We don’t need no education

As someone proudly born in Guelph, every couple of months I read the online obituaries in what is now called the Guelph Mercury Tribune. While Guelph has more than quadrupled to 130,000 since I left long ago, I usually know someone among the deceased. This time, I knew two people who recently died, both of them high school teachers from my days at John F. Ross Collegiate: Bill Scott and Cathy Crack. The first thing I noticed is that Scott was just seven years older than I, Crack only five years older. At the time, they seemed far more mature.

Scott was a coach who later became a principal, then superintendent. I saw him maybe ten years ago and he greeted me like an old friend. Crack was important at the time because something I wrote in my weekly high school news column for the Guelph Mercury (as it was then called) had aroused the ire of Lorne Fox, school principal. From then on, Crack had to read my draft before I sent it to the paper for publication. She never made a single change and I have to say I liked her for that.

With today’s high school teachers threatening to strike, I got thinking about the importance of teachers in our lives in those days. Don Maudsley, my Latin teacher, lives nearby so I see him every couple of months. We catch up on news; I hear about his participation in the chorus of the Toronto City Opera. But Isobel Cowie remains my favourite. It was she who one day lugged in her record player so we could hear Dylan Thomas reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” That poem led me to a life of loving words. Because of her encouragement I won the London Free Press Editorial Award that meant work in the newsroom every summer I attended The University of Western Ontario. That hands-on editorial experience launched my career in journalism.

I’m glad I never became a teacher. Those fine people who taught me would not be revered today. Despite new rules, students spend too much of their time on screens doing personal things, rather than listening to the teacher’s knowledge. Respect, helpful counsel and life-long friendships are gone. No wonder teachers want to strike. Their lives have become about the money, not the kids, because the kids won’t let them do their jobs let alone send them to futures they wouldn’t otherwise have enjoyed.

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