|Re: High school marks 30 years of democracy in education, by Mary-Lynn McEwan, City, May 20 - May 26, 2004.
For those who fear concepts such as those that comprise the mandate of Alternative High School, it would be easy to dismiss the comments of Mary-Lynn McEwen, one of the teachers at Alternative, as being somewhat biased. Indeed, one could also claim the same bias from what I am about to say, given that our son was a student there up until this year, when he graduated.
The reality, however, is that schools such as this one, and the driving philosophies and approaches it takes, are vital to a society such as ours, where the agenda seems to have become one where the individual is secondary to the "needs" of this very society, and the pursuit of financial remuneration is the prime focus of the masses, after having been numbed into the belief that possession and the accumulation of wealth is the benchmark of success, rather than the well-being of the individual, the entrenchment of the community, dialogue, respect, even democracy.
Alternative is a school that sees the student as an individual, deserving of respect, willing and interested in attaching their sense of values to the work load that is fundamental to growing while attending secondary schooling, except that the onus is placed upon the individual, where they are responsible for doing the work, rather than relying as younger students are on the system, the teacher/sitter, and the school board to spoon-feed them as is the case at "traditional" high schools.
This is not a school for everyone; it is geared towards those who are able to work independently, similar to university and college students, and for those who see that high school needs to reflect more the realities of the world outside of the educational womb most students are forced to endure until being ejected into society, ill-prepared for what lies ahead, thus forced to accept all that is tunnelled into their eagerly accepting minds, no matter the agenda behind the messages absorbed.
Alternative encourages in fact it demands thinking by the individual. It is also perhaps one of the only institutions that is truly democratic, something that our politicians should note, since they exist only because of the apathy engendered by the masses, frustrated by the havoc wreaked upon them by their leaders in particular at the provincial level.
I have been particularly impressed by the social responsibilities that they have in place at Alt-High, where there is zero tolerance for drugs and drinking (another drug) through each student committing to a contract stating that they will not engage in such practices. I went to school years ago, and the drugs and drinking were well-acknowledged as being the norm for many a student. Today's high schools are certainly no different, as far as I can see. Intolerance of the individual, regardless of the reason, be it racial, gender, sexual orientation, etc., is also not accepted. Dialogue and respect are the key tenets of Alt-High and any differences are discussed, with any problems arising dealt with posthaste.
It is time that CBE embrace the Alt-High concept and perhaps institute its philosophies and unique methodology to other high schools throughout Calgary. It is time to stop retaining the babysitting style of "learning" of yore, and start promoting individual responsibility and encouraging independent thought and dialogue, along with the rights of the individual. Bravo Ms. McEwen! May the success of the past 30 years continue forever!