Remember the good old days of funding, back when classes were small, classrooms were well-stocked, teachers were paid well and education was well funded? When was that exactly? If we think back, probably that time, if it ever existed was back in the 1970s or so.
By the mid-1980’s, massive cutbacks to education began across the developed world. In Canada in the U.S. the phrase “cost recovery programs” was introduced, meaning that courses such as those offered by continuing education branches of large public educational institutions and boards. In the UK, education changed dramatically under Margaret Thatcher. Class sizes grew. Morale among teachers dropped. Salaries stayed the same, as wage freezes took effect.
Do you still wish for the days before all the changes? I hate to break it to you, but they’re not coming back. There are fewer and fewer full-time positions available in all job sectors now. Outsourcing to countries where labor costs are much less expensive is taking over the world at a rapid pace. Educational experiences online are budding right through the traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.
The question is, what do we do now? I’d argue that the trick is to think forwards instead of backwards. Look around and assess what you really have in the 21st century. More teachers than every have graduate degrees. Classrooms are more technologically advanced than they have ever been. Children love to learn and play just as much as they ever did. And most of them can’t relate to those “good old days” because what exists today is the norm for them.
If we assess the current situation with a view to valuing what we have today, it shifts our perspective, putting us in a space of possibility and expanding horizons, rather than a black hole that sucks in your energy, your spirit and your love of teaching.
The question is not “How do we get our funding back?” but rather “How do we maximize the tremendous resources we have in terms of wisdom, knowledge, experience and potential to ensure that our students have the best experience we can give them today?”
The greatest gift we can give our children and our students is a future full of possibility, curiosity, creativity and compassion for their fellow humans. To do so, requires forward thinking and a commitment to make it happen for them.
What are you waiting for?
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.