My post from the other day – calling for an end to the model that permits long-term care homes to be privately owned and administered by profiteering and shareholder dividends rather than care and quality of life – hit a few nerves here-and-there. Not nearly enough, in my opinion (working on expanding the reach – there will be letters and phone calls going out this weekend), but it’s a start.
In that post, I mentioned that I’m trying to focus on my particular wheelhouses as we figure out how best to move forward in this unprecedented time – and that statement led to some inquiries about education – and the obvious moves this provincial government is making toward its privatization.
I’m shuddering with anger right now.
The Minister of Education is continuing his campaign of obfuscation and hurdle-tossing as he outlines the ever-increasing nonsense that he wants us to call his ‘plan’ for the re-opening of schools come September.
I’ve been watching Cult 45 down south, and its leader (and his head of miseducation) is demanding the complete reopening of public schools. Failure to comply will lead to the full withdrawal of funding for those schools who place the health and safety of students and educators above the demands of ‘leadership’ that has demonstrated that they aren’t particularly concerned about anyone’s health and safety. Not really.
This ‘policy’ follows hard on the heels of the revelation that the US federal government’s Paycheque Protection Program (PPP) – aimed at ‘small businesses’ gave a whole lot of churches (don’t get me started on Kanye and Trump-affiliated companies…) a whole lot of money to ‘survive’ through the pandemic shut-down(s).
It is no secret that Betsy DeVos has no love of public schools. She tends to favour private schools that have greater freedom to force religious education on students. With increased public school closures, those who remain unable to access the private system(s) will be forced to resort to other options – such as homeschooling – to allow their children access to the education that should be a basic right in a civilized society.
I don’t love homeschooling for a few reasons:
- Homeschooling demands that one parent be in the home to provide the schooling – which is fine, provided that it is something the family can afford.
- Most homeschool curricula – especially those in the US – are created by Evangelical groups and are, unsurprisingly, not what would call educationally well-balanced.
- Even those curricula that aren’t religiously-based, tend to be created by those who live – and teach – in particular echo-chambers that permit the flourishing of ideologies that are out-of-step with those of the wider society (looking at you anti-vaxxers).
I also believe that socialization is a vital element in effective pedagogy – and exposure to different teaching styles and the wider perspectives that are present in adequately-funded public schools are the best environments to foster responsible citizens.
The situation in the States is clearly contrived to ensure that public schools are forced into closure – and opening the field for partisan education that will perpetuate the final stab at the absolute institution of conservative values that the religious right has been setting into place for the past few decades.
The goals of this provincial government are not dissimilar. As with our health care system, the privatization of the education system in Ontario is part of their agenda. We have seen it in the push to implement (pre-COVID) untested e-learning platforms (all designed in the US, BTW), the increase in class sizes, while cuts are made to Education Assistants and those who focus on learners with special needs – most obviously those children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
By forcing parents to decide to send their children back into classrooms without adequate safeguards in place or to stay home and continue the haphazard online schooling that has been the (necessary) result of the initial pandemic shut-down, puts us solidly on the same slippery slope as we are seeing in the States.
Again, as is the case with health care, Ontarians will be forced to pay to ensure access to education – one way or another. Homeschooling (even with public Board-produced curricula) again requires the presence of one parent – and the reality of this society dictates that that will be, in the main, mothers, who are forced to leave jobs due to lack of childcare/viable options for safe school.
Those who are forced to resort to all-online options – if they are not comfortable with sending their children to class – need the wherewithal for connectivity and the accoutrements that go along with online learning.
Families who can afford private schools will rush to get places in those facilities that offer, as a matter of course, smaller class sizes. Parents who can’t will have to make hard decisions about returning to work or managing the education of their children in a home-setting – often without access to home-schooling programs and curricula that aren’t produced by and for specific religions/ideologies.
It is increasingly evident that the US is a cautionary tale that the rest of the world ignores at its peril. Now that the height of the first wave of COVID is over here in Ontario, this government is reiterating its agenda to provide its corporate sponsors with opportunities to cash-in by getting in on the ground floor – or continuation – of its plans to privatize vital public programs and services.
We need to stop it before it before they can bring more of these plans to fruition – and we end up with the ideological divide that we are seeing in the States. That divide is here – there is no doubt about that – but it is not yet the gaping wound we are seeing south of the border (a border which must remain closed for the foreseeable future). I know everyone is very focused on coping and getting through the current lockdown/reopening scenarios as best they can, but it is vitally important that we actively call upon our leaders to ensure that our public programs and services – education and health care topping that list, right now – aren’t stolen out from under us as we are otherwise distracted with the realities of this time of pandemic.
Please write your representatives – at all levels of government – and let them know where you stand on the insidious creep toward the conservative-led privatization of our most valued institutions.