Public education as a concept is a mark of socialism. In some forms, it represents an understanding that not everything can be based on profit derivation. Not in the form that we have in Canada though.
No, our system is based on the Prussian model of education which exists to create obedient citizens. Its values include ensuring that pupils become wrote machines of consumption and that those who struggle with this are kept at arms length of social participation. Not to sound too Marxian or conspiracy theoristy, but the system of education in Canada exists to sustain capitalism. Booo!
I feel as though I have a lot of ground to stand on when I complain about the public education system in Canada – particularly Ontario – as I am product of its system, sort of: I have attended 7 schools, dropped out 3 times, and did not graduate from high school. And yet I am an honours student in University. I could come up with many excuses as to why I couldn’t get those last 4 credits, but the plain truth is I just really didn’t like school, and now,thanks to my Politics of Education course, I can tell why.
In the class I learned that our mandatory, public education system exists, fundamentally, not to educate children and allow them to fulfill their potential, but rather to indoctrinate them into being good little consumers and capitalists. Schools reward obedience, routine attendance, and not thinking outside the curriculum with high grades and the sense that ‘good’ students are special snowflakes whose opinions always matter; I was, and still am, contrary to the core and appreciate self directed learning, I don’t show up to do things I don’t like to do, and I really don’t feel as though I am a unique and special individual with constant profoundness and importance.
I also hated the curriculum, which I continue to deride to this day. Among many things I find lacking about it, a friend of mine remarked quite profoundly the other day on a serious problem with curriculum in Canada’s school pertaining to the education of Aboriginal students. She was reacting to Mr.Ignatieff who politically name-dropped free post-secondary education for Native Canadians when he did a town hall meeting at our school the other day, without making any mention of the fact that very few actually make it to post-secondary education – or a program or policy that would help rectify this. Her claim, which I would say is correct, is that our curriculum teaches history, language, and social studies written by white people about white people for white people. Her directive was to rethink education to create curriculum that would include Aboriginal perspectives so that Aboriginal students may be engaged, empowered, and therefore be more likely to graduate. Imagine!
How about school as a place to receive care and nurturing toward selfhood? Well, guidance counselors in London can help you if you need to make that super-tough decision of which school to go to: the one with all the parties, or the one where you got a scholarship to in recognition of all of your attendance, punctuality, and obedience as opposed to actual ability to function in academia. But if you’re ,say, in a gang or, god-forbid, GAY, then no:
When I was in high school, I was part of a group of queer and queer-friendly youth who were reacting to recent violence against young gays in the city and attempting to make safe spaces and provide literature for queer youth in schools. At the school board meeting I went to, one trustee claimed that support literature for queer youth should not be put in the library or counselor’s offices as there were already enough of ‘them’ in the school and they didn’t need to create more of a problem.
I reflect on this because I was recently shown my yearbook from one of the times I didn’t graduate , the caption that appeared below my misprinted graduation photo read ‘too cool for school’.