Posted tagged ‘ivory tower’

Partisan Politics, Education, and the Ivory Tower

July 7, 2010

There was a time, as a young teacher, when I believed that academics working in the field of Education based their politics on their personal experience within the Education system.  That is, I thought that after working in and studying Education, those looking down at us lowly teachers from their ivory tower came to their academic conclusions based on their observations and then sided with a political perspective which supported their findings.  I realize now that politics is their initial point of reference for such so-called experts and that Education is merely subject of their gaze.

Case and point: How long have we in Canada heard about how we need to move to a more privatized and competitive schooling system, like the United States?  Charter schools, private schools, voucher systems – these were all supposed to give American kids an advantage over the students on this side of the border.  And – as a bonus – these privatized systems would, incidentally, lower taxes.

But recent results of international testing show Canadian students performing much higher than their American counterparts.  The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), ranked 15 year-old Canadian students fifth out of 57 participating countries when tested for math and science, while American students lagged behind in 32nd place.  Canadian students also proved superior in reading literacy skills.  All this while Canada only spends 3.4% of its GDP on education ($8,169 per student) while the U.S. spends 3.9% ($10,692).

So how do the right-wing edu-pundits respond to this?  In a recent National Post article, they have done an about-face saying that the achievement of Canadian students is due to our country’s competitive and somewhat privatized Education systems.  What???  Suddenly Canada’s Education system is competitive?  Nowhere in the article are there any arguments or explanations demonstrating that our system is truly more privatized or competitive than the American one or that pitting educational systems against one another is good for students.  This is certainly a clear case of right-wing spin.  Not surprising to find in the National Post, but depressing to see nonetheless.

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