Opinion: It’s Time to Put Teachers and the EQAO Tests on the Hot Seat
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has recently shone a light onto the Ontario Public School curriculum, specifically the areas of sex-ed and mathematics. It is correct to say that in order to produce a well-educated population capable of achieving success in adult life, curricula must be scrutinized and consistently revised in order for students to meet the intellectual capabilities to compete in fast-paced, competitive, and advancing times. The premier has made a strong argument for mathematics reform based on EQAO statistics, showing a continuing decline in students meeting the provincial standards, as well as many grade 9 students in applied classes falling inordinately far behind their peers in academic classes.
Students writing the OSSLT, Ontario’s standardized English test, are typically very successful in achieving a score that meets or exceeds provincial standards. This isn’t shocking; the test encompasses the skills learned in Grade 9 English, and is done in Grade 10, giving a long period for teachers to prepare the students for success. In my high school, we had to take an online preparation test, since passing the OSSLT is a requirement for graduation. It’s worth noting the oddity of having the English test in Grade 10 instead of Grade 9 and having the EQAO Math test at the end of Grade 10 instead of Grade 9; both the Grade 9 and Grade 10 math courses are “Principles of Mathematics” designed to prepare you for Functions and Calculus, more difficult strands of math. This may indicate why there is an extreme gap between the Grade 6 and the Grade 9 scores and that the problem may be more severe than we think, but that’s another topic for another day.
What I really want to shine light on is this: Things changed near the end of Grade 10 English, at least for me. In Grade 9 and early in Grade 10, there was a lot of focus on the skills that were to be present in the OSSLT, such as reading and interpreting material, grammar skills, structuring essays, etc. They had to teach somewhat properly in Grade 9 and coach us on how to pass the OSSLT. However, in Grade 11 English, and especially Grade 12 English, the subject matter morphed into a biased social science class. We went from analyzing Shakespeare in Grade 10 to critiquing poems through Marxist, feminist, and postmodernist lenses of thought in Grade 12. What’s disturbing is how my English teacher didn’t even understand postmodernism herself, she was likely told to teach it by other English teachers as she was new to our high school. She explained it as “a distrust of government”. Explain postmodernism in this way to anyone who has taken or read philosophy for five seconds, and you’ll probably get a few chuckles. We watched the first season of The Wonder Years in class, which we were made to analyze through either Marxist, feminist, or both lenses. I found The Wonder Years an interesting pick for this, as the show can be analyzed much better through the lenses of conservatism and traditionalism, but of course, these were not allowed. There was a very clear ideological dominance to conform to. In the lectures on Marxist theory, capitalism was constantly under attack. This would have been perfectly fine and compliant with the curriculum had my teacher then brutally attacked Marxism, but interestingly, that part was left out of the lesson planner.
This teacher was teaching us “Critical Theory”, which is present under the Ontario government’s Grade 12 English curriculum as “Critical Literacy”. It reads “identify and analyse in detail the perspectives and/or biases evident in oral texts, including complex and challenging texts, commenting with understanding and increasing insight on any questions they may raise about beliefs, values, identity, and power”, (The Ontario Cirriculum, Grades 11 and 12, English, 2007, (revised), ENG4U s. 1.8). There is only one problem: No critiques were given for the Marxist, feminist, and postmodernist lenses we were told to use. Only one side of the coin is acceptable in the overton window of permissible argument. For my final FSE, I asked her if I could do my critique through another lens, the answer was a staunch no, (so long as I was interested in getting a high mark), mostly because my teacher didn’t know anything about my point of view and didn’t display any open-minded interest in learning it.
Curricula is designed to be overly-broad in nature, and not over-reaching insofar as not dictating that teachers stick only to material written explicitly. However, the blanket of indoctrination that lies atop of our English classes to smother the flame of ideologies opposed to the commonly held cultural-marxist beliefs of teachers in the education system, aside from brainwashing our kids into thoughtless zombies, prevents actual writing and grammar skills needed for students to succeed in the world from being properly taught and reinforced. So, I conclude by asking Premier Ford to have a glance at this strand of the educational branch, as well. Our English classes are in desperate need of repair, with the only acceptable course of action left being to suffocate the allowance of having an ideological dominance in the classroom. We are currently headed down a very dangerous path with ideologues who are intent on repealing the idea of free thought from within our free society. The curriculum very clearly states that students should be challenging both sides of all arguments. Let’s enforce that and start making that happen.
1) The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12, English, 2007, (revised)
2) EQAO: Results of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT)
3) EQAO: Results of the Grade 6, Junior Division