We’ve got lots of options and “choices” in our public schools.
Early education, adult education, French Immersion, Montessori, special needs, gifted, music, drama, technology, behaviour, alternate, and E.S.L programmes- to name just a few. There are schools that specialize in Fine Arts, extended athletic programmes, and Career Preparation – there’s no shortage of choice in public schools.
“More school choice” isn’t a clamour for more programme options; it’s a dog whistle for more private options. Proponents of school choice want taxpayers to fund private options that will separate their child from the riff raff of different religions, cultures or of inferior ability or class.
While Canadians strongly resist two tiered health care, they seem to readily accept a two or three tiered, education system.
But we shouldn’t.
By any measure, Public Education in Canada has been and is one of Canada’s most successful social initiatives.
Canadian public schools are considered to be in the top five systems in the world, by international measures in Science, Math and Language Arts. One reason is that 95% of Canadian children still go to public schools respected and supported by Canadians.
And that’s what makes education work- equity of opportunity, respect for public schools,and as Finland has proven crucial, extensive teacher training and professional autonomy.
For almost two hundred years, public schools have shaped Canadian culture and values.
Look at how Canadians observe Remembrance Day each November. We learned this directly from annual public school assemblies.
It’s not an accident that Canadians are polite and nice. It’s not genetic, it’s learned; in our public schools.
Public schools sculpt Canadian tolerance and empathy. They reinforce a shared history, quiet pride in country, and they keep us from the tyranny of class systems like those found in countries that encourage private schooling.
All Canadian children should attend local public schools. They shouldn’t be separated by religion, socio- economic status, colour or country of origin. They shouldn’t be home schooled, attend religious schools, Charter schools,Swedish Orthodox schools, or “Learning Academies” requiring uniforms and a private bus ride forty- five minutes across town.
Our children need to be in their neighbourhood school, with other children of different kinds, cultures and backgrounds. It’s best for our country and it’s best for them. And it’s so much more important to our children’s development than is succumbing to our misguided vicarious ambitions for our children.
Too often we mistakenly think school uniforms, more rigour, mindless compliance, discipline, and unrelenting pressure to excel is what’s needed at a time when what’s actually needed is kids just enjoying their childhood.