Chapter One: Making Sense of Public Schooling


  1. Conduct a class discussion of the main changes in society that have an impact on the schools. Put together as broad a list as you can, but don’t forget to look at some of the changes that have had positive impacts.
  2. Find a goal statement from your province or a local school district. Compare it with the statement in Box 1.4.1. Does it embody the same sorts of problems noted in this chapter? Why or why not?
  3. Reread the goals statement in Box 1.4.1 while thinking back to your own experience as a student. Which of these goals would you say were regarded as important in your school? Which were de-emphasized, ignored, or even contradicted?
  4. Interview three or four people involved with schools either as students, teachers, or parents. Ask them what they see as being the most important purposes of schools. Compare their answers. How much agreement is there? What disagreements occur? Why?
  5. How are schools in your community accountable to the public? Talk to people in the schools about this issue and compare your perception with theirs.
  6. Conduct an informal survey of people in your community as to the relative power held by teachers, principals, school trustees, and parents on such matters as the curriculum, teaching methods, or school rules. Analyse and try to explain the agreements or disagreements among your respondents.
  7. Do a survey of your university class to assess the occupations of your classmates’ parents. Compare their distribution with Canadian census data. Is your class broadly representative of the Canadian population? What are the differences?
  8. Consider the diversity of lived experiences and positionality of students in today’s classrooms. Conduct some research on the experience with schooling of different groups in relation to relationships with others, academics, extra-curricular activities and engagement in schools? What can teachers do to be more inclusive in their classrooms?
  9. Discuss with a colleague the ways in which you have experienced power issues in schools. What was the nature of the power(s) at play, how did you know that the issue was about power, and what was the culmination of it? At what times (or under what circumstances) is the use of power debilitating or facilitative?
  10. Write a brief description of a teacher you remember as being particularly awesome. What made them a good teacher? Are these qualities that any teacher could develop? Why or why not?