By The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C, M.P.,
Prime Minister Of Canada
Inaugural Canada-Wide Marshall McLuhan Distinguished Teachers
Awards, Toronto April 26, 1990
I am very happy to be with you this evening for the first Canada-wide
Marshall McLuhan Distinguished Teachers Awards Ceremony. We are
here to celebrate the memory of Marshall McLuhan and to honour the
accomplishments of some of Canada's best teachers.
Marshall McLuhan was a prophet in his own time. He saw powerful
impact of technological on the world and showed us a new way to
explain our world and society. As well as being a great thinker,
Marshall McLuhan showed in his tenure at the University of Toronto,
that he was a great educator. This Canadian Awards Program of
the Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications is a most
fitting tribute to him. It is also a very timely and far-sighted
initiative, which we fully endorse.
Tonight, for the first time, we are honouring twelve Canadian
winners of the Marshall McLuhan Distinguished Teachers Awards.
All the teachers honoured here have shown leadership and creativity
in imparting knowledge and skills to their students. The enthusiasm
and dedication and achievements of these teachers warrants Canadian
By extension we are also recognizing the accomplishments of the
many thousands of elementary and secondary school teachers across
Canada who are committed to educating and inspiring our children.
These children are Canada's greatest resource. Their intellectual
development, their values and their commitment to Canada will
enrich our society in the 21st century and determine the success
of our economy in an increasingly competitive world.
A critical determinant of our future competitiveness as an economic
power and of our social and cultural well-being as a civilized
nation will be the quality of our educational system. All Canadians
want Canada to be in the vanguard of education both in the terms
of accessibility and excellence. As important as this has been
in the past it will be even more important in the future.
Last November, I proposed to my provincial and territorial colleagues
that we work together to establish a national task force on human
resource development for the year 2000 and beyond. Since then,
the Council of Ministers of Education and my own representative,
Dr. Doug Wright, the President of the University of Waterloo,
have made excellent progress on this idea and I am looking forward
to working with the other first ministers to strengthen Canadian
education for the future.
There is much about our education systems of which we can be
proud, but we also have our problems. In a country as advanced
as Canada it is very disturbing that we continue to have a serious
illiteracy problem. One recent survey found that 17 percent of
Canadian high school graduates were functionally illiterate. Not
only does this affect their ability to find employment at the
outset of their working lives but it affects their ability to
adapt to new demands in the market place and to seize new employment
opportunities later in their lives.
The drop out situation is also worrying. Nearly 100,000 Canadian
teenagers a year are dropping out of high school. Also disturbing
is the fact that in this new "information age" we continue
to produce a low rate of engineers and scientists for our work
And women account for only 13 percent of people receiving engineering
degrees and 30 percent of math and physical science degrees. This
is an affordable waste of talent in areas that are critical to
our national well-being. These statistics on illiteracy, drop-outs,
scientists and engineers and the participation of women are not,
obviously, conclusive and they tell only a fraction of the story
of Canadian education, as we see here tonight - but nevertheless
they are worrying.
For our part, at the federal level, we have taken a number of
steps to meet these problems. We have initiated the $80 million
Canada Scholarship Program to encourage our brightest young people
to enter the science and engineering fields. When fully operational,
this program will provide full scholarships valued at $2,000 each
academic year to 10,000 young Canadians; half of the scholarships
will go to women.
I cooperation with provincial and territorial governments and
with elementary schools, our public awareness campaign is changing
negative attitudes towards science and technology among the young.
To help young people make the transition from school to work successfully,
we have launched a national Stay-in School initiative.
And we recently announced support for a private sector initiative,
involving four national organizations (The Canadian Council of
Professional Engineers, the AUCC, the CMA and the Association
of Consulting Engineers) to improve the environment for women
in engineering studies and to increase their participation.
Learning does not begin when you enter the classroom, nor does
it end when you leave it. Learning is a life-long process. And
promoting quality learning opportunities for all our citizens
requires the collective will and energies of not only educators
and government but also of industry.
We recently launched the labour force development strategy to
help unemployed persons acquire new skills they will need to change
the changing world. This major new initiative will help Canada
develop a much needed training culture. From pre-school to adult
education, our ability to develop human resources will be vital
to our future prosperity and international competitiveness.
This afternoon at the Peel Regional, I met with women who were
successfully completing skills enhancement courses, enabling them
to re-enter the workforce in a productive fashion, many of them
after a 15-year absence. Yet as vital as competitiveness is, our
future depends on more than our economy. Education is also critical
to the evolution of society and the building of national consciousness.
After nearly 125 years, Canadians are still grappling with the
fundamental issues of our confederation. The challenge is to know
ourselves and the greatness of which we are capable. If understanding
Canada is the key to our future, education is the key to that
We have created a tolerant caring and united country, a civilized
and educated nation and we have much to be proud of. But we risk
losing this heritage if we fail to appreciate our past and carry
these values into our future. It is appropriate for me, not only
as the Prime Minister but as a father of four young children to
tell you of my deep conviction that we need to resolve our constitutional
challenges in a constructive and generous way. A vital challenge
for educators is to enable Canadians to understand their country
so that the can build a better future.
Teachers are the repository of our national consciousness, the
interpreters of our national culture and the communicators of
our national ethos. We owe it to ourselves and to our children
- and to their teachers - to recognize and celebrate the achievements
of these educators as we are doing here tonight. Their good influence
on us last a lifetime. We are here, tonight, to demonstrate that
their excellence matters and that they as educators matter greatly
in the building of a civilized and tolerant society.
I commend the McLuhan Center for this National Awards Program.
It has been a partnership of both public and private support that
has contributed to the realization of a national awards
program to honour the memory of a husband, a father, an educator
and a great Canadian.
Over twenty years ago, Marshall McLuhan wrote: " The future
is here now. The teacher of the future is always the present."
The present and the future converge here tonight, especially as
we honour teachers who are preparing our young people for the
century ahead. I believe that Marshall McLuhan would approve.
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