Put the Future of Education in Your Own Hands

Max Lei
Max Lei
Oct 29 · 4 min read

If you’re a student in Toronto, chances are you’ve noticed little hiccups in the school system. From the shortage of agendas to major increase in class sizes, these small inconveniences were just something you quietly sigh about during the homeroom debrief. It was nothing we couldn’t handle. Until the “strike” incident happened.

The TDSB official Twitter’s notice about the strike

During the first week of October, students discovered that all TDSB schools were to strike the following Monday. At first, we panicked. Our group chats were flooded with complaints about how much school work we would be missing, how the school system was failing us, and of course, clown emojis. It was as if the education system itself was shutting down. Oh wait, it was.

Increased class sizes, reduced numbers of teachers, and digitized teaching methods. These are recent changes the provincial government has made to the education system and no one, not the students and not the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), is happy about it. In an attempt to bargain with the government about reversing the changes, the CUPE threatened to strike. And if the strike were to happen it would cancel all education programs in the Toronto District School Board, Peel District School Board and York Region School Board.

As the judgment day approached, students had a revelation: a school strike meant a long weekend. The stress and worries flew from our minds as the messages in our group chats turned into attempts to make plans for our unforeseen holiday. We thought, “Hey, maybe the strike won’t be so bad.”

Thousands of students began planning their long weekend, dreaming of the fun they could possibly have during the potential school strike. Perhaps that was too hopeful of a dream.

Then a tweet appeared on our screens: the deals between the school board were being renegotiated. We weren’t worried, surely the school board was too much of a mess to reach a satisfying conclusion within a few days. Every student tuned in, waiting for the good news that would confirm the long weekend. Only for us to find out that school would remain open. Students cried, annoyed that their personal vacation had been ruined. Complaints about the flaws in the education system and the clown emojis, however, continued.

Ultimately, we’re glad that an agreement with the government was reached because it shows a mutual foundation based on understanding could be made. As a student in my last year of high school, I can say that this year has been the hardest. Stress is at an all-time high. Every missed day, every missed lesson and every missed mark matters, because they now will negatively impact our future and our potential.

It’s no surprise that my generation seems to be more interested in making commentary rather than taking action. Amidst the chaos, the Twitter comment section is the most heated. There, students expressed their thoughts on the seemingly absurd reality. But why direct this hatred for the school board to Twitter, when the passion could be used to lead their education in a positive direction. Commenting “TDSB sucks lol”, and complaining about the school board being terrible may be fun and easy, but it’s ineffective. We, as students, are opinionated, and now we have to use that power to make a difference in our education. We have to take our future into our own hands.

Toronto youths walking out to protest against the cuts in the education system

As any great teacher would say, the most valuable voice is the student’s voice. When students represent themselves and communicate their own needs, instead of a passive topic at hand, our voice can lead the discussion. Just like the changes made by our very own 1UP Fellows. With a small idea, guidance from their mentors and 1UP and communications with the school board and government. They bloomed projects that changed their school’s outlook to be the environment they want to learn in. With them setting examples, every one of us could be change-makers just like them. If we could achieve a goal by communicating and a strong desire to make a change. This unity between the government, school boards, and the student body will result in a positive manner with solutions designed for the needs and wants of the student.

1UP Fellows learning how they could change the future in 2019 1UP Leaders Lab Design Jam. (1UP Toronto)

But once again, is this too hopeful of a dream? It’s terrifying just how little control students seem to have over their own future. Then again, maybe it’s because people tweet and comment and then refuse to take more action. We can’t just complain and be complacent, waiting for someone to lead the way. Because if you won’t care about your future, no one will.

Max Lei is the 2019–2020 Director of design of the 1UP Toronto program, powered by Urban Minds.

Urban Minds

​We are creating new ways for youth to participate in city building.

Max Lei

Written by

Max Lei

Urban Minds

​We are creating new ways for youth to participate in city building.

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