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Drawn Off Topic: Gerry Dee on 'boutique' schools (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Drawn Off Topic: Gerry Dee on 'boutique' schools (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)


Comedian Gerry Dee on 'boutique' schools Add to ...

Gerry Dee stars in Mr. D , which airs Monday nights on CBC.

Where did you go to school?

I went to De La Salle [“Oaklands”]in Toronto. It was high school when I went and Grades 5 to 12 when I taught there.

Could it be classed as a boutique school?

No. Never.

Do you support the ideal of specialized, boutique schools?

If it is done properly. If the academic part of it is suffering just to get athletes or musicians in there, then I think that is weak – if it takes away from the kid’s experience of school. You go to a school where it’s just athletes, I don’t know how that helps you expand your horizons in other fields. But some of them do it very well. Unless they are focusing on the academic side as well, I think they are doing a disservice to the kids because the odds of them making it in sports or music or whatever are slim.

Boutique schools are a growing trend. Are they a fad?

Let’s be honest, boutique schools are there to create money. If somebody owns a school, they are a businessman.

No, I’m speaking of specialized schools within the public system.

If you don’t pay to go, there is definitely something there for kids that have something special and what to focus a little more on it.

Here’s the thing – parents always think their kids are gifted in something. I saw how few make it. For every parent who thinks their kids are a special singer or dancer, most of them are wrong. But for those that are correct, they are going to rise to the top, regardless of what school they are at.

There is a burgeoning demand for boutique schools. Is this the result of a yuppie, “me generation” mentality? As in, “My child is exceptional and needs specialized schooling”?

Some parents are honest and some aren’t. Watch that show Tiaras, whatever it’s called. [ Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC]It’s a perfect example of the exaggerated, worst-case scenario of parents. Do you think that kind of school is going to pop up for pageant contestants – “because my daughter is so beautiful”? That is the extreme of it. It could get out of hand.

What I like about these boutique schools if a kid gets in and they don’t behave themselves or act properly, they get kicked out. If you are in a specialized program in a boutique school, there’s some incentive to try to stay there. You are not paying, but you are in this elite program. Private schools, you don’t like the kid, you say, “Here’s your money [back] go home. Goodbye.”

In public schools it is very hard to deal with kids that curse at you, that threaten you, that are insubordinate. They get a two-day suspension and they are back. There is no deterrent. Perhaps the boutique idea puts a little more pressure on, but you have to ask, who wants them there? Do the kids want to go, or do the parents want them there?

Boutique schools have been called elitist. Some see the idea of special programs for special kids as unfair. The audition or tryout process is viewed as elitist and some schools have lotteries for admission. But isn’t ability itself elitist? Not everyone is equally gifted.

It is always going to be political. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you in.” Any school that does an audition process, they are going to need a certain amount of minorities in the program, a certain amount of girls, a certain amount of boys. It’s never based just on talent. And people don’t assess talent the same way across the board. It is always going to be a biased selection process.

But when you are good, you are good. It doesn’t matter what you do. The cream rises to the top. You get things in life because you work hard and you’re good. Nobody misses a good hockey player. Sydney Crosby was never going to slip through the cracks. You need the audition process to assess a lot of things, but you should be assessing academics as well.

I never worried about kids when I taught. They usually figure it out. You figure it out or you don’t. You can constantly instill your own beliefs and principles as a parent and as a teacher, but inevitably it comes from the kid finally being able to figure out, “I have to do something.” Some never do. Some commit to crime, some live an average life, some become successful. It’s life.

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