So, I’ve taken education very seriously for quite some time. Probably going back to my days as a philosophy student at U of W in the mid-1990s, when I was really learning to think critically. I began to realize then – though it took studying ecology from my mentor, the late Vere Scott of the green movement in Manitoba, to understand the application – that systems can suffer from intertia and that when we try to solve problems using the logic of the system that is failing, we miss out on opportunities to correct failures, and often cause new problems.
In other words, a redesign of our system could be more efficient than the problem management approach we so often see. Caught in the politics of panic, we do not step back and re-evaluate. We forget the forest for the trees, forget the values that we wish to instill in our children, not to mention the values by which we conduct our society.
We find ourselves in the midst of several crises: the massively high levels of poverty highlight our economic crisis, as the gap between rich and poor increases; we just passed 400 ppm of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the City of Winnipeg released at least 1 million litres of raw sewage into the very Red that transects this most diverse Ward 7 of the Winnipeg School division. Many reports have been written about the nature deficit that city dwellers experience, bereft of wild places as development continues to encroach (consider the Parker Wetlands) and we lack time in our busy lives to go off of the beaten track. On top of this all is a technological crisis: we continue to unleash digital technologies without stopping to consider the impacts they are having on our bodies, minds and collective culture.
Children are acutely affected by these changes. They are inheriting a world of great uncertainty, and are perceptive to our at times indifference to our natural surroundings. They sense our struggles, that we are forgetting something, that there is a break in the transmission of our natural human heritage, evolved over thousands of years.
We owe it to them to not inherit this massive ecological and social debt we are leaving. As the traditional indigenous saying goes, ‘we do not inherit the world from our ancestors so much as borrow it from our children.’
There are some great people in Winnipeg School Division. Great teachers, great parents, and great students. Some great trustees, no doubt. But we plod along without naming the problems in an open and public way and without researching the best practices being implemented elsewhere to deal with these problems humans throughout the developed world share.
Instead of just lesson plans, we need to teach and build community in our schools. We need to revalue cooperation and draw on the precious human resources sourced locally, from our community. We often say ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ but look around your neighbourhood. Is it really a village? Are the resources there to support our and our children’s social, ecological, spiritual, and intellectual development?
Is there a sound economic cauldron to support people staying in their communities and investing not so much capital but their lives into them? The phenomenon of Detroit, a city that found, like other rust-belt towns, its core hollowed out and bereft of resources and opportunities, does not exist in a vacuum.
I ask these questions by way of introduction into how I am thinking. I am thinking that as a trustee I will research how the Winnipeg School Division can both advocate for and create more positive conditions to support human development – for our children, of course, but also for us all.
Our schools are heated all day and evening long in winter and cooled all summer long. Can we not be using our schools to better our entire communities, hosting workshops on things like nutritional health, organic gardening and composting, learning new languages, especially indigenous ones, and other ideas generated by community members? Of course we can!
As my son begins nursery over at Luxton School, I want to be a part of starting a new, more earnest conversation about where our ship is heading. I do not apply for this position lightly; but come to the position with skills to facilitate the sharing of a vision, experience in several movements along with a wide range of personal experiences, and a desire to change the situation our children find themselves living in. I am not applying simply to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic or be another manager of problems that are unsolvable using the logic that created the problems.
Let’s get our school yards looking like wild playgrounds. Let’s get the gardening happening in collaboration with local communities. Let’s not wait for the City to come pick up our compost in a plastic green bin – let’s build our own infrastructure on school grounds with the help of students, teachers, and community members.
Marshall McLuhan once said “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth; we are all crew.” I hope to inspire an attitude of caring in an inclusive, open, and collective way. To quote the title of a local author’s book “There are only two problems in the world: Living with the Earth and living with each other.” (by Willlard H. Anderson).
My sleeves are already rolled up. I am ready to get to work as your trustee for Ward 7 not simply to push my ideas but to facilitate all of our greatest hopes, visions and dreams for the world our children are inheriting.