Posted by: elightkeeper | March 16, 2010

From the lighthouse

When I read Virginia Woolf’s “To The Lighthouse”, I was 19 years old and a third year student at the University of BC.  Many fall mornings as I walked through damp fog to the Buchanan Building for English class, I would hear the deep-throated call of the foghorn from the Point Atkinson lighthouse.  I don’t remember Woolf’s novel all that well anymore or even the characters in it , but I do remember the foghorn and it’s haunting, two-note requiem played in a minor fourth. Perhaps I should have been studying music and not literature.

Most lighthouses in British Columbia were automated several years ago. Prior to that, lightkeepers and their families lived on the rocky outcrops up and down the rugged coast of this province. Some of their children were the first distance learners in British Columbia.

“Kids in the lighthouse” was a phrase often used to describe the kind of students who enrolled in distance education in the last century, only one decade gone.  They were largely rural and isolated. But now the children are gone from there and urban students have joined the ranks of those needing or choosing an alternate way of learning.

Technology has impacted everything. Times have changed, rapidly and exponentially, but schools have not been able to keep pace.  The fog around education is, at times, thick and dense. Twenty years from now, students likely won’t remember details of a story they read or the characters they studied in class.  But they will remember where education empowered them or held them back.


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