LETTER: Questioning importance of class sizes

Regardless of what the courts say, I believe it common sense that the ability to determine class size be a management responsibility.

The call from teachers in the current labour dispute that class size should be a teacher factor in contracts is nothing but a grab for leverage to maintain jobs for teachers  when enrollments, upon which funding is largely based, are dropping.

Regardless of what the courts say, I believe it common sense that the ability to determine class size always be  a management responsibility which properly belongs to school boards.

While a small class size may seem nice to parents, it is not if it doubles the provincial salary budget of teachers when other demands on the public purse are just as pressing.

I have a picture of my Grade 6 class at Herbert Spencer Elementary School in  New Westminster.  The year was 1941. A count of this class size results in something over 40 students.

As I recall we had our fair share of slower learners who would probably be called “special education” now. And we had some in the middle and several very bright kids.

In this class there are some who became doctors, several lawyers, scientists, athletes and a politician or two (who were probably also lawyers). I have often been accused of mispronouncing that by calling them “liars.” One became a senator but he seems to have been absent when the picture was taken.

Once I was interviewing a candidate for a fairly senior position.  He had a doctorate in education.  On reviewing his dissertation I realized that after all the pages and pages of data and argument his thesis seemed to be that “smart kids get good marks.”

Another way of putting it might be that regardless of what you do to the education system the bright kids will get by. The more you water down the content in the interests of socialization (i.e moving kids ahead in grade no matter how poor their marks) learning by absorption, the less the average kids will take away in real learning.

And I believe it is the same now as it was when we old crocks were in school: it takes study, self-discipline and hard work for most of us to do well in school, not our social popularity or what passes now  as knowledge that somehow our kids are expected to get by absorption.

Perhaps by  sleeping with a text book? Perhaps no matter what they do now many graduates will leave the schools unable to calculate a percentage or submit a grammatical and properly spelled  employment letter.

Or even worse, unable to meet the requirements of university or technological training. In many ways I am glad that my own kids are long past their school days and approaching or in retirement and that there are other options for their grandchildren: independent schools, home schooling, distant education and yes, perhaps a revitalized public school system.

Perhaps, in other words, the teacher has less learning impact than hard work, motivation and the brains with which a kid is blessed. Perhaps we need a viable tool to measure teachers’ performance in how well they do their job.


M.A. Rhodes

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