For the province of New Brunswick to re-invent itself for the twenty-first century and beyond, it needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. We see a future in which we will need to be more resourceful, innovative and enterprising, but are we actively choosing to build these capacities, or are our values out of alignment with the future? When we look closely at how we do school in New Brunswick, are we creating those capacities in our teachers and students, or are we still preparing them for the past?
How we choose to do school, and what we choose to place value on, will have an enormous impact on our province in the years and decades to come. Some things will change inevitably as a direct result of external pressures, but those changes will be reactive, and largely out of our control. Meaningful change, on the other hand, has to come from the acknowledgement of what we agree is important, and an active engagement in the creation of systems and contexts that prioritize those values, whatever they may be. Do we want teachers to teach content or context? Do we want students to be autonomous and resourceful, or dependent and compliant?
We need to have an open and frank discussion about the future we are building, and assure that we are moving in the right direction, and that the choices we are making are conscious one. We need to look closely at our curriculums and our classrooms, at our teacher preparation and the role of our post-secondary institutions, and we need to verify that we are working towards the same goal, and that the outcomes are favourable to all.
When I write with my students, and they are working to edit and revise their texts, I talk to them about the importance of unity; that every part contributes to the whole, and that there should be unity of purpose throughout any piece of writing. To create unity, they need to have a clear idea of what it is they are striving to do, and how the various elements of the text contribute to the overall effect. The same rules apply to our vision for the future, and the much larger story we are telling about this province.
It’s time we talked about the story we’re trying to tell.