SCHOOL FOR THOUGHT
Click here for an exhaustive study of the private school landscape across Canada. Most people think of private schools as urban and expensive and élitist, but they are anything but.
- Of the 1,935 private schools operating in Canada, only 90 were "élitist".
- Although 80% of Canada's population lives in large urban centres, only 63% of private schools were located there.
- Almost half of Canada's schools have a religious orientation: about 30% of the religious schools are non-Catholic Christian; about 8% are Catholic; about 5% Islamic; and 4.5% Jewish.
- Five provinces offer partial funding for their private schools, and about 40% of students receive some government subsidization.
- One out of 15 Canadian students attends a private school.
Click here for a story about a Hamilton parent who went to court ($60,000 of his own money so far and counting) because he was refused advance notice about when his junior kindergarten and grade 2 kids were going to be taught sensitive topics like abortion and homosexuality. As a devout member of the Greek Orthodox faith, Mr. Tourloukis wants to teach his kids about these topics in his own way on his own timetable and according to his religious beliefs. Mr. T has no objection to his children receiving factual information about such things as bodily names and processes. All he wanted to do was be able to withdraw his children from class when the brainwashing, oops I mean teaching of sensitive topics, was happening.
Arrayed against Mr. T in court were not only two lawyers from his school board, but also two lawyers from the teachers' union and two lawyers from the provincial Attorney General's office - all, btw, paid for by taxpayers. They apparently mainly argued that Mr. T should not be enabled to withdraw his kids from class because it would be offensive to some hypothetical junior kindergarten and grade 2 kids if they noticed that one of their classmates wasn't there. Really?
The judge has reserved judgment.
It basically comes down to how powerfully the state should be allowed to impose its agenda on individual parents. And while perhaps you think that it's fine for the government to try to brainwash all of the province's children that homosexuality and abortion are okay - attitudes that I happen to agree with myself - what would you think of a government that for example wanted to convince kids that they should all vote for the Green Party or get rid of their pets or boycott Wal-Mart? Should we cede governments the power to crush any parents who dissent?
The ongoing discussion in the Bad Education Systems Have Very Serious Consequences thread made me think of this column from our archives. It was adapted with permission from The Graves of Academe by Richard Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell was a professor of English at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. It's well worth reading Dr. Mitchell's writing if only for the pleasure of how good it is, but of course he also makes a very convincing argument that schools' job #1 should be to give their students the gifts of literacy and numeracy.
"The problems and disorders in education have become more and more visible in the last few years, and even the ordinary citizen who happens to have no children in the schools suspects that something is very wrong, but he will never understand exactly what is wrong until he realizes that all our educational problems and disorders, none of which is new, provide endless and growing employment for the people who made them.
"Barely-literate children may be suffering and facing whole lives of deprivation, but consultants and remediationists and professors of reading education and tax-supported researchers and the editors and publishers of workbooks and handsome packets of materials are doing very well indeed and looking for even better days to come.
"It is important to note, too, that all those profit-makers have not suddenly appeared among us like the wandering bands of looters who can reasonably be expected to show up after the earthquake. They’ve been around a long time, diligently turning the wheel, professing what must be remediated and remediating what has been professed and enlarging in our society the role of what can only be called the educationist-industrial complex.
"Anything that may seem to us a disorder in education is for them a golden opportunity — indeed, since they live by tax money, they cannot make their profits until we do see a disorder in education and thus feel obliged to shell out.
"Curiously enough, therefore, it is very much in the interest of policymakers and theoreticians of public schooling that there be problems and failures and that we know about them and also, even more curiously, that any kind of social disorder at all be made the business of the schools.
"We are encouraged thus to hand over to the educationists not only the problem of widespread illiteracy but also the notorious disinclination of voters to trouble themselves by going to the polls, the fear and hatred of each race for the others, and the epidemic of venereal disease among thirteen-year-olds.
"As our schools struggle with their massive campaign to rehabilitate our young people, we can naturally expect that they will give it all they have, which means, of course, that what they don’t have, they won’t give. What they do have, all they have, is that earnest devotion to the power of suggestion in the cause of social and psychological manipulation, and although their decades of devotion to pious social adjustment may not be the only cause of our present disorders, they have certainly not prevented them.
"Now the necessary concomitant of the social adjustment theory of education is the denigration of intellectual discipline. Perhaps it is a bit rash, however tempting, to say it is exactly because the schools have been preaching vapid and sentimental sermons for 60 years that hosts of newborn children and their mothers will become permanent wards of the state, but it is not a bit rash to suspect that widespread and crippling social disorders of all kinds are directly caused by ignorance and thoughtlessness.
"There is only one remedy for ignorance and thoughtlessness, and that is literacy. Millions and millions of children would today stand in no need of sex education or consumer education or anti-racism education or any of those fake educations, if they had had in the first place an education.
"An excellent model of the genesis of all these fake educations can be seen in the trendy and popular consumer education.
"We are told that we need consumer education because people are easily duped by misleading advertising, cannot figure out the per-ounce price of ketchup, and imagine that they can live on Twinkies and Coca-Cola. But the consumer who is duped by misleading advertising does not need consumer education: he needs to know how to read.
"The housewife who can’t figure out what ketchup costs does not need consumer education: she needs to know how to cipher. And as to those who want to live on Twinkies and Coca-Cola, frankly that’s their own damn business and we ought to leave them alone, but we might legitimately provide them with knowledge about biology and chemistry first and then leave them alone.
"Our problems come not from ignorance and thoughtlessness about sex any more than from ignorance and thoughtlessness about ketchup. They just come from ignorance and thoughtlessness, which are preserved and nourished in our schools by those whose profits lie in ‘solving’ the problems they have created.
"Literacy is not, as it is considered in our schools, a portion of education. It is education. It is at once the ability and the inclination of the mind to find knowledge, to pursue understand and, out of knowledge and understanding, not out of received attitudes and values or emotional responses, to make judgments.
"Literate people are not easy prey. They know an inference from a statement of fact, and they are not easily persuaded by pretended authority. Literacy is like the kingdom of Heaven. Those who attain it will find that other things are added unto them."
Everyone can learn everything, including drawing.
Canadians have been gobsmacked at the popularity of Donald Trump. More recently, we have been surprised by the success of the Brexit movement. In both cases, it is less affluent and less-educated citizens who are leading the charge. And in a democracy, they can vote in politicians and policies that are very destructive.
To me, this looks like the result of an education system that is producing winners and losers - and the citizens who are supporting these harmful movements are the system's losers. The losers are not equipped to compete in the global economy, and so they resent things like globalization (which takes away their jobs) and immigrants (who take away their jobs). Naturally, they vote against them.
To me, Donald Trump and Brexit are clarion calls to make education systems fairer, such that they make it possible for every child to succeed in school. If everyone could read, write, and add up at a high level - which it is totally possible to achieve if good pedagogy is in place - then they would be in a position to make better decisions on matters that affect all of us.
One of the main reasons - if not THE main reason - for many people's support for public schools is the notion that kids from all walks of life will rub shoulders there. So what do you make of this? This is a map of the catchment area for Toronto's Allenby Junior Public School, a school that states it has not taken out-of-area kids for eight years. Now, Allenby School has a reputation as a very good school and it is located in a very affluent area. Most advertisements for a home in Allenby's catchment area mention the school. Unfortunately, the cost of a home there is out of the reach of most people.
If you look carefully at the map of Allenby's catchment area, you will spot several grey rectangular shapes. What are they? Why they are apartment buildings with affordable rental costs. And even though these buildings are clearly within Allenby's catchment area, the people who live in these apartment buildings are not allowed to send their children to Allenby School but rather are "redirected" to North Prepatory Junior Public School, a much less desirable school.
Because people increasingly choose to live in neighbourhoods with people of similar backgrounds, most government schools in Ontario are actually less integrated than the province's private schools. H/T HRH
SQE's dynamic new president sums up the Ontario education scene in this Troy Media column.
SQE and its predecessor OQE were created 25 years ago because their founders saw the need for someone to speak on behalf of parents. OQE/SQE continues to be the only organization dedicated solely to improving the quality of schooling in Canada.
Someone has to stand up for the province's children, and SQE president Maddie di Muccio is up to the challenge.
This clip is not, strictly speaking, educational, but it is definitely interesting and, I suppose, speaks to the difficulty of preparing children for their chosen futures.