Northumberland’s Kids Choose Ignorance as Bliss

Our contest inviting 10 to 15 years old from Ontario’s Northumberland County to write a review of their favorite book, magazine, song or movie ended this past week in ignomy. There were only three entries – and of those only one was complete. This despite the fact that the contest with its prize of $50 plus a desktop computer had the enthusiastic support of librarians from a number of Northumberland towns including Cambellford, Cobourg, Hastings, Port Hope, and Warkworth among others. Unfortunnately we can’t say the same for the kids or their teachers.

The kids voted by their failure to send a simple email with their review of 400 words or more. The teachers of Northumberland county also voted a big Nyet to the contest. In early August we sent a letter along with a poster of the contest to the principals of all the grade, middle and high schools in the county inviting the students to compete. This could be a writing assignment for English class. I remember writing at least 1 essay per week as homework for English and Civics classes. So it should be no big deal….Bzzzzzzt!

Our offer to the principals to come visit the schools, explain the nature of the contest and how to make an entry was cheerfully ignored by every one of the principals. So with this one two punch – the contest was floored. But it is not down for the count. We shall return next year with another review contest; however there will be changes in how it is organized.
Meanwhile, I would recommend to all the students (and teachers for that matter) of Northumberland County that they take a peek at Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. The book tells how students around the world are working double if not triple overtime to educate themselves better so they can take North American jobs right out from under the students and workers in Canada and the US. And these are jobs in every category from engineer through management to professional doctors and researchers.

The idea of the contest was to make critical thinking, a key to innovation and competitive advantage, something easy and fun to do. We will retool – and see what we can do differently and better next year.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006