Students protest new curriculum

About 200 students, mostly in Grade 9 and 10, walked out of classes at Fort Frances High School yesterday morning as part of a province-wide protest of the new curriculum.
Thousands of students across the province protested outside of schools and government buildings after an e-mail addressed to “Ontario high school students” urged them to demonstrate their anger by walking out.
It was not immediately clear who originated the e-mail, but the call to walk out apparently spread further via Internet chat rooms and word of mouth.
“The way they’re going so fast, we learn a new thing every day and how can we be expected to remember everything,” said Laura Chabot, one of the organizers of the local walkout.
“We can’t even take our textbooks home to study with.”
Everything from heavier course loads and the axing of OAC to Grade 9 literacy testing and 40 volunteer hours mandatory for graduation was on the students’ list of concerns.
“It is a lot more responsibility,” said Grade 10 student Andrew George “The 40 hours of volunteer work is forced labour.”
“With school and sports and extracurricular activities, sometimes there isn’t any time left,” added Chabot.
Students said the so-called “double cohort” next year, where OAC and Grade 12 students will be graduating from high school at the same time, and new curriculum have created a catch-22 situation.
“If you take spares, you have a harder time getting into university [under the new curriculum] but if your don’t take spares, then you have a harder time doing your classes to get the marks to go to university,” George said.
Organizers insisted the walk-out was to protest government changes to the education system and not a challenge to local teachers and administration.
Fort High principal Ian Simpson said there would be no consequences for students who walked out other than being marked absent from classes.
“I think in the course of their lives, they are going to have to protest many times so there is some educational value to this,” Simpson said yesterday.
“If they feel strongly about something and are protesting peacefully, I can’t support it but I understand it,” he added.
Education minister Elizabeth Witmer said it’s up to schools and boards to respond to the pupils in the “most appropriate way.”
“They’re also welcome at any time to make written representations to us,” said Witmer. “We’d certainly be pleased to hear from them.”
But Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty said it’s understandable students are “frustrated.”
“The government is clearly failing Ontario students by failing to put in place the kinds of supports that help them succeed.”
While 200 students walked out here, not everyone was exactly sure why.
“I’m protesting because they blocked off so many sites on the Internet [at school] so if you have a project, you can’t get any information,” said Michael Duchaime.
“I’m protesting because there are so many unwarranted drug searches going on at the high school. It’s like our privacy,” chimed in Jodie Tucker.