Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mr. Lamrock--"It is time to reconsider"

Copy of a letter sent by J.A. Burnett to the Premier, Minister Lamrock, and NB papers.

Dear Mr. Lamrock,

Did it ever occur to you, when you set foot on the path you have chosen with regard to FSL options in the New Brunswick school system, that you would find yourself beset by such a storm of determined, energetic, and well-prepared opposition? Perhaps it did. You have not been one to shy away from challenges in the past and you may well have knowingly adopted as your motto, "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!"

In some circumstances - when it turns out to have been right – such bravado can be admired as courageous. In others - especially when it turns out to have been wrong - the judgment of history is that it is merely foolhardy. I greatly fear that your present course, if you hold to it, will be judged to have fallen into the foolhardy category, at great cost to the province and to the political fortunes of the present government.

Fortunately, there is still ample time to withdraw that misstep. Not long ago, you stated your hope that the Lee-Croll report would stimulate an active debate. It has done so. In the course of that debate, a large number of knowledgeable individuals - scholars, teachers, lawyers, community leaders, and concerned parents – have offered reasoned critiques of the Commissioners' methodology and sensible, constructive alternatives to their reductionist "one size fits all" conclusion. The evidence against adoption of the report's proposals is compelling and comprehensive.

When experts in statistical study and analysis can demonstrate with such ease that the commission's statistical methods and assumptions are repeatedly flawed and misleading, it is time to reconsider.

When thoughtful and well-informed observers of the provincial school system point out that the 'streaming effect' decried by the commissioners actually results from the failure to provide adequate resources for special needs children in EFI so they may claim their birthright as New Brunswickers to a bilingual education, it is time to reconsider.

When the evidence of world-class school systems in Europe demonstrates the value and efficacy of early language teaching in producing young people who are fluent not just in one or two languages but in three and four, it is time to reconsider.

When even public officials like the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Provincial Ombudsman go on the record to state their grave misgivings about the wisdom and appropriateness of the commissioners' recommendations and the manner of their adoption, it is time to reconsider.

As the Minister responsible, you have the option and the power and the privilege to reconsider, to examine the alternatives that are now before you, to engage in a genuine dialogue, and to demonstrate leadership in arriving at a broadly acceptable resolution of this complex issue - one which includes the reinstatement and enhancement of Early French Immersion as the keystone of a school system of which we may all be justly proud in the not-too-distant future.

I urge you to do so.

J.A. Burnett, Sackville, NB.