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Students Lose When School Boards Push Woke Navel-Gazing Activities


If being woke was a competition, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) would be in serious contention for the top prize. From promoting critical race theory in the classroom to censoring anyone who challenges woke ideology, the WRDSB has turned being woke into a performance sport worth a gold medal.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the WRDSB is continuing its crusade to turn schools into indoctrination centres. Last month, the WRDSB quietly administered a survey to its Grades 4-12 students that included questions about race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Among other things, students were asked whether they’re “gender fluid, intersex, non-binary, trans or two-spirit.”

The 22-page survey also contained questions about “Satisfaction with Life,” which gave students the opportunity to respond to statements such as “So far I have gotten the important things I want in life,” and “If I could live my life over, I would have it the same way.” Keep in mind that the youngest students filling out this survey were only nine years old.

In essence, the survey asks students to delve deep into their personal feelings and experiences. Apparently, WRDSB believes that the board needs this type of information to properly educate students. WRDSB is far from the only school board to move in this direction. Other large school boards, such as the Toronto District School Board, recently administered a similar survey.

Of course, this leads to the obvious question of why school boards think they need this sort of information. What possible benefit do school administrators think they will get?

The answer is that these bizarre surveys are merely the latest manifestation of child-centred education. Eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau popularized this notion in his book, “Emile.” Rousseau had a romanticized view of human nature and believed that children were born innocent, and are corrupted when exposed to human institutions, such as schools.

Thus, if the focus is on the child, it becomes natural to make schools revolve around the wishes and desires of students. Conducting surveys about the personal feelings and identities of students becomes a way of diving deep in this direction. In this child-centred philosophy, it becomes important to focus inward.

However, this philosophy is seriously misguided, and it explains why we are seeing so many school boards descend into woke nonsense and administer surveys that are filled with inappropriate personal questions. It also explains why there is so little emphasis on ensuring that students learn how to read, write, and do basic math.

We see this play out in social studies classes where students are subjected to endless lessons about their own neighbourhoods, and they are told to focus on their personal experiences. Instead of exposing students to the outside world by ensuring they learn about key historical events that affected their country, read classic literature, and master the scientific method, teachers encourage students to engage in endless navel-gazing activities.

Sadly, this inward focus has led to the intellectual impoverishment of students, particularly those who come from disadvantaged homes. Students from wealthy families at least have the option of attending private schools or receiving extra help from private tutors. Those without these options are forced to rely on their local public schools. If those schools don’t properly ground them in the academic basics, these students will fall further behind their peers.

Thus, it makes far more sense for schools to have an outward focus. This means providing students with a content-rich curriculum, starting in grade 1. It also means ensuring that classrooms are safe and orderly and that teachers are clearly in charge. Doing lots of practice and memorization is also important to help students consolidate and retain newly learned content and to retain recently developed skills.

Obviously, teachers must take individual student needs into account. A cookie-cutter approach where everyone is taught exactly the same way is inappropriate. However, it is still important to ensure that all students acquire a baseline of knowledge and skills. This will only happen if students are in structured learning environments where knowledge acquisition is prioritized.

As we begin 2023, it would be great if school administrators resolved to move away from destructive woke ideology and embraced a content-rich approach to instruction.

Students need to look outward, not inward.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Michael Zwaagstra

Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and author of “A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning.”

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