Over the course of the past two days I had the profound experience to be part of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Teacher’s Forum. As part of this forum, I was privileged to explore the inner workings of Queen’s Park and indulged in the scope and history of our shared place of parliament: extremely rich in history and very much a mosaic of architecture, art and cultural studies.
From learning of the legislative mace to having an intimate conversation with Dave Levac the Speaker of the House regarding his indigenous backyard and the significance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, the narrative of the two days was entrenched in our shared political experience. Politics matters – democracy matters – being an active citizen matters. Students must be engaged in our collective civil experience!
My take away: As someone who does not teach of politics in the traditional sense in such courses as Gr. 10 Civics, but looks at shared social, cultural and political realities through film and new media studies, the must urgent goal is for students to become active and mature citizens. Speaking with those who make Queen’s Park work and work for us , it is imperative that we empower our students to understand how politics functions and to better humanity through their mature voice and actions. At the end, the idea of legislative is about serving people with the best intentions ( even if it doesn’t seem like that through press clipping and political posturing)
At a time when education is engulfed with trends and initiatives (many of which are invented to promote crisis) perhaps one real “crisis” in education is that young people are not openly engaged in politics and policy. How can we have a better today or tomorrow if our students are not invested in their political reality?
This leads to my next step as a classroom teacher. Speaking of gender, race, class, ethnicity and other issues within the mediated lens isn’t enough. Beyond modes of genre and medium, reference to policy and bills must be made with the goal to make real connections to our collective reality. After all, what happens in the provincial parliamentary chamber impacts us all.
All of this matters well beyond a Gr. 10 Civic class. It’s imperative that in ongoing conversations regarding new needs in education that civil duty and responsibility is prevalent. At time when conversations around skills,competences, fluencies and literacies are ongoing perhaps “political literacy” should be introduced.
In the end practicing and understanding our shared democracy is something not to take to for granted.