Right in the centre - Happy New Year


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

It’s hard to not to have a happy New Year in Canada. We are very blessed in this country, in this province and in this region. We have very few problems compared to other parts of the world. 

The naysayers may crab about the cold weather, but most people have warm clothes, warm houses, warm cars and enough good food to eat. There isn’t a lot to complain about. There is however, one problem. Canadians are very passive, that’s the opposite, in my view, of passionate. Sure, Canadians can be a bit passionate about hockey or football or maybe curling, but when it comes to being passionate about building on our great blessings and making life and the economy better, we get pretty passive. And that passivity exists in communities, politics and business.

Why are we so accepting of the low test scores in our schools? Why do we tolerate some communities having unclean water and boil water orders? And especially when we have billions to spend on less essential public works and projects. 

The Manitoba school system is going through a study by the province right now, but I am concerned it will simply tinker around the edges of the problem. If past reports are any indication, much needed changes will be glossed over with changing some school division boundaries and taking a stab at reducing administration costs. Certainly, the overhaul in the mid-‘60s gave us bigger schools, bigger school buses and larger divisions, but I am not sure it gave us higher education standards. The ‘80s report had a similar pattern. 

I maintain it isn’t admin costs that are our major problem. Nor is it a need for fewer school divisions. No, the bigger problem is two-fold. One is teachers are being required to be everything from nurse, to parent, to social worker ,to nutritionist, all the while not having the authority to enforce even the most basic of rules and discipline. Get any teacher talking quietly and privately about these issues and you will get an earful.

The second problem is that the Manitoba Teachers Society won’t stand for any kind of standardized testing and that is just wrong. We need to know if some schools, some communities and, yes, some teachers, are falling short of the needed educational outcomes. Today’s schools are a bit like little kids’ games, where nobody keeps score and everyone gets a participation medal. The problem is indeed two-fold. Teachers are expected to do too much on one side and not expected to do enough on the other side.

Now, I don’t expect that a whole lot of people will publicly react to what I have just said. And that proves my point, doesn’t it? We are way too passive!

Manitobans should be very upset, both with the loads we have put on teachers and the low educational scores. We should be really ticked about communities with bad water, communities with high crime rates, the bad roads and a whole host of other issues.

The most dangerous statement we hear, and we hear often is, “Let’s do it the same as last year,” but without adequate evaluation. We need to be thankful for sure, but we do need to do better on every front. “Last year” may be all well and good, but not if there is a better way to build our economy and our communities.

It’s a new year coming and I do wish everyone a happy New Year, but may it also be a bigger, better and more prosperous year. Enough with the passive already. Let’s see some passion.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.