HOW TO GET THE RIGHT EDUCATION FOR YOUR CHILD
By Malkin Dare
OQE-SAER Publications, Waterloo, Ont, 147 pages, soft cover, $13.95
Its excessively plain title and homespun cover will not help sell
this little gem, but anyone with children in schoolpublic or privateshould definitely
crack it open. So too should all those professional educators ostensibly baffled by
the crescendoing criticism of their system.
Malkin Dare has written an easy-to-read and very funny (if at times
painfully close to the bone) guide to the jargon, pitfalls and inadequacies of education
as currently practised in most Canadian jurisdictions.
Mrs. Dare produces no startling new information on how children learn
or how schools operate. She repeats the research findings that anyone who has paid
attention for the past two decades has heard: Phonics beats whole language; direct whole
class instruction works and child-centred learning doesn't; standardized testing is
essential; and most current curriculum is pitifully inadequate.
The book shines in other ways, and partly because it is not an academic
treatment. The author walks you through the maddeningly, frustrating exercise of
fixing a problem at school. You start with the teacher (Mrs. Enigma), then approach
the principal (Mr. Political), proceed to the administrator (Dr. Hierarchy) and eventually
try the trustee (Ms. Caring). Since this course will almost always fail, says Mrs.
Dare, she then assesses the alternatives--which include paid tutors, switching schools, or
It's a quick read, with good references in every chapter for those who
want more detail. The appendices are packed with valuable information on reading,
child-centred learning, responses to the standard lines educators dish out to concerned
parents, and a list of materials (including prices and addresses) which parents can use to
help kids learn. The author uses clear, straightforward language and the book is
stamped with a "been there, done that" attitude.
And she has done her time in the school system. She attended
teachers' college in the late '60s, an experience she describes as a "waste of
time." She spent two frustrating years teaching in North York near Toronto, and
quit because she did not think students were learning much.
When her son (now 18) was in Grade 2, his teacher told her he would
probably fail because he couldn't read. So she bought a phonics book and taught him
to read after school. "If I could do that in six weeks, why couldn't they do it
in almost three years?" she queries. She later home-schooled her daughter for a
year, helped found the Organization for Quality Education (OQE), a group that lobbies for
changes in education, and now edits the OQE newsletter.
Pessimistic about the chances of changing the system, she believes the
answer is school choice (i.e., charters and alternatives). But only parental demand
will cause it to happen. Unfortunately, many potential rebel leaders are too busy
fixing their own children's problems. "Ultimately," Mrs. Dare says,
"you've got to ensure that your own child is saved."
She's right, of course. But if you read this book* and pass it on
to your child's teacher, and then to the principal, you can save your own child and maybe
help start the revolution as well.
*Available from OQE-SAER Publications, 170 University Avenue West, Suite 12-218,
Waterloo, Ont., N2L 3E9.
Alberta Report October 12, 1998 page 43