We have to admit we went to private school, although we spent our 20s pretending it wasn't so. We have to admit we flunked the public school strike in 1987 and sent our boys to private elementary school. In fact, it was only when our second son, Ben, was in trouble that we came to understand the opportunities available in the public system.
And only with the passage of Bill 74 did we grasp that the dignity of thousands of dedicated teachers is being insulted by a law that will compel them to do what they are already doing willingly. Under Bill 74, we're expecting teachers to volunteer their time for school plays and sports -- and now we're going to report them if they don't.
Last week we got Ben's high-school report card, a normal occurrence in most households but a spectacular one in ours. For over a year, Ben wasn't in school because of depression.
In September 1998, he was well enough to go back. We met with the principal of Vaughan Road Academy, who, with the special ed teacher, designed a flexible program in which Ben was able to draw and write. By spring, Ben had written a short story that he was encouraged to rewrite as a play and submit to the school playwriting competition. He did. He won.
Then teacher Ken Klonsky directed and produced the play, called Indifferent Eyes, and entered it in the Sears Drama Festival. There, Ben won a writing skills award and the cast won for excellence in acting.
Then Klonsky submitted the piece to the SummerWorks Theatre Festival, where it was accepted.
Now, despite the fact that it's summer, Ben heads off to school every day to rehearse. And every day of Klonsky's "summer vacation," he is there, too. On Saturday (August 5), the play opens at Artword Theatre.
We are annoyed that the lifesaving volunteer work of teachers like Ken Klonsky is being so undervalued. The faculty at Vaughan just do what they've been doing forever -- they didn't need Bill 74. Coercion doesn't work for students, and it sure doesn't work for teachers.
Carolyn Bennett is MP for St. Paul's. Peter O'Brian produced The Grey Fox and My American Cousin and is executive producer of the Feature Film Project at the Canadian Film Centre. For Indifferent Eyes showtimes, see Summerworks listings.