All Posts Tagged With: "public education"
Latest flip-flop by Halton trustees shows they’re not in it for the students
The Halton Catholic District School Board has overturned its ban on gay-straight alliances—and yes, it was probably something you said. The board was subject to international ire after its decision to ban gay-straight alliances caught the media’s attention earlier this month. Rubbing salt in the already-festering wounds, board director Alice Anne Lemay decided to draw an unwise parallel to Nazism while defending the board’s decision. “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” she said to Xtra, Canada’s gay and lesbian newspaper. “It’s not in accordance with the teachings of the church. If they wanted to have a club outside of school, fine, just not in school.”
Well, it turned out people didn’t take to that analogy too well, nor did they accept the exclusionary rhetoric implied by the decision. So, unsurprisingly, the board met Tuesday night and voted 6-2 in favour of scrapping the ban on gay-straight alliances. Michael Pautler, Director of Education for the Halton Catholic District School Board, reflected on the decision in a statement released by the board. “The most compelling voices on this issue have come from some of the students in our care,” he said.
It would be silly to buy that explanation, of course. When local MPPs, pundits across the nation, and even celebrity blogger Perez Hilton chastises the board for its obstructive and prejudicial decision, it’s hard to believe board members when they proclaim that they suddenly and spontaneously decided to listen to their students after all. The controversy tarnished the board’s reputation and promoted the impression that its interests lie with the Catholic Church, not with the social wellbeing of its students. When that allegiance is so blaringly apparent, it becomes all the more outrageous that public dollars are still fueling Catholic school boards in Ontario.
It’s not just this unfortunate blemish that highlights the incongruity involved with publicly funding Catholic schools (though “Public Pays School to Discriminate Against Own Students” is an awesome headline). Some Catholic schools across the province still refuse to teach methods of birth control and STI prevention (even though it’s part of Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum) leaving it up to their students to educate themselves on preventing pregnancy and sexual diseases. Creationism is still taught alongside evolution (albeit, supposedly only in religion class), and the hiring practices invoked by some Catholic boards could, arguably, be called discriminatory. Make no mistake–churches and religious schools have every right to conduct themselves in any manner they see fit, but they should not be entitled to the public dime, especially when their methods and philosophies are so subjective.
Catholic schools’ exclusive privilege to public dollars is unjust. Ontario needs to follow Quebec and Newfoundland and move to invest wholly in secular education, tailored to all students regardless of religious background. This Halton scandal shows why funding schools concerned with following the teachings of the church, and not necessarily the interests of its students, should come to an end.
Students are paying for art supplies, sports equipment, and core materials, finds new report
Students are forking over their own money for art supplies, sports equipment and, in some cases, even having to pay for materials in core learning classes such as science or French just to meet their educational needs, a new report suggests.
“You’re almost penalized if you’re not essentially good at basic math,” said Jonathan Scott, 19, for the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, painting a picture of students’ struggle.
“If you want to be an artist you’re kind of less important to the school system,” said Scott, who represented students at the Simcoe County District School Board during his last year of high school in 2007-08.
Now, an organization committed to improving public education wants the provincial government to address these concerns.
A new report from People for Education is calling for a “renewed vision” for public schools and lists more than a dozen areas where it wants Ontario to take action.
“We seem to be squeezing out the arts and culture,” said Annie Kidder, the group’s executive director.
Kidder said students in high schools are having to fit arts education and sports activities into timetables already packed with basic credit requirements. Many times, students end up paying for these extra opportunities outside of school.
It’s also an issue for children in elementary schools, where fundraising initiatives in affluent neighbourhoods typically mean those schools have more resources. At home, those parents can also offer their kids books and money for recreation programs.
But in poorer neighbourhoods, which lack the ability to fundraise and can’t provide extra-curricular activities at home, children are “doubly disadvantaged,” Kidder said.
“What’s worrying about this to us is the potential for inequity,” she said.
Richard Dreyfuss studied at Oxford, developing a curriculum for U.S. public schools
Of all the causes actors have chosen to champion, Richard Dreyfuss admits his passion lacks, well, a certain pizzazz: Civics.
“Don’t call it ‘civics’ because ‘civics’ is easily the most boring word in America,” Dreyfuss says. “Call it what it is: political power.”
Dreyfuss brings an actor’s dramatic pacing and a historian’s licks to his cause, erasing any notion that this lesson will be boring. He’s bombastic, predictably brash and yet professorial during a 90-minute interview in a bland hotel suite in this seaport, where he was honoured at a film festival earlier this year.
Kicked out of college for confronting a professor who criticized Marlon Brando’s performance in “Julius Caesar,” Dreyfuss recently studied at St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford to develop a curriculum for U.S. public schools.
Called The Dreyfuss Initiative, the curriculum would use scholarly presentations in videos and the Oscar-winning actor “as a storyteller, to engage, enlighten and empower students of all ages in an entertaining way,” according to an outline. Dreyfuss said he would work with civic and educational groups to promote the teaching tools.
While the program has not been used in any classroom yet, Dreyfuss has launched a fundraising campaign to produce videos and the curriculum.
“I’ve got a very simple thing here,” Dreyfuss said. “I’ve got a nonprofit initiative to get K-12 grades back to civics, to give our children real-world knowledge and hopefully wisdom about how to run this complex governance system. That’s it. That’s enough.”
These days, Dreyfuss devotes most of his public appearances addressing the origins of our nation and lamenting a citizenry that he believes has lost its way.
“I stopped defining myself as an actor and I went to Oxford because I believe that America is a miracle,” Dreyfuss said. “And I think that there is nothing easier in the world than for us to lose this miracle and to be reduced to words on paper.”
Having grown up in Canada, I didn’t trust private education
I’m glad to see that Annie’s post post has sparked a substantive debate, not only about the merits of undergraduate-focused education, but also about the complexity of applying a public/private distinction to Canadian universities. However, there are a few assertions which ought to be challenged, and others that require further clarification.
Like Annie, I too was initially hesitant to pursue my career in a private university. Having grown up in Canada, I had what might be called an inculturated distrust of private education. Prior to joining Quest, my teaching and research career had been primarily restricted to public Canadian universities: McMaster University, York University, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the University of Toronto. These are all good universities, though of course each has its strengths and weaknesses, largely as a result of their choice of focus. Nonetheless, my experience as a Fellow of a Cambridge college and my teaching for the Law Faculty at Cambridge University persuaded me that collegiate universities have significant benefits for undergraduate education. When Quest advertised for a philosopher, I was eager for the position for two reasons: it is a small collegiate institution, and it had a pedagogical approach wholly different from the Canadian universities where I had taught earlier.
As has already been pointed out, many others see the virtues of a collegiate institutional structure and an intimate educational community, and it is indeed the case that a very few Canadian public universities pay more than lip service to those notions. Supporters of small-scale undergraduate education are, it seems to me, to be praised, regardless of whether they work in public or private universities.
However, I’m not convinced that King’s College (Halifax) is or aims to be the same kind of educational environment as Quest. A Foundation Year, while laudable, is but a year. And a Great Books Program, also laudable, is interdisciplinary only by the anemic standards of interdisciplinarity generally espoused in North America. The point of the curriculum at Quest is to integrate the Arts and Sciences as much as possible rather than to offer some interdisciplinary courses (or even an entire interdisciplinary year). Students working within a truly integrative curriculum approach problems using the tools of many disciplines: they take, for instance, a course on ecology wherein they consider particular problems using philosophical, historical, sociological, and scientific modes of inquiry. That kind of integration is not merely interdisciplinary in that they see how the different disciplines can work together; it is interdisciplinary in that they must apply all the primary modes of inquiry which are relevant to the problem at hand.
None of the foregoing is meant to diminish the value of the interdisciplinary work that is being done or, in particular, the value of a Great Books program. Indeed, at Quest students undergo something very much like a Great Books program–my class has recently been reading the Iliad, Plato’s dialogues, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War, and comedies by Aristophanes. Nor are my remarks meant in any way to diminish the value of something like King’s alternative Foundation Year Program in science. My point is that integrated courses are not the same as an interdisciplinary program as it is usually understood.
Prior to joining Quest, I had a few qualms with private education
Looking at this blog’s history, I note that four out of the five entries were made by Quest University instructors. Since I agreed to contribute to this blog as a chance to start a dialogue between people interested in higher education in Canada, I thought I might try to shake things up by making an entry that’s bound to stir strong opinions. This is my challenge to the other blog writers, as well as to anyone who might be reading these lines – please participate in this discussion – as that’s the way to make this blog useful to all.
Here’s the controversial topic I would like to discuss to start this dialogue:
Is there room for private universities in Canada? Are there benefits? Should it be allowed?
I must confess that prior to joining Quest, I had a few qualms with private education. Like many academics, my ideals lie somewhat left of the middle, so the idea of joining an institution with high tuition fees seemed contrary to my values. However, having been at Quest for 3 years now, and having seen how the system works, my views have changed.
The level of scholarship and financial support offered to students in a private setting is much more developed than at public institutions. Indeed, I would argue that the private setting is more of a social system, where the level of tuition that a student is expected to pay is more in line with the ability to pay. Students from more wealthy backgrounds tend to pay higher tuition, and this money is used to offset the cost of tuition for students coming from more modest circumstances. This tuition adjustment is at the core of a social system. At public institutions, everyone pays a set tuition sum. Historically, this worked well because tuition was low, but tuition fees have been on the rise, and education is increasingly becoming inaccessible to a larger segment of the population.
The other issue often quoted in opposition to a private system is the quality of the programs offered. In B.C. at least, the degree programs offered by private institutions are annually reviewed by the provincial Ministry of Education. This keeps private institutions on their toes and ensures that they are consistently delivering a quality education, one that meets the advertised educational objectives. My understanding is that public institutions do not have to undergo such a rigorous annual review process. This is not to say that public institution programs are bad (clearly many are excellent), but just to point out that in a private setting, there seems to be more outside scrutiny to ensure program quality.
I realize I have written a somewhat one-sided opinion, but remember, my goal was to make this entry provocative so it would make some of the writers’ and readers’ blood boil, and would stimulate discussion on this blog! Please contribute your thoughts – privatization is very much on the Canadian list of most argued topics, and I would be delighted to read all sides of the story!
What should be done about hazing on campus?
- It should be banned outright (43%)
- If students want to join a frat, that's their choice (39%)
- It should be monitored and regulated (18%)