Eye on Education: Achieving Balance

Each week the Lethbridge Herald features a column written by a Superintendent of one of five school jurisdictions in the Lethbridge area.  On May 16, 2018 The Herald published an article written by Westwind School Division Superintendent Ken Sommerfeldt. 

Thank you to the Lethbridge Herald for permission to post this article on the Westwind website.


Achieving Balance

Ken Sommerfeldt

In a world where everything is the most important thing, how is it possible to keep everything in balance?  As I look into the world of education, there are so many competing priorities, each with a defensible position of being most important. How does one strive to accomplish all of them without risking achieving none of them? In considering the purposes of education and remaining focused on achieving them, an old adage comes to mind: “A distraction does not have to be evil to be effective.”  Every school day, students of all ages participate in classroom activities. They interact with new information, their peers, their teachers, and the ideas of the learned. What is the central focus of education? What should it be?

It is interesting that historically mankind has traversed through the Dark Ages, the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, the Industrial Age, and the Technological Age, and now the Information age.  With so much immediate, portable information available to human beings at the click of a button, there are two questions that deserve our attention. Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?  Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?  If indeed information is what leads to knowledge, and the mature application of knowledge is what leads to wisdom, then a focus on application and consequences of incorrect application is of great importance.  

It is in this context that I wish to engage briefly with the concept of balance.  Our students are facing a fast paced and changing world where there are many things competing for their time, attention, and commitment.  At times I fear that without even knowing it, too many of our youth are nearing the threshold of being overwhelmed with so much being thrown at them.  Kids need time to unplug, deactivate, and disengage from the “information age” and invest in their mental and emotional wellbeing. They need positive interaction with trusted adults to test their thoughts and ideas and engage in intergenerational problem solving.  This is one of the laboratories for the development of application from which wisdom comes. Education certainly plays an important part in this process, but the role of parents, guardians, elders, and grandparents has a profound impact as well.

In the last two weeks we have observed “Hats on for Mental Health" and "National Mental Health Week.”  Each and every one of us has a primary need for good mental health. Feeling good and managing the highs and lows in life is a state of being that we must all strive for and endeavour to teach students to do the same.  In short, good mental health is at the heart of achieving balance.