It’s common practice during political debates like the one we are currently engaged in over the future of public education in BC, to present numbers, facts and figures. But, as Maya Angelou so eloquently said, facts can obscure truths. Truths that are far more disturbing. Our human minds have a much harder time weighing abstract numbers than we do understanding the human stories behind the numbers.
I have been deeply moved by the stories that have emerged in the comments on my Casualty of Christy Clark’s Cuts post. I am stunned that, as of this writing, the post has 16 000 views ( and counting) over 3 days. What that tells me is that there are many people out there who can put names to the numbers of students who have fallen through the cracks caused by the gutting of public education funding in the province of BC.
I think their stories, the stories of the students behind the numbers, need to be told. Any casualty of Christy Clark’s cuts to education funding over the past 12 years has a story that needs to be told.
Teachers know lots of these stories. It’s what we think about when we’re out on the picket line. It’s what we think about when we spend an average of $1000 a year on classroom supplies.
Parents of the children who have fallen through the cracks know these stories too.
There is the story of a student who is both gifted and has a learning disability and who managed to get all the way to Grade 10 because his giftedness hid his disability.
There is the story of a student for whom English was a third language and whose learning disability went undiagnosed for years because it was assumed he was not successful due to a language barrier.
Then there’s the story of a profoundly gifted student whose development was stunted because of a lack of adequate nutrition in his home. This story is the most heartbreaking of all because students with this story have one preventable deficit.
Teachers who work in some areas of the province see too many students each day who simply cannot focus on learning because they have not eaten in days.
I continue to be perplexed by why there is no hue and cry about the fact that school breakfast programs are funded by a newspaper’s Adopt-A-School campaign. Why is such a campaign necessary at all? Why does it exist in a province that found enough money to fund a Winter Olympics but does not have enough money to fully fund breakfast programs in schools?
BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. And yes, this is another set of numbers but behind those numbers are names of students and those names have stories. Heartbreaking stories. Last year I did not know that a teen girl’s periods could stop due to a lack of adequate nutrition. I do now.
It is unconscionable that one of the richest provinces in Canada, one of the richest countries in the world, has such high rates of childhood poverty.
It is unconscionable that B.C. students are funded $1000 less each year than students in every other province in Canada except P.E.I.
It is beyond unconscionable that this government spends more time and energy on LNG than on the true vital resource of this province, its children.
Perhaps what will penetrate the conscience of politicians who hide the truth behind figures, is to tell the stories behind the numbers.
We need to name the numbers. Let’s tell the stories of the casualties that have fallen through the gaping holes in the public eduction system left by huge funding cuts.
If you are a parent of a child who did not get the help that was needed due to a lack of learning specialists or a long waiting list to see a school psychologist, please tell your story.
Reveal the stories that the numbers obscure.
You can do this by leaving a comment here or you could send your story to a local newspaper or you could send it to your MLA.
Our children are not just numbers.
Our children should be seen and their stories should be heard.