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My high school is closing

I read in the Etobicoke paper that my old high school, a place called Scarlett Heights, is closing. I’m betting developers will replace it with some kind of housing development. I guess it was a good high school. I mean, I think I got a good education there, or at least a good enough education to propel me into university. My older sister and brother went to school there too.

I don’t feel a lot of connection to the place though, unlike some folks who hang out to this day with the same group of friends with whom they went to high school. I’m in touch with a couple people from that time but mostly they are names and faces lost in my past.

What I mostly recall about those years is that I started going out to galleries and museums to look at art. This was of course pre-internet and my exposure to paintings was seeing works by our contemporary Canadian painters. I recall being fascinated by paintings I saw by John Meredith and Gordon Raynor and Ronald Bloore and Claude Breeze and Doug Morton and many more. I wanted to make paintings too. My high school art teacher, a wonderfully eccentric fellow, was very encouraging. My parents were encouraging too. They wanted me to get a university education and they were OK with me studying art, although I was reminded many times that a good job would be OK too.

We lived in central Etobicoke in a bungalow on a nice street. It was a safe and clean, mostly boring and not particularly diverse community. The high school was close to the middle school and I walked to both. There was a plaza across the street from the school, where some of the high school kids hung out. It was a dream of our parents to raise their kids in a community like this one in central Etobicoke.

I remember there was a Texaco station on the corner across from the school and late one night there was a murder there, an honest-to-God hit. It was one of two murders in the area that rocked the community. The other one was the killing of two young women who were followed home from an airport bar and murdered. We weren’t supposed to have serious crime in our neighbourhood. It was, after all, the suburbs.

I haven’t been back in the old neighbourhood in a long time. Obviously the demographics there have changed if there aren’t enough students to fill the school. Students currently attending Scarlett Heights will start attending a re-named Kipling Collegiate, quite a distance away. I hadn’t heard anything about my old high school for many years until our former mayor Rob Ford started his public meltdown. It turns out he and his brother attended the same school as me, a few years later. Apparently as mayor he still enjoyed visiting the place, and my old school made the news.

Do you feel connected to your old high school?




  1. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    As a side note, in academic terms Scarlett Heights was in the top 10 in the province. At least in the early years. When I went through I did so in the last year in which a grade 13 student needed to pass province wide exams in order to pass their year. These exams were quite scary because if your teachers were crap a huge percentage of students would fail their year through no real fault of their own. But our teachers were generally top notch. I will never forget the mid term physics exam which was designed by our physics teacher. You want to launch a satellite into orbit above Toronto so that it both stays in orbit and so that it remains stationary directly above Toronto. How high do you you have to launch the satellite? One question, that was it. We hadnt learned anywhere near enough physics to be able to answer the question correctly. Not even close. Show your work. You got marks for attempting to use the physics that we had learned in a way that made sense to attempt to get an answer. No one got the correct answer. The class spent 3 weeks after the exam digging into the problem to learn what was relevant and what wasnt and how we should have approached the problem. Our physics teacher was so tough that when the terrifying province wide exam happened we laughed at it because it was so easy and zero students from our school failed the exam. I used to see the final exam results by school and our results were among the best.

    Getting rid of the province wide final exams marked the start of the end of quality education in Ontario. The thing was that if the exams were the same for all schools and if the group of students in one school were as smart or stupid as a similar group in another school then any differences in results could reasonably be attributed to the quality of the teachers. In fact, if you were so inclined you could drill down into the exam results and evaluate the performance of a single teacher. Oh my. The teachers union wanted none of that. You cant just use real results to evaluate our union members. no no no. That isnt fair. It isnt right. And anyways no student should ever fail at anything because that would be bad for the kid’s self esteem. If a teacher shows up most mornings then he is doing a wonderful job right? The teachers won that landmark battle and the failure of the provincial government to win the right to evaluate teachers was pretty much the end of our education system. Once the teachers won that battle they learned how to hold the students hostage in wage and benefit disputes and the whole system went all to hell.

  2. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    The demographics have certainly changed. Within an easy walk of the high school is now one of the most dangerous areas of the city. Drugs. Shootings. Murders. Lock the car doors and drive fast. 10 minutes north and 10 minutes west on foot. It is even closer to the Kipling high school. I dont know if the evil has spread to the subdivision where we lived, perhaps it hasnt but it is close enough that I wouldnt want to live in the area anymore.

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