Collaboration must be reciprocal

(This update is dedicated to the memory of David Wm. Brown)

Ours is not the only independent school community whose sensibilities have been ignored and even betrayed by the Government of Ontario.

This week a coalition of independent school spokespeople reacted strongly to Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s call to independent schools to accede to a postponement of the March break to April 12. Not that independent schools would ignore the government’s request. Independent schools always and assiduously do everything they can to accommodate the government. Independent schools are an indispensable component in the entirety of the province’s educational infrastructure, adding vitality, excellence powerfully anchored values to the wide multi-fabric embrace of our society.

Minister Lecce was direct: “[Public schools] should defer the March Break…the strong message we are signalling to private schools in Ontario is that they should do the same. We are asking everyone in the education space to work with us, to collaborate in the interest of public health so that we can…keep our kids safe both in public and private schools in Ontario.

Spokespeople from Edvance Christian Schools Association, The Muslim Association of Canada, TeachON, Supporting Students Coalition and the Ontario Federation of Independent Schools responded to the minister’s request with a stern but poignant cri de Coeur.

“We have always welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with the government. But collaboration must be reciprocal and comprehensive, not limited to issues the Ministry chooses.  

“Unfortunately, the government has not collaborated with us to support independent schools against COVID-19.  They have instead taken a hands-off approach. It is time the government acknowledges the important role independent schools have in Ontario and build a true partnership with our sector. In the coming weeks, we will be pressing the government to truly collaborate with us – collaboration not defined as a few scattered issues where our compliance is expected, but all issues facing our schools. They can start by addressing our most urgent need: access to COVID health-related funding. Any valuable collaboration means working together to solve a common challenge. It is time the government actually invite and listen to the voice of “all stakeholders in education”. And the time has come for this government to pay its part in supporting the independent school sector to operate safely in the public interest.”

It is not yet clear what the spokespeople of the various organizations intend when they write they will be “pressing the government to truly collaborate.” We commend them for showing their deep disappointment, if not even anger, with the government’s one-sided, self-serving approach toward the 125,000 Ontario children in independent schools.

And we support their initiative.

•••

David Wm. Brown was the rare individual whose life was a quietly stirring and entirely inspiring refutation of the rock-hewn hubris and sneering vanity of the archetype embodied by Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias.

Unlike “Ozymandias, king of kings”, who had scoffed at passersby to “look upon my works and despair,” David knew with every breath of his too brief life, that the truly lasting monuments are not shrines dedicated to self, but rather quiet works for others, for community, for the voiceless and for the needy.

David understood what Ozymandias did not: that temples of eternity are not the “lifeless things”, the “decayed colossal wreck” hewn from granite, sculpted from marble or carved into brick and mortar. He understood that the sturdiest, permanent markers standing forever through all time are the caring hearts and knowing minds that – through time-honoured, comprehensive, loving yet demanding education – carry forward from one generation to the next, the values and traditions that cherish and sustain just, ethical, compassionate society.

Among the many society-enhancing causes to which David had dedicated so much of his life, was that of strengthening, securing and safeguarding the permanence of Jewish education for all children. We, our children and the generations yet to come have been, and will be, the beneficiaries of his goodness.

David Wm. Brown passed away this week. As he was in life, his memory too will be a blessing.

•••

Be safe. Be well. Shabbat shalom. 

GAJE, February 19, 2021

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