Population Forum, 2012
with guest speakers, Erin Phillip and Art Skipsey

Participation in Global Knowledge Economy starts Locally.

Thank you to Erin Phillip for doing the Transportation Analysis regarding possible school closures (see Endnote 1), and to Art Skipsey for your insights and recommendations.

Erin, thank you for all your work, it is very much appreciated and we look forward to seeing the study posted on the internet soon.

Figure 1. Example of a Transportation Analysis Map by Erin Phillip

Art, thank you for highlighting the importance of local ownership and management of resources, and the importance of free votes, for representatives to vote with conscience (2).

To the Data Providers

Unfortunately, our requests for data (number of students per neighborhood block) and funding for Erin ($770) from the Qualicum School District did not garner assistance.

Regardless, since there is a flood of data being made available over the internet, Erin was able to use other sources including Statistics Canada and the Regional District of Nanaimo, both very helpful.

Thank-yous go out to the VIU Geography Department, and in particular, Dave Cake, the GIS instructor, and the VIU Library staff, as well as to the Regional District of Nanaimo for help with maps and roads, as well as Statistics Canada for dissemination level population by single year of age, and the boundary files and the road network files.

To the Audience

And, thank you to those of you who were able to make it out to the presentation.

Your interest in studies of topics of relevance in our communities, helps encourage a culture of sharing information and thoughtful discussion.

Communities that encourage public consultation, scientific inquiry, the exchange of information, thoughtful discussion, and engage students, young and old, in local issues are both better informed and better able to participate, and gain high paying jobs, in the growing global knowledge economy. Related reading: The Book of Jobs by Joseph E. Stiglitz, article in Vanity Fair, January 2012.

Benefits of Engaging Students

Applying theories and concepts learned in the class room to issues of interest in their communities is an excellent way to engage students (3). Engaging students in studies of topics of relevance helps provide the "best education experience for students" - the common goal shared by parents, educators, and interested community members.

Practical experience helps students develop skills, learn to develop methods and models, learn the importance of keeping good records, learn to ground truth, watch for ecological fallacies, understand strengths and weaknesses of methods and models, as well as make presentations and answer questions.

Community members also benefit. While we learn about local issues, we also enjoy the refreshing approach of exploring topics by using scientific methods, thereby making an effort to remove personal perspectives from influencing the results, by ground truthing and watching for ecological fallacies, as well as better understanding the strengths and weaknesses of methods and models.

In older communities (ones with a relatively high median age) like many of those on Vancouver Island, presentations, and the discussions afterward, by students and elders helps lower technological and age barriers that would otherwise restrict information exchange.

Not only does engaging students in studies of relevance to their communities make sense, the experience helps students (and the communities that encourage them) gain high paying jobs in the knowledge economy.

Access to Relevant Information: School District Public Consultation - Effect of School Closures on Transportation Service

An excellent opportunity to engage students is the public consultation process underway in School Districts facing school closures, including the Qualicum School District (QSD).

For example, the "BOARD POLICY 3040: SCHOOL CLOSURE" in effect when the QSD Administration announced the recommendation to close a school states ...

"Where the Board contemplates a school closure, it will take into consideration: effect on transportation services"

Perhaps someday the QSD will provide students and communities impacted by a school closure, with the same data that is sent to outside consultants, used to justify the closure, as well as provide funding for student's studies.

Tax funded organizations can provide relevant information prior to deciding to close a school permanently, allowing community members to be aware of the challenges in a timely manner, and better able to participate in providing solutions.

When addressing planning, examining issues in advance by engaging in the exchange of information is far better than the shock and reaction method.

Indeed, the "school organization practices relevant to teacher and parent involvement in decision making affect student achievement in middle and high schools". (Lee , Smith, and Croninger 1997; Croninger and Lee 2001; Lee and Burkam 2003).

Summary

Perhaps the example set by Erin and Art, of sharing information regarding issues of relevance with community members will be emulated by other community members.

With community members support and encouragement a culture of education, science, articulation, and thoughtful discussion can grow from our communities, with the happy by-product of being better prepared to participate in the global knowledge economy.


Endnotes

1. Erin is a Vancouver Island University student, taking courses in Geographic Information Systems through the Geography Department.

In the spring of 2011, I began to make requests to VIU in an effort to engage student in studies of local issues, in particular, a transportation study for the QSD, and a study of the public consultation process underway in the QSD. In the fall of 2011, I met with several professors and the Dean of Social Sciences.

The GIS section of the Geography Department offered students the opportunity to do a the transportation study, as a topic for their practicum. Erin Phillip, answered the call.

As the sponsor, I met with Erin many times to go over the project. Erin showed a great deal of personal initiative in finding creative, results oriented solutions to find alternative ways to calculate travel distances, and was able to adapt and refine methods and models to address the topic.

Erin ran 13 scenarios - each of the 13 schools in the study was removed, one at a time, while the others were left in and the travel distances were recalculated and 13 maps, one for each scerario, were generated.

I hope that people in the Qualicum School District, and other School Districts as well, find Erinís report, and her example, helpful.

2. Both presenters topics highlighted problems facing communities that export local raw resources, including information, then buy back finished products.

Art spoke about the export of raw logs, and for Erin's study, the QSD would not provide public data that is sent to outside contractors, and in both cases, we buy back finished products.

For example, the data we requested for the transportation study, the number of students, by grade, by (neighborhood) block is sent by the QSD to an outside contractor; however, the data is not being made available for the studentís study.

Instead, we (tax payers who pay for the QSD and the contractor) buy back a finished product. The community is not even allowed to see and verify the methods used by the contractor.

Not only are raw resource (including information) exports authorized, but local refinements are unauthorized.

The imposition and maintenance of a dependency relationship, where students are not allowed to use public data to do a transportation study, or studies of other relevant topics, unfairly restricts efforts to help provide the "best education experience for students".

3. Bill Gates, of MicroSoft fame, has funded research into education and studies show that students benefit most from being "engaged". He also advocates funding research.


Sources:

Statistics Canada, Regional District of Nanaimo

Map adapted from data from Statistics Canada, by Erin Phillip

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