A private school education for free!?!

16 05 2017

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Seems a bit too good to be true, right? Small classes, interdisciplinary projects, experiential learning, supportive individualized mentoring, community engagement, and social and environmental consciousness. Free? Yes, it’s true, and available right here on the peninsula! Our community is fortunate enough to be the home to BPDS, an incredible K-12 UNESCO school that offers many of the features of a private school, for free, and it’s the default option if you live in Northern Bruce. Yes, it’s not perfectly free, because we pay taxes, but at least it won’t set you back $15,000 a year, as some private school parents pay. Yet it remains a mystery why parents and students are opting out.

I have been involved at BPDS in various capacities – as a volunteer, supply teacher, supply educational assistant, school bus driver, and perhaps most importantly, a student. I was also on the steering committee for the Peninsula Action Committee for Education (PACE) and was involved in a research project that surveyed about 300 community members and 80 former students on their local school experiences. Through these roles, I feel qualified to attest to the high quality of programming at BPDS.

I was fortunate enough to attend a private, nonprofit university after graduating from BPDS. Many of my peers attended private high schools and prestigious international schools, so naturally, I worried that my small-town education might come up short. However, I was relieved to find out that I was sufficiently prepared and even excelled in many of my classes. Small classes, interdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities, supportive teacher mentors and the wide range of volunteer opportunities equipped me with the work ethic and skills to succeed at university. And thanks to Mr. Rodgers, I was more comfortable using Excel than many of my peers!

So of course, no school is perfect and certainly no high school experience is clear sailing, however continue to support our local school, not only because the school plays an important role in the vitality of the community, but also because it is a good school that offers unparalleled opportunities. The grass will always seem greener elsewhere, but I would encourage students and parents on the peninsula to take a moment to recognize just how green the grass is here.

This letter was published in Issue #6 (May 16 – May 30, 2017) of the Bruce Peninsula Press

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A rant on carbon

14 02 2016

Yesterday a woman mentioned that this past weekend she’d bought gas for $0.67/litre. She likely expected me to join her in celebrating how great that was, but instead I fell silent as I was thinking…

HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO SLOW CLIMATE CHANGE WITH GAS PRICES SO LOW!?!

I know, I know. It doesn’t make any sense to be complaining. With every cent of savings I should be breathe a little easier knowing that I’ll have a few extra bucks in my tight budget. After all, having a car and driving nearly everywhere seems to be an unfortunate reality of living rurally. But rather than relief, I’m more worried than ever. With fuel being cheaper than it’s been in quite a while, there is even less incentive for folks to make that effort to carpool or to think twice about an extra trip to the city.

I once thought that perhaps climate change might be resolved by diminishing oil supplies, that we’d just run out, or even before that oil will be so precious and expensive that we’ll be forced into alternatives. Now, it appears that’s not necessarily the case. A much more urgent matter is the impacts if we continue to burn all the fossil fuels we have. Sea levels will continue to rise, natural disasters will occur at even more horrific frequencies and intensities, and people will be displaced. Of course, the people who are benefitting from fossil fuel use (i.e. oil execs) are unlikely to be the ones displaced because they can afford to live wherever they’d like.

Seems to me like a mighty fine time to introduce a carbon tax, and to use those tax revenues to develop public transportation infrastructure (and create jobs), clean and community-owned renewable energy projects and low-carbon industries.

But wait! What about those rural dwellers that don’t have access to public transportation? In urban areas, transportation is a public issue, while in rural areas it’s mostly a private one that must be absorbed by the individual. So, it seems unfair to put the cost of greenhouse gas emissions strictly on the shoulders of rural folks that are already under economic pressures to keep their communities alive in the face of urbanisation and out-migration. As Fay Martin recommends in her paper on migration decisions of rural youth in Ontario (2013), the government could offer an income tax deduction equal to the vehicle costs for at least one car per household in places where there is no public transportation, and offer an even greater deduction for those with fuel-efficient or electric vehicles.