Education matters

Education sure does matter and matters of education are on everyone’s mind at this time of year. Ours too.

First of all we have been assessing the new crop of students who are everywhere in evidence this last Welcome Week. [parking in Wolfville? forget it ]. Hot looking bunch from what we have seen so far, if not quite as numerous as Acadia would like. Fewer foreign students, that’s clear. The ASU website isn’t up and running yet [they’ve “been attacked by a virus”]. We suspect this will not be the only computer related woe we hear about this year. [Good luck with Vista folks] The advertisement program on local cable has been touting the university’s research “edge” [the term “advantage” is still used though] by emphasizing that at Acadia students do a lot of their own research instead of just helping professors with theirs. Hmmm. Guess the quality of that research depends then on the quality of the students rather than the quality of the professors teaching them? Anyway, they tried  to appeal to prospective students in any way they could and tried to fill residences by giving them as entrance “scholarships” [don’t call them bribes – that would be mean.]

Education matters have also been on Margaret Wente’s mind and her column recently in the Globe [ G&M Aug 30] had, as usual, discouraging words about the education situation in Ontario, which ultimately taints the nation.

In Ontario’s secondary schools, teachers are told not to penalize students for late work. The Ottawa public school board has decreed that students who plagiarize will be allowed to do the assignment again. In some schools, students are allowed to stroll into class whenever they want. And a provincially mandated system of “credit recovery” means it’s so easy for them to make up failed courses that they don’t have to do much more than show up. …

“There’s a lot more leniency and a lot less work in credit recovery,” says a teacher at one middle-of-the-pack Toronto school. “Kids know that, if they fail, they can do the class again in six weeks.” Credit recovery is also a convenient way for some teachers to shuffle the losers out of their hair. “It has turned into a huge program here,” says the teacher, who, like most, won’t speak on the record for fear of professional consequences. “As long as you show up, you’re not gonna fail.”

The “success” rate of students in credit recovery is amazingly high, a fact that may or may not be related to the relentless pressure on the schools to boost their graduation rates. But teachers worry that credit recovery has watered down the meaning of a diploma.

“A credit for Johnny is not a credit for Janey,” says Neil Orford, a history teacher and department chair at Centre Dufferin District High School in Shelburne. “The integrity of the credit is in trouble across the province.”[emph ours]

No wonder then that testing for incoming students is necessary.  Assessment of Reading & Writing Ability (Sustainability assessment) was this morning and Math Placement Test this afternoon at Acadia. No wonder. But do you think any student will be turned away if they don’t pass?

How do our schools in NS fare? For several years we have been following AIMS‘s attempts to assess our schools with their “report card” . This would be a useful tool for parents if they had choice but choice is usually restricted; not every family can just pick up and leave to get in a better school district. Even when parents are in possible proximity they are curbed from choice by arbitrary distance limits for enrollment. Schools that are closed are not the worst performing schools but smaller or older ones which may actually offer better results and are dear to their communities.

AIMS has some ideas for our post secondary institutions too.

Why not take Harvard University courses from the comfort of your home in Hubbards or earn your PhD from Princeton University while living in Pugwash?

That’s more than possible if we start thinking about post-secondary education outside of the proverbial box, said Charles Cirtwill of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a non-partisan, non-profit think-tank. …

Mr. Cirtwill said stakeholders must come together to figure out what they want for the future of post-secondary education here, which may mean fewer institutions and more higher-learning options — and taking “education to the streets.”

“This is the future and the future is today,” he said, pointing to distance education at Mount Saint Vincent University and course flexibility at the Nova Scotia Community College as prime examples of what can be done.

There is resistance to this idea of course:

Although most agreed that post-secondary education has to change in Canada, not everyone agreed with Mr. Cirtwill’s suggestion of a “bits and bytes” model.

“I’m not sure I see the case for a radical redesign of institutions,” Alex Usher, director of Toronto-based Educational Policy Institute Canada, said after the forum.

“I do see the argument that ‘Yes, bachelor degrees are stuffy’ and ‘Yes, for some young people, the pull of a tight labour market is going to make it tougher to lure them into post-secondary,’ that you’re going to have to find ways to let them earn and learn at the same time. I get that.”

But Mr. Usher said that’s “a bigger deal” for colleges, calling universities important “finishing schools for our society.” [emph ours]

Translation- they are [some fields excepted] tools for brainwashing  into impractical, unrealistic, over idealistic ideologies.

They are the basic social network for people in professional positions and I just don’t see changing that.” [link to source]

Let’s face it. This is where, for the most part, our leaders and bureaucracies come from. And then we complain when we end up with incompetent, idiotic and impractical government.

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