Eye on Education: Influences on Education


Each week the Lethbridge Herald features a column written by a Superintendent of one of five school jurisdictions in the Lethbridge area.  On April 4, 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.

Influences on Education

Ken Sommerfeldt

Over the years I have reflected on the foundations of our society, and the part education plays as one of the structural pillars that empowers students to interpret society, and take their place in shaping social order.  First and foremost, it must be understood that the home and family are the primary educators of children.  Parents / guardians have the right and responsibility to interpret their own values, and to provide guidance and direction to their children who will interact with the changing and shifting values in society at large.  Education is located somewhere in the middle of this conversation as the interaction of one generation engages with another and the youth find themselves in the present while preparing to lead society into the future.

The education system should not be the vehicle that provides amplification to organized voices in our society.  The curricula in education should be provided, not force-fed to students, nor should it be influenced by pressure groups from either end of the political spectrum.  Education should not be the voice or structure for pressure groups.  It should not be the valve to release forms of social or ideological platforms.  It should not be the forum for individual, or personal victory.  Education is not a political volleyball... it is not a forum to advance the agenda of social justice, any more than it should be used as a force to maintain the status quo. 

In the last few years, it seems that there has been an increase in strategic initiatives to manipulate the education system for reasons that should be outside the scope of what education is designed to achieve.  Education needs to ascend above the agendas, pressure groups, finger pointing, judgment, and politics that are so evident in our society.  So many tireless professionals work daily without recognition in Alberta classrooms to support all students. They became teachers because they wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.  If they had wanted notoriety or public acknowledgement, they could have chosen politics.

They knew they would become part of the fabric of the democracy they are co-creating with their students. It is not a momentary engagement for teachers and educators rather; they are in it for the long haul.  Their influence may not be totally appreciated for generations to come, and even then, it will be silently and discreetly embedded in the character and lives of the students they taught or coached, or supported.

Education never asked to be in the spotlight... and perhaps it shouldn’t be - indeed it will have the greatest impact when it is a supporting actor.  As a distinct and full partner with parents and the family, the public, separate, and private education systems are pillars that support our society in an organic and meaningful way.