I tend to view myself as a “progressive” conservative, or red Tory, particularly when it comes to education policy and programming. Yet, the differences in worldview between left of centre liberal progressives and centrist progressive conservatives is truly amazing. And, I am talking here about small “l” liberal and small “c” conservative pragmatism, not political party partisanship.
The reality is, however, we are like two ships in the night, sailing alongside one another, but never actually intersecting at any point other than in the importance of the journey itself. For example, during the last couple of days, a debate about the importance of education has been going on at Crux of the Matter between myself and Doug Little, of the “Little Education Report.” Check out this thread, as well as this one (half way down the thread).
My interpretation of what Doug wrote is that he assumes that more taxation assigned to education — read much more money — would change Canada’s provincial publicly funded education systems for the better (particularly Ontario’s).
How? I am not quite sure other than he uses the right terminology of what makes an excellent education system — points I could easily agree with. Yet, he would eliminate the current Ontario EQAO annual standardized testing process, as well as any kind of high school interest and ability streaming.
Therefore, just how he would know Ontario’s education system was one of the best — apart from politicians and teachers’ union officials making that generalized claim — I don’t know. Moreover, while there have been reports that many students drop out of high school programs that are too easy (e.g., the non-college/university stream), it is also the case that students drop out of programs that are too hard. So, just how eliminating streaming would make the system more equitable and inclusive, I don’t know that either.
Then, there is his strongly held view that free tuition to post-secondary education would improve our society overall because everyone would have equal access and, therefore, equal opportunity. Now, while I am not inherently against free tuition, I take the position that more money is not the answer as the recent “Price of Knowledge” study has shown. Yet, like all research — even though the results clearly showed that more than money is involved when young people decide to undertake post-secondary education — the investigators came to that conclusion anyway.
Speaking of research to prove a point, in a comment Doug left earlier this afternoon, he lists programs and approaches that have allegedly succeeded versus those that have not.
For one thing, I couldn’t disagree more about Charter Schools. They are succeeding very well in many U.S. states and in Alberta. Moreover, although Doug did not specifically mention this fact, Alberta Charters are not faith-based schools. In fact, as this video shows, in Alberta they must be secular. No, the problem many have with Charter Schools is strictly political.
As far as both the Harris and Rae government’s being the worst, I don’t agree at all. Dave Cooke was one of the best Education Minister’s ever and the NDP’s Royal Commission on Learning could have done a lot of good. Mind you, working in the public system myself during those years, I sure was not a fan of the Rae Days.
The Harris government, on the other hand, should not have “taken on the teachers.” It was a very difficult time for me to work for that government, being an educator to my bones. But, from my vantage point on the inside, I do believe they improved the primary curriculum and they did put through the College of Teachers and the common curriculum, on the heels of the Royal Commission.
Anyway, how many agree with Doug? How many agree with me? Or, are there other views altogether? Because, even if we are like ships passing in the night, we need to debate these issues if there is ever going to be education reform.
Debate and differences of opinion, are, after all, what makes democracy so messy. Even so, at the end of the day, we somehow come together long enough to make the education system work, even if it does not measure up to our idealized version of perfect!