Schools can fix anything, right?

There’s this peculiar notion in Canada. The US too.

If there’s a problem, somewhere in society, it must be fixed. It must be fixed by the government. And it must be fixed by the government through schools.

CBC ran a story today about a politician who is trying to get schools to teach swimming lessons. Sounds like a good idea.

So did “just say no to drugs.” So did sex education. And when kids were hungry, schools seemed like a good place to feed them. And if parents weren’t teaching kids proper hygiene, schools had to do it. Need driver training? Schools can do it. Bad behavior? Teachers can help. Parents aren’t home at night? Guess we need after-school programs.

You name it, there’s a school-based program for it.

I pity educators. I really do. Considering the sheer number of auxiliary programs that schools have to – by law or fiat – squeeze into their limited instructional days, it’s a miracle kids learn anything about reading, writing, math, history, geography, critical thinking … the foundation stones that yesterday and today define what it means to be educated.

We keep hearing about how things are bad in schools. Kids aren’t learning what they’re supposed to be learning. Could the answer be as simple as that we’re just throwing way too many things against the school wall, hoping some of it sticks?

I think it’d be great if all kids learned how to swim, and no kid in North America ever drowned for lack of that skill, ever again. But are schools really the answer to all of our society’s problems?