THE VIEW FROM HERE – Schools should see the writing on the wall as an opportunity to assert their values

Tom Henihan,

Over the Family Day weekend, someone painted graffiti on the wall of a Calgary school saying, “Syrians go Home and die.”
It is worth noting the incongruity of having the walls of a school defaced with expressions of ignorance and hatred.
What further enhances the irony is that the targeted institution Wilma Hansen Junior High posts on its website this mission statement.
“We strive to encourage a lifelong commitment to quality learning, emotional development and responsible citizenship. At Wilma Hansen, we will provide diverse opportunities for success, which promote the development of skills that encourage independent thinking, healthy attitudes, active citizenship and a sense of self-worth.”
Education is a living, animated process and whether it is science, literature, music or history, subjects that sometimes are rooted in the distance past, education must tie into the current ethos and the thrust of present day events.
It should avoid empty platitudes or simple well-meaning statements that are seldom reflected in the daily routine or spoken aloud to remind all involved of the institution’s vision and the mission under pursuit.
I cannot say that the Wilma Hansen mission statement is the most inspiring missive I have ever read.
Nevertheless, the school should seize the opportunity and instead of simply washing off the offensive graffiti put in its place a more succinct version of its mission and underlining purpose.
We strive to provide diverse opportunities for success while encouraging healthy attitudes, self-worth and independent thinking. We encourage lifelong learning, emotional development and responsible and active citizenship.
This way, the school could assert itself against cowardice, ignorance and hate while giving life to its mission statement in a manner that may truly inspire its students. Students should be encouraged not just to learn but to actively oppose ignorance and hatred.
I do not mean to single out Wilma Hansen Junior High, which is also a victim in this instance.
I think it is incumbent on every school that truly believes in its mission statement to seize every valid opportunity to illustrate the merit of that statement and to explicitly live by it.
Otherwise, a school’s mission statement is nothing but a mere pleasantry of little or no consequence. If a school purports to have a vison then that vision should be writ large and spoken aloud. It should not be left to languish ineffectively on a website or in the pages of a school pamphlet.
The graffiti on the wall of Wilma Hansen Junior High also targeted Prime Minister Trudeau, calling him a traitor, presumably for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.
Trudeau responded on Twitter Monday February 17, “Canadians have shown the best of our country in welcoming refugees. That spirit won’t be diminished by fear and hate.”
I agree in spirit with Trudeau’s response. However, many Canadians have questions about accepting refugees that are not based on racism or hatred, but on a need to understand the process and its implications. At such times, the prime minister should listen to all Canadians, enlighten them and disarm their anxieties, rather than constantly asserting that we the righteous will prevail.

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