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How to talk back to the teacher

A school wars veteran offers parents a guide to saving their child from the system


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 school—public or private—should 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 home schooling.
    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.
                                        -Joanne Hatton

 *Available from OQE-SAER Publications, 170 University Avenue West, Suite 12-218, Waterloo, Ont., N2L 3E9.
Alberta Report  October 12, 1998 page 43

See also:

  • The "Fix" That's Destroying Education In America

Have no illusions that the problems with America's education system are national ones. Once you read Tom DeWeese's article and know who's behind "The Fix", you'll come to the conclusion that you know also why  "The Fix" is destroying education in all developed nations.  In addition, you'll also know why the current push for sex-education is such a large part of it.

2001 02 10 (format changes)
2001 02 20 (added reference to The "Fix" That's Destroying Education In America)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)