded in B.C.’s school’s curriculum.

It’s worth noting that Surrey school district has not created a blanket holiday for today, but has requested that children talk to their teachers about the climate strike, asking that parents formally request their children be excused from classes with the understanding that they have the opportunity to make up missed work or tests.

Even supposing – as cynical naysayers insist – that it’s a vast left-wing plot to allow indolent youth a chance to goof off (something that doesn’t, to this point, seem to be borne out by the protests of earnest and responsible young people around the globe) what’s the worst that will happen?

Some young people will have got out of the classroom into the real world, breathed some fresh air, and been forced to contemplate – even as, theoretically, they plotted to exploit a few hours of free time – the impact of what has rapidly turned into a global political movement.

What will students still sitting staring out of classroom windows while tuning out the ‘drone’ of teacher-speak – a phenomenon which has been going on, let’s face it, for as long as humans have had schools – get out of the day?

If our goal is to make the education of our children more relevant – aiming at mentoring adults who are better informed and more involved in society – we should not be limiting their opportunities to learn from real world issues.

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