Monday, 2 April 2012

Dolores Umbridge, Jian Ghomeshi, and the Room of Requirement

Just days after Mercer’s visit to PCVS, Joan Green’s report on KPR’s accommodation review process was finally released, after an inexplicable month-long delay. You can link to it at the Peterborough Needs PCVS main page. To the bafflement of everyone involved, the report overlooked many of the key problems with KPR’s distorted decision-making process.

Some speculated that Education Minister Laurel Broten had deliberately delayed the release of the document, dated February 17th, until right before provincial budget day (Tuesday, March 27th) so that she wouldn’t be available to respond to criticism due to being wrapped up in the all-engulfing budget discussion. Look for an analysis of Green’s document in a future post.

In spite of their political rhetoric regarding the problem of bullying in high schools, Broten and Premier Dalton McGuinty haven’t made the slightest effort to acknowledge the leading-edge work done at PCVS in this area. They’ve recently let the Catholic boards off the hook on the matter of permitting Gay-Straight Alliances, and last year they shut down a non-partisan private member’s bill (Bill 183) supported by parents’ anti-bullying groups that would allow the Ontario Ombudsman to respond to complaints about schools and school boards, as discussed in a post last week.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education remains obsessed with standardized tests, encourages school boards to unnecessarily flood their schools with WiFi radiation in preparation for a future in which students just rely entirely on their own hand-held devices for in-class work (as reported in this Toronto Star article), and in this past Tuesday’s budget proposed freezing teachers’ salaries while continuing to permit unaccountable administrators to blow millions of public dollars on techno-toys manufactured in Asia.

Last Monday, March 26th, KPR Superintendent Peter Mangold took KPR’s authoritarianism to new depths, telling the “Raiders in Action” student activism group they would no longer be allowed to meet on school property (a.k.a public property), as discussed in the previous post.

What dark magic turned Mangold into a real-life Dolores Umbridge, issuing his own version of “Educational Decree Number 24,” which in the Harry Potter world aimed to expel any students found associating in an unsanctioned club? 

Next thing you know, he’ll be trying to impose “Educational Decree Number 26,” prohibiting teachers from giving students any information not directly related to the subjects they teach.

Oh, wait – didn’t he already do this last October?

Students responded by spending the next two days occupying the main hallway of PCVS, trying to conjure up the Room of Requirement


Meanwhile, the CBC got involved again. 

Thursday morning, March 29th, popular radio host Jian Ghomeshi opened his program Q by echoing Rick Mercer’s thoughts on the potent combination of civic, artistic, and educational engagement demonstrated by PCVS students. The Examiner reported on the program almost immediately.

Ghomeshi’s program can be streamed from the CBC website at this link and is worth a listen or two. Fittingly, his pro-PCVS comments introduced a program featuring top Canadian band Our Lady Peace performing live in the studio, and a talk with "positive sexuality" expert Susie Bright.

The Peterborough Needs PCVS page has a text of Ghomeshi’s commentary. He tells it like it is, likening the long history of accomplished PCVS graduates and community pride to that which one might expect from a long-established upper-class private school – without the “perceived elitist baggage.”

Ghomeshi called our little city “beautiful” and “vibrant,” and complimented students on helping make it that way. “There is another board meeting today,” he remarked, “and the patient, united, vocal students at PCVS have promised they would be there.” 

Ghomeshi concluded with a toast to the PCVS crew – “here’s to students who passionately care about their school and their education” – and sensibly asked, “isn’t that what we’d think would be the ultimate goal?”

Sure enough, many passionate “Raiders in Action” were at the board meeting that night, where they found their unlikely and ironic “Room of Requirement” – the KPR board room.

Taking their rightful place among the public seats in the board room, students started up their “Raiders in Action” meeting right in front of astonished trustees. While the out-of-touch crew sat and shuffled their papers, students conducted their strategy meeting, discussing ways to get more students involved and planning the rally at Jeff Leal’s office scheduled for the following day.  

“We don’t want to do this here,” PCVS student Isaac Maynes truthfully told trustees, “but you gave us no choice.” Read the MyKawartha report here, and compare with the Examiner version here. 

Apparently under a confundus charm, trustees proceeded to “forget” to make any reference to PCVS students’ national accomplishment in the “Spread the Net” campaign. Only after the meeting did Director of Education Rusty Hick say they’d mention it at some future time.

While their fellow Raiders were in action in the board room, student leaders Matthew Finlan, Kirsten Bruce, Collin Chepeka and Christina Adams were busy acting downtown at Showplace, winning awards at the Sears Drama Festival as their play, The Love Course, was promoted to the Eastern Ontario regional finals, as reported in this Examiner article.

You’ll seldom find a school like PCVS where political activists are also talented artists, and vice versa. The student quartet showed themselves just as energetic an acting ensemble as they are political leaders, delivering a near-professional performance of a work which dramatizes in comic fashion the very clash between imagination and administration which was being played out in real life just a few miles away at Fisher Drive.

In those hallowed halls, KPR’s Chair and Director of Education lifted the ban on discussing PCVS in the board room at the last minute, and several concerned citizens rose to vent their frustration with the trustees’ arrogant attitudes and complete lack of accountability

“You ignore everyone who disagrees with you,” Hilary Bodin accurately commented. Joanne Brown remarked on the inadequacies of Green’s report and requested that Trustees re-do the accommodation review. As usual, the trustees did ignore the presentations, asking no questions, and making no comments.

Some trustees and administrators lingered after the formal meeting to talk to parents and students face to face, but continued to insist that only they know what’s best for Peterborough and PCVS, and we should all just listen to them like the little children we are.  

Yes, they want us to say to them robotically – we are the servants and you are our masters.

Wait – isn’t this supposed to be the other way around?  

Who is paying whom here?

1 comment:

  1. Best. One. Yet. Loving the references!

    Thanks for this one,