Before adding my two-bits to this thread, I just want to thank everyone for such a great discussion. It has been a joy to read - even the posts that had me grinding my teeth…
I think that the current Public Education System needs a massive overhaul. Rationale includes:
a) We do not have a clear idea of what we are ‘educating’ children for.
It probably sounds base, but by and large the rationale for public education was to prepare children for the world of work. Concepts such as “Self-improvement” and “Reaching Your Potential” were add-ons in the 80’s and 90’s when it became apparent that what we were doing in Public Education did not meet the needs of the world of work.
Our world has changed. Most of us no longer work in primary or secondary industry. Instead, we work in services. Most of these services, while they might increase our enjoyment (for example, I like back massages and dining out) , the services are non-essential or alternatively could be done by machines.
I think the kids growing up today are very aware that unless they are extremely gifted they aren’t really going to have a satisfying work life. By gifted I mean having one of the following qualities: fabulous interpersonal skills, kinetic preference, artistry, leadership material, or high IQ combined with a strong work ethic.
Artificial intelligence is making huge inroads into the middle class and professional class body of knowledge. Smart algorithms are been developed that are self teaching. They are being used to analyse meta-data, biopsies, x-rays, building design. Inroads in law and accounting have also been made. Even the trades are starting to see work off-shored. We will however always need heavy equipment operators.
I believe that one of the things that has fallen out of this new reality of recognizing that they will not have a satisfying work life is that the younger generation is far less loyal to their employers. After-all why should they be loyal? They know they can, and will be gone in an instant if it improves the employer’s bottom line. Perhaps, because work is no longer so important, this void has been filled with an increase in the importance of having a multitude of personal relationships - both real and imagined? In the past 30 years we have seen FaceBook, Computer Games, and a upsurge in evangelical religion . People are social animals and a sense of belonging is a key emotional motivator.
b) What is the Content?
Most of us don’t need to know a lot of the current curriculum. We will never use it so why is it being taught. When is the last time you used algebra? If we accept the argument that it is being taught as content to teach us to think, then we need to re-look at the content. There are lots of content out there that could be used to teach children how to read, write, analyse, synthesize, do basic arithmetic, and demonstrate good interpersonal skills.
c) The two major decision makers the BCTF and Provincial Government are at logger-heads.
There is so much animosity I don’t think it can be overcome. Both sides have demonized the other. The BCTF no longer looks like a union, due to its foray into politics, it looks more like a political party. It is hard to negotiate with someone who is trying to over-throw you and therefore does not recognize your authority.
d)The mandate of the union is to be self sustaining.
To be self-sustaining, the Union needs to maintain its’ membership. The Union maintains its membership by ensuring that there are teachers who are employed in the Public School System. Given this mandate, it is unlikely the union will ever agree to any measures that will reduce the number of teachers.
e) Who knows best what is needed
The union has over the years been pretty successful in identifying itself as the repository of all knowledge on what is best for children. There are some fine educators who disagree with the Union’s basic position that more teachers will translate into better results.
Over the years, I have come to believe the old saying “It takes a community to educate a child”. Teachers do play a significant part, but students are only in school for a very short portion of the day. Parents, the child’s peer group (real and virtual), casual connections, and media all play a huge role in educating kids. We don’t seem to recognize these influences when we discuss the educational system.
f)The mandate of government is to balance the cost of educational services against the costs of everything else it is expected to provide.
Neo-Conservatives say that we can no longer mortgage our grand-children’s future. Certainly, the economic markets penalize government (by increasing interest rates on their bonds) if the government does not embrace the Neo-Con ideology.
I don’t know if there is a ‘right answer’ here. In any case, with the exception of the left-wing of the NDP, most people are not interested in racking up huge incremental amounts of public debt. (Adrian Dix sounded pretty conservative compared to Dave Barrett)
g) The mandate of the political party in government is to use the tools of government to get re-elected.
The political party will do what it thinks it needs to do to get re-elected. We haven’t exactly gotten Plato’s Guardians running the show down in Victoria!
h) People’s personal interests change.
I the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s everyone was having children. It was generally agreed that we couldn’t spent enough money on education. Now we are a lot older and -our interests have changed to: lower taxes, better medical care, better pensions. See point (e)
Anyways, thanks for the enjoyable discussion. I really don’t think there is going to a quick solution. If the government is guilty of bad faith bargaining, I guess it is just another case of someone deciding “that the end justifies the means”.