Education reformDAVID WARREN
I am luckier than most North Americans, having benefited at formative moments in my childhood from attending backward private schools.
Good things happen in threes, it is said, and to the inspiration of those two schools I may add fortuitous escape from a Canadian one.
The itinerary of my father's travels took his family back to Georgetown, Ont. — home! — and parachuted me into a semi-rural public high school. Not a bad one at all, by local standards, judging by its success in inter-collegiate competitions against more urban high schools, in everything from track and field to Model Parliament, but nevertheless, pathetic by the standards I had glimpsed abroad. I found myself being taught primary-school subjects all over again; and worse, herded down endless identical locker-lined corridors like a sheep in an industrial mutton operation.
This was at the end of the 1960s, a time when students across this continent were visibly rebelling, for reasons I could understand: they were encouraged to rebel, and given permission. The entertainment industry, working on the same mass-market herd principle as the schools, was presenting the illusion of the “hippie lifestyle,” and they, dutiful sons and daughters in a culture of conformity, soon dressed the part. I, for my part, enjoyed neither the pedagogical methods of a meat-packing plant, nor the spectacle of the sheep trying to “express themselves.” And so, at age sixteen, I quit school and hit the road.
This set the stage for my third “good thing,” for thanks to this departure, I was able to skip university entirely. Partly, this was cause for regret, for I am by nature one of those creatures called an “intellectual,” and I'd dreamed of Magdalen College, Oxford, from an early age. But that is not where children go from Georgetown District High School, and I could not “handle” the prospect of marking still more time in the idiotizing environment of a North American drive-in university, while my youth was leaching away.
David Warren. "Education reform." Sunday Spectator (October 21, 2007).
This article reprinted with permission from David Warren.
David Warren, once editor of the Idler Magazine, is widely travelled especially in the Middle and Far East. He has been writing for the Ottawa Citizen since 1996. His commentaries on international affairs appear Wednesdays & Saturdays; on Sundays he writes a general essay on the editorial page. Read more from David Warren at David Warren Online.
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