Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harper Tells High School Kids That Education is Not a Priority

Well it seems that Stockwell Day was a little too eager in his new post, and has dropped the axe on a high school in Smith Falls that maintains a Lest we Forget education centre.

The Canadian Council on Learning had been under Charles McVety's radar for some time, so he no doubt zapped them; but why Smith Falls? And why a program to encourage young people to learn about our military history?

I thought they were all about the military.

And the reason they gave these young people?

"... providing education is not deemed a priority."

Can you believe it? Yet they can give four million dollars to build a library in a private school and another faith-based centre got almost half a mill for an indoor soccer field.

Lest We Forget forgotten by feds
By EARL McRAE, Ottawa Sun
January 20, 2010

What began as a class project has become a national success story — Library And Archives Canada government website That’s right. A huge national success story.

Why then has this government — that claims to passionately care about our military and its honourable history that too many Canadians shamefully know so
little about through an indifferent educational system — decided to kill that which began as a class project and become a national success story?

The national success story is called Lest We Forget.

Nice going feds, you’ve forgotten. You can now remove the boast from the LAC website. The sour stench of success. Last Friday the feds, who care about our military and its honourable history, served notice to LAC that as of March 30 the Education Centre at LAC on Wellington St. from which educators have co-ordinated the Lest We Forget program for thousands of visiting high school students from across the country — including Ottawa and area — will be permanently shut down.

Says Blake Seward, the former Smiths Falls high school history teacher who created Lest We Forget six years ago as a class project that has become a national success story: “The reason they (government) gave for closing the Education Centre is that providing education is not deemed a priority.”

Priority? Excuse me? Our high school kids accessing and learning about Canada’s military heritage, and exploits of individual soldiers, through the voluminous public documents and records at LAC is not deemed a priority? I see. Can you spell constipated bureaucratic bulls--t?

The large conference room at the Education Centre was perfect for the students who, with teachers, would arrive in large groups, and enthusiastically interact with one another verbally; the room designated only for them over the several hours of learning.

“Over a thousand students from across Canada have visited since September,” says Seward, 44. “There are 1,500 requests right now. There will no longer be on-site visits in the conference room for secondary students to conduct primary and secondary research.

“They will have to work in the reference room (sharing it with the general public) which from an educator’s perspective, does not work because you cannot talk or work with students in that room.

“It’s a library. Talking in there, the students among themselves in their research and with their teachers, all necessary, would be like a cannon going off. You’d be told to shut up.”

For the Education Centre, says Seward, students through the Lest We Forget program are given priority, their requests expedited.

“The closing of the centre means that school requests will be moved into the eight-month backlog of requests for material from the general public, which again from a teacher’s perspective does not work.”

Blake Seward, educator, innovator, has had a long and deep interest in Canada’s military history. A great uncle was killed at Passchendale in the First World War. Lest We Forget focuses on our soldiers of that long ago war of which so little is known or understood by our students who should know.

“As our veterans move on in ever increasing numbers each day,” says Seward, “our direct link to the Second World War will become as remote as is our current state with the Great War. The students co-ordinate with universities that have adopted the Lest We Forget project.

“These secondary and post-secondary students are the custodians of our military history, and we are dependent upon their engagement to keep that memory alive.
“The military history of Canada is a proud one and the memory of the sacrifice made by men and women in the service of our country must remain in the forefront of our collective consciousness,” Seward says.

Do you have anything to add, Stephen Harper? Blake Seward does: “This effectively kills Lest We Forget.”

Contact McRae at or leave a message at 613-739-5133, ext. 469.

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