Sunday, February 17, 2013

Feb. 17: Bring the little children......

Together, Canadian and American governments spend well over 500 billion dollars on education. That's a lot of money. What a pity to waste it all on children!

That realization several years ago led to a big campaign to bring private business into education to, you know, share the wealth. It was sparked by the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies with a soft sell. AIMS would, at no cost to the taxpayer, design and administer exams to test the quality of individual schools and individual teachers. You know, run the classroom like a real factory so that all the children pop out at the end to be identical.

This was supported by the Moncton Times and Transcript with a series of vicious and ignorant editorials on our schools and teachers. (I have always suspected Norbert Cunningham of having written those editorials. The style - ignorant and vicious ranting - is one that he is prone to.)

Did I mention that  Atlantic Institute of Market Studies has a more than passing connection to the Irvings and other corporate leaders in this region?

It all began in the 50s with the invention of the "think tanks", propaganda agencies to help big business muscle in on whatever it could. But they never called it 'muscling in". They called in public/private partnership. "Yeah," said the burglar to the householder, "Yeah. That's it. We're partners."

And there are the public education systems, sitting with over $500 billion in schools, and all of if being wasted on teachers and students when it could be going into the pockets of the very rich.

In New Brunswick, AIMS never did get control of education budgets. But it has stuck us with its unscientific, incompetent and interfering evaluations of schools.

American big money was more successful. It has now converted thousands of public schools into fee-paying schools with private ownership. (And they also get the education tax money, too, of course.  One effect is to keep out the half of the population that cannot afford to pay the fees. So much for equality of opportunity.)

It also means that the schools of the poor and the lower middle class get their budgets cut, guaranteeing that those children will have no chance at all.

Are the fee paying schools better? Well, it doesn't matter. In education, snobbery counts for everything. A school that rich kids go to is, by definition, a good school. (Even education authorities have a tendency to think that way.)

The result is that any parents in the US who want to have their child get even a chance at university education  MUST send their children to a fee-paying 'public' school.

Does it work? Well, it certainly works in producing profits for the private operators of fee paying public schools. However, the annual, UN reports on education tell a different story.

The US, never a really strong performer in education ratings, has now dropped somewhere below one-hundredth place, surely the lowest in the developed world.  (Canada normally ranks in the top ten.)

Education is not a business. Business methods are not effective in education. In fact, they are destructive.

The heads of corporations, whatever their talents might be in making money, are incompetent, interfering asses when they push their way into a field like education. And what they are incompetently interfering with are the lives of our children.

When those vicious and ignorant editorials on education in the Moncton Times and Transcript faded, I thought we had escaped that.

Then I noticed a web site for something called New Brunswick Literacy Commission. It is devoted to helping our children become more literate. How sweet. Then I noticed that the chairman of the board is that great devotee of literature and the arts, Jamie Irving of Brunswick News. Looking at the other board members, you will find them to be the usual political hacks and the business people who want to be "partners" in education. And so we seem to be into the new phase of soft sell.

I also found another new web site, The Learning Partners. I don't know much about the group. But I noted that at a recent convention, it's keynote speaker was that model of good citizenship, integrity, and educational insight, Mr. Brian Mulroney. Any organizaton that would pick a speaker who will do down in history as a sleazy bribe-taker, and will take Harper with him as the man who refused to prosecute this criminal case - any organizaton that would do that is at least suspect.
It looks very much like we're once again in the soft sell stage of a new assault on our schools and our children. Once again, the key word is "partnership". Such a nice word. So friendly. So cooperative. So seductive. So lying. So vicious.

Business has NO business interfering in public education. How would Mr. Irving react if we appeared at his office to announced we wanted to be in partnership with Irving Enterprises? How would he react if unions demanded a right to a partnership in education?

Irving and friends have no right to any such partnership. He and his friends are quite fond of talking about the public and private sectors as though public sector means just the government. I suggest they look up the word democracy in the dictionary.

The public sector is you and me and all the people we see every day. We are the public sector. We are. It's not just the government. The government is supposed to represent us - not something abstract called the public sector - us.

Corporate bosses have no business interfering in what is our business - our children. Corporations are not only incompetent to do so. They're acting directly against democracy. The fundamental principle of democracy is that we are all equal, and all have equal rights. Nobody gets extra rights just because he's in the private sector. People who say that are proclaiming themselves as fascists because that "partnership" blend of of government and business is precisely what Mussolini promoted in Italy.

You want a voice in government and the schools, Jamie Irving? You have it. One voice on voting day, same as the rest of us in a democracy.

We're not interested in your crypto-fascist posturing. On Nov. 11, we remember those who died to save our freedom. What they fought against to defend our freedom were those ideas you are now promoting under soft-sell words like "partnership".

Thanks. But if we wanted the sort of society you propose, we would have fought on the other side.

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