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Canadian Politics – Education

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September 23, 2015

This is a bit of a weird one. It shouldn’t be – you’d think education would be an important talking point for all of the political parties heading into the October 19th Election that the Conservative party doesn’t want you to vote in. It’s overlooked by most, though, because in Canada education is handled on a Provincial level. Given the importance of education to the future of the country as a whole, though, and the lasting damage being wrought on the future because of policies adopted from our southern neighbor, education can, must, and should be spoken of during this election cycle. It’s time for a larger perspective, and that means Federal politics. Here’s a brief history on education as we understand it, where and why it’s failing, and where the various political parties stand on this impossibly important issue. 

 

Schools, as we understand them, were initially created to craft a literate work force. That’s it. That’s all that they were meant to produce. The merchant class, with the blessing of the nobility, put together a system of learning that would allow people to work in factories, but with greater education comes curiosity and a need to seek out answers. The founding fathers of the United States changed that, creating the common schools that would be the precursor to modern public schools.

That’s why a good deal of the scientists and philosophers that have moved our world forward haven’t come from the noble or merchant classes, excepting those instances where those people have wanted change. Happy people don’t move, don’t grow, don’t seek out answers – and if there’s one thing that early education system did, it was give people just enough of an understanding to see how miserable they actually were.

From this we got some serious changes so far as civil rights went, which also saw an overhaul of the education system. Both Canada and the United States recognized the importance of educating the populace in an ever more complex world, because of either country was going to maintain its edge education was going to be paramount.

Public education became the by-word, and was one of the most important advantages that both countries offered future generations. By paying teachers a good salary and making certain that the curriculum was flexible by the standards of the time, they were able to make sure that no child was left behind. Public schools were the standard, an investment in the future, and the rest of the world hurried to follow suite.

It’s amazing to think that the America education system was once heralded as one of the best on the planet, and is now one of the worst among first world nations. Canada isn’t anywhere near there yet, but the potential is there.

Why? How did this happen down south, and how can we avoid it up here?

Well, the introduction of standardized testing plays a big roll in that – instead of measuring comprehension, standardized testing only measures the memorization of abstract information. Further, by using the results of standardized testing to dole out the budget of any given school, we’ve encouraged schools to cheat and compete with one another rather than encouraging them to actually teach children.

Worse, as we’ve cut funding for public schools, we’ve also seen the rise of private schools that also get government funding, and often get more government funding than their public counterparts. This has led to the re-creation of a caste-based education system, neither of which treats their teachers fairly.

Teachers make barely enough money to keep them out of poverty, but are expected to work overtime unpaid and are required purchase their own materials from out of pocket so that they can actually do their jobs. Further, the government’s consistent disdain for public education has seen less and less people become interested in becoming teachers, and the fact that parents blame teachers for the shortcomings of government and government blames teachers for wanting to be paid fairly leaves those that do become teachers questioning their decisions.

In the United States, we’re seeing the Conservatives of that country push for propaganda over information, and the Conservatives of our own country are, as ever, following their lead. They also want to double down on tactics that we know do not work, murdering the natural curiosity of children in the hopes of engendering a compliant apathy.

This, despite the fact that we now know more about how to go about teaching people and are unable to take advantage of it due to budget restrictions endorsed by government and resistance from parents, an ever decreasing group of teachers and ever increasing group of students, to the point where classroom sizes are getting so large as to be unmanageable. Also, the world has sort of moved on from the Industrial Age – mayhap the curriculum and means of teaching should move on as well?

Many curriculums are entirely frozen to a bygone age or push for changes that do not work, teachers unable to get the resources they need to make their lessons relevant and classrooms liveable. As our government and parents debate the validity and value of sex education, we still have high school graduates that do not know how to be adults in our modern worldhow to balance a check book, do taxes, or pay bills. We need our schools to cover the practical and the abstract, and they can do neither with the budgets and restrictions that they’re currently given.

None of this even takes into account post-secondary education. Believe it or not, there was a time when one could get a summer job flipping burgers and pay for college, but the changing economy has made that reality a distant memory. The reality is that now post-secondary education is necessary to get any sort of career, and yet doing so will saddle those that seek it with a debt they will likely never escape, even if you can find a job that will pay for work.

Like, you know, teaching should.

These are the grim meathook realities of the modern world. We have some protection because Provincial, rather than Federal, governments are responsible for education in Canada, but the Federal government still has some say in policies and how things are managed. To say that the system is broken on a fundamental level is an understatement; so, given these truths, what do our politicians plan to do about fixing it?

 

Just a reminder – we’ve already covered who these people are, their stance on the environment, and what they’d like to do to the economy. We also noted a rather disturbing completion of a certain political checklist. Remember, inform yourself and vote accordingly:

 

Canada Politics 001 - 005The Grits

Alright, the Grits might be onto something here. First and foremost, they’ve promised to increase the budget of Early Childhood Education and Care to 1% of the Gross National Product of the country, which is a pretty good start. This means that single parent families, or families where both parents work, will have access to places they can leave those children to be cared for and educated. They’ve even promised that no one will be excluded for reasons of “disability, access, or the cost of service” and that the curriculum will enable “cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social and physical development” and even include things like “hearing and vision care, parental support and mental health.” The lack of an Oxford comma in that last sentence is their error, not mine, and one need only look at the Provincial Grits for an idea of how well the federal Grits might do. On the other hand, they’re also promising $2.6 Billion for First Nations education, so maybe the general public can go learn with them? There’s precious little the Grits have announced for post-secondary education, so maybe they’re holding off for a big reveal later? There’s talk of a “Canadian Learning Passport,” which would offer $4k in tax-free grants who choose to go to post-secondary, and maybe even more to those with low-income families or for veterans. That’d be cool.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 002The Tories

So, Canada has this RESP thing that parents of low-income and mid-income families can buy into. Basically, you put some money away for education later on, with a $0.10 per dollar buy in for mid-income families and a $0.20 per dollar buy in for low-come families. The Harper Government is promising to double that up to the first $500 per year, meaning that families could see an extra $100 per year if they do a full buy in. Beyond that promise, the Tories have been mum on the subject of education save for their snubbing of First Nations’ education and their quiet study of the propaganda-in-place-of-history being pushed by the Conservatives in the United States, and listening to the suggestions of the oil and gas companies that offer them most of their bribes. So, you know, that’s all pretty horrifying. Also, they really like the idea of student debt, because debt is good for stock exchange prosperity. So that’s a thing.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 006The NDP

Tom would like to create quality care centers for kids, engendering education and allowing parents to further their own education or join the workforce for no more than $15/day. That’s cool. He’s also pushing to open 40, 000 apprenticeships in the trade sector, which would allow kids to find paid work and eventually settle into a career. As for the specifics of education and student debt, well, the provincial NDP is moving to freeze post-secondary education costs, which is a step in the right direction. Tom has also noted that the average student walks out of post-secondary with $28k of debt, and 14% of them can’t find work – and of those that do, many are unpaid interns. Acknowledging that there’s a problem is the first step to fixing it. They also want more education grants, with a planned increase of $200 million going to scholarships and an increased tax credit for education, from $4,800 to $5,760 per year. As to overhauling the broken curriculum, well, Tom’s been pretty vocal about how much he doesn’t like oil and gas companies overhauling the system, and he might have some ideas on how to make things better. In point of fact, the NDP has been the voice of reason in recent debates involving education, probably because the Greens still haven’t been invited by the mainstream press.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 004The Greens

Wow. Front and center: the Greens want to abolish tuition fees going forward, forgive all student debt over $10k, and create a guaranteed livable income so that no Canadian lives in poverty. Right away, this would allow graduates to seek out jobs that are worth working at, and to actually survive interning for no pay, or to pass on interning to find work that will actually pay. Either option is better than what we have going right now. The Greens are also interested in working with teachers to create a better curriculum, and maybe even making sure teachers have the resources and budget that they need to make their jobs possible. Further, they’re interested in fostering the same sort of apprenticeships that the NDP are promising, with a focus on research, development, and application of green energies and technologies. Also, those child care services the Liberals are all excited about? The Greens want to do those, too, but better and cheaper, and they have a budget that would allow them to do so.There’s a sense of hope when the Greens talk about investing in future generations that is lacking in the other political parties, but we encourage you, as always, to double check our findings.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 003The Bloc

Shockingly, the Bloc is not all-Quebec here. This is important, because Quebec only functions because of the threat they pose to Canada by leaving it – and if they cut off the future of the country, they know that they’ll lose long term. To that end, the Bloc would like to restore the budget we used to give to education to mid-nineties levels, which is much higher than what the current Tory government is offering. They also want to increase the number of tax-exempt scholarships for post-doctoral students, so for those of us that get that far, woo.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 007Wyatt Scott

We know he believes that education is too damn expensive, so he plans on lowering costs. Presumably, the hordes of treasure can be claimed when he kills dragons will be invested on schools so that engineers can be trained to figure out what technologies can be harvested and put towards the good of all Canadians from the giant robots that he destroys with his eye lasers. We can also presume that he will free the scientists that the Conservatives had kidnapped to build those giant robots, thus allowing them to teach the secrets of their craft for the glory of Science~! and all Canadians.

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