Selling our future short

I grew up on tougher streets than I walk today, and I often wonder how I might have turned out had my family not immigrated to Canada

I grew up on tougher streets than I walk today, and I often wonder how I might have turned out, what my personality might have become, had my family not immigrated to Canada back in ’76.

I believe my core values would have remained true because, despite outside pressure to align myself with violent protectors, I always saw the downside to walking that path. That insight came from having a loving support system that, from birth, encouraged healthy confidence and self-esteem.

In my travels, I have met so many individuals who never had that support system and who fell through society’s cracks. Every time one of them is able to pull themselves up and change their lives is a time to celebrate. These individuals don’t do it alone, but the hard-working social workers, care-aids, spiritual advisers, mentors, prison workers and more, who all locked hands to offer a boost, seldom take the time to step into the spotlight for their share of applause.

Not every addict can be cured; not every criminal can be rehabilitated, but the success stories are definitely worth cheering about.

Unfortunately, as a society, we’re missing a very important step: we don’t intercede soon enough. As Terry, our feature subject on Page 8, tells, he didn’t receive the help he needed until he was in a federal institution. But look at his background and you know his teachers likely labelled him a troublemaker from an early age. But what were they to do? Where were the resources?

We look at teachers as both educators and the first social workers our children ever meet. When there is a problem with a bully, teachers are on the front lines. When a child has a learning difficulty, it is often a teacher who is the first to diagnose the problem. And yet, as a province, we treat them more like babysitters than the incredibly valuable resource they are.

Talk to anyone who has achieved some great accomplishment in their life and ask who that first major influence was — the one who switched on that lightbulb and told them that, yes, they could succeed — after parents, and often before, the answer is a teacher.

To cut costs, our province has eliminated teaching positions, eliminated gym time, eliminated supervised playground, eliminated school nurses, eliminated school counselling, eliminated milk and lunches for the poor (which, for some, was the only balanced meal they received in a day) . . . and then we wonder why no one was around to prevent a 15-year-old boy from killing himself over homophobic bullying.

The greatest nations are built upon a healthy and well-educated populace — it’s time we stop selling our children short and put money back into education. Our future depends on it. M

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