|Author||Jerrold Kachur and Trevor W. Harrison|
|Category||politics and sociology|
Education, Globalization, and Democracy in Alberta
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Education, Globalization, and
Democracy in Alberta
edited by Trevor W. Harrison and Jerrold L. Kachur
The University of Alberta Press
and Parkland Institute
First published by
The University of Alberta Press
141 Athabasca Hall
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E8
Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta
11044 - 90 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E
Copyright © 1999 The University of Alberta Press
Printed in Canada 5 4 3 2 1
Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data
Main entry under title:
Copublished by: Parkland Institute.
Includes bibliographical references.
I. Education — Government policy — Alberta. 2. Politics and education — Alberta. 3.
Education and state — Alberta. I. Harrison, Trevor, 1952- II. Kachur, Jerrold L. (Jerrold Lyne),
1955- HI. Parkland Institute.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be produced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in
any forms or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise — without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
Printed on acid-free paper.
Printed and bound in Canada by Hignell Book Printing Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The University of Alberta Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of
Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program for its publishing
activities. The Press also gratefully acknowledges the support received for its program from
the Canada Council for the Arts.
To Kelli and Nik,
Jayna and Keenan,
and the rest of Alberta's children.
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Introduction: Public Education, Globalization, and Democracy:
Whither Alberta? xiii
Globalization and Educational Change
Passing Fancies: Educational Changes in Alberta 3
Constructing the Perpetual Learner:
Education, Technology, and the New Economy 21
The "Alberta Advantage": For Whom? 33
Trevor W. Harrison
The Marketing of the University 45
The Politics of Educational Restructuring in Alberta
Orchestrating Delusions: Ideology and Consent in Alberta 59
Jerrold L. Kachur
Re-Investment Fables: Educational Finances in Alberta 75
Deep and Brutal: Funding Cuts to Education in Alberta 85
From Boardroom to Classroom: School Reformers in Alberta 99
Privatizing Public Choice:
The Rise of Charter Schooling in Alberta 107
Jerrold L. Kachur
Challenging Restructuring: The Alberta Teachers' Association 123
D.J. Flower and H.L. Booi
Re-organizing Schools: Scenes from the Classrooms
Is it Just a Matter of Time?
Part-Time Teaching Employment in Alberta 139
Board Games: The New (But Old) Rules 151
The Principalship at the Crossroads 165
Norm Yanitski and David Pysyk
This book began as a passing conversation, gathered steam at an actual
meeting in February 1997, and finally crystallized in the fall of the same
year. Like any other project of this sort, it could not have been put together
without the efforts of a great many people. First and foremost, of course,
are the contributors themselves. Their diligence and hard work, in meeting
our stringent deadlines and accepting some of our suggestions (while
properly rejecting others), made putting this book together a positive
We also want to acknowledge the support provided by Parkland
Institute and the University of Alberta Press. Particular thanks go to Dennis
Haughey, Gordon Laxer, Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Glenn Rollans, and the
members of Parkland's Research Committee, including the anonymous
reviewers, for their critical questioning and valuable suggestions as the
We would also like to thank several individuals — Bob Barnetson,
Anne-Marie Decore, Susan Belcher El-Nahhas, Calvin Fraser, Noel Jantzie,
Bev Lyseng, Eric Newell, Annette Richardson, Victor Soucek, David Watt,
Diane Wesley, and Deanna Williamson — for their contributions which
remain inserted, if only unconsciously, within the margins of this text.
We also owe enormous thanks to David Odynak and Derek Briton for
their technical support.
Finally, we want to acknowledge the many sacrifices made by our
families over the past many months and the time we stole from them as
we worked to complete this book. We will all be rewarded if this book
makes this province a better place.
This book involved a genuinely collaborative effort on the part of
the editors. No primacy to either party should be read into the order of
editorship or authorship. Any errors or omissions contained herein are
the sole responsibility of the editors.
— T.W.H. andJ.L.K.
H. Larry Booi is a social studies teacher at Strathcona Composite High
School in Edmonton, currently on sabbatical leave and taking graduate
studies in educational policy studies at the University of Alberta. He is a
vice-president of the Alberta Teachers' Association and co-author of
Ideologies (1997, 3rd ed.).
Lee Easton teaches in English at Mount Royal College and at the Centre
for Communications Studies. He is currently completing a PhD in English
studies and multimedia at OISE. His most recent publication includes
"Phone Sex, Cybersex and Other Hi-Tech Sex Adventures: Just Like the
Real Thing?" in Post II.
Judith Evans holds a PhD in psychology from the University of California
and an MBA from the University of Alberta. She is president of Pragmatic
Applied Research Ltd and a member of the Canadian Evaluation Society's
National Council. She is also on the Capilano School Council.
David Flower has a PhD in historical geography from the University of
Alberta. He taught high school social studies in Medicine Hat before
joining the Alberta Teachers' Association where he is currently coordinator
Trevor Harrison holds a PhD in sociology. He specializes in political
sociology and is author of Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism
and the Reform Party of Canada. He co-edited (with Gordon Laxer) The
Trojan Horse: Alberta and the Future of Canada. He played a part in the
founding of Parkland Institute and was Research Associate during its first
Jerrold Kachur has a PhD in the sociology of education and is an assistant
professor in educational policy studies at the University of Alberta. He
specializes in the sociology of comparative and international education.
He is the Canadian research coordinator for a six-country study of teacher
unions in the Pacific Rim, funded through the Latin American Center,
UCLA. He has taught seventeen years in K-I2 and post-secondary systems.
Kas Mazurek has a PhD in the history of education and is a professor of
education at the University of Lethbridge. His research interests overlap
the fields of comparative education, multiculturalism and minority group
relations, the social contexts of educational ideas, policies and practices,
and the logic of inquiry. He has co-edited (with N. Kach, R. Patterson,
and I. DeFaveri) Essays on Canadian Education (Detselig, 1986) and (with
N. Kach) Exploring our Educational Past (Detselig, 1992). His most recent
book, co-authored with M. Winzer, is Special Education in Multicultural
Contexts (Prentice-Hall, 1998). He has just completed co-editing (with C.
Majorek and M. Winzer) Schooling and Society in Today's World: Comparative
Studies (Allyn and Bacon, forthcoming).
Dean Neu holds a PhD in accounting and organizational theory and is
professor of accounting in the faculty of management at the University
of Calgary. He is a member of the Alberta Institute of Chartered
Accountants and recently received their Distinguished Service Award for
his research and community service activities. He co-authored (with David
Cooper) the chapter entitled "The Politics of Debt and Deficit in Alberta"
in The Trojan Horse (1995), which debunked some of the myths
surrounding Alberta's debt and deficit.
Frank Peters has a PhD in educational administration and is a professor
in educational policy studies at the University of Alberta. He works mainly
in the areas of educational governance, politics, and law. A former teacher
and school administrator, Frank has recently been intensely involved in
writing and speaking on the major restructurings taking place in Canadian
Tom Pocklington received his PhD in political science from Indiana
University and is currently a professor of political science at the University
of Alberta. His publications include Democracy, Rights and Well-Being in
Canada (1999) and The Government and Politics of the Alberta Metis
Settlements (1991). In 1997-98, Tom was president of the Canadian Political
Dave Pysyk is a doctoral student in educational policy studies at the
University of Alberta. He has previously served as a teacher, vice principal,
principal, and deputy superintendent with various boards in Alberta.
Alison Taylor has an EdD in the sociology of education from the Ontario
Institute for Studies in Education and is a professor in educational policy
studies at the University of Alberta. Her research examines educational
restructuring and reforms in Alberta.
Norm Yanitski holds a PhD in educational policy studies from the
University of Alberta. He was a former school principal and is currently
the director of Instructional Services and Continuing Education for the
Elk Island Public Schools.
Beth Young has a PhD in educational administration and is an associate
professor of educational policy studies at the University of Alberta. She is
co-editor of Women and Leadership in Canadian Education and has otherwise
written numerous articles on educational administration and policy.
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Jerrold L. Kachur and Trevor W. Harrison
[Throughout the West. . .we are slipping away from
[the] simple principle of high-quality public education.
And, in doing so, we are further undermining democracy.
— John Ralston Saul1
Much has been written about the Klein "revolution" that began with
the re-election of the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta in 1993. The
idea that a revolution occurred has always been more myth than
substance, a description fostered by government public relations experts
and opponents alike for equally political purposes. Nonetheless, it is true
that some substantial changes have occurred, no more so than in the
field of education.
Education restructuring is not unique to Alberta, of course. Change
has been occurring for some time and in all provinces, often with heated
results: witness the Ontario teachers' strikes of 1997 and 1998. But Alberta
was the first province to frontally attack the notion of equality of
opportunity, replacing it with New Right policies redefining "opportunity"
according to a new logic — competition, effectiveness, and standards —
and to emphasize choice, vocationalism, and marketization. Long before
Mike Harris, Ralph Klein's government was the first in North America to
adopt the political strategy of Roger Douglas in New Zealand: create a
crisis, then strike fast and hard before opposition can be mobilized against
the new policies.
After 1993, Alberta became a beachhead for the introduction of many
New Right ideas into Canada, imported most especially from New Zealand,
Britain, and the United States.2 Thereafter, Alberta's policy reforms gained
positive notoriety among various journalists, academics, and politicians
already sympathetic to similar ideas. Later, some jurisdictions, particularly
Ontario, also copied these policies. While other books have previously
examined the totality of these changes, none has looked specifically at
the changes made to Alberta education. This book fills that gap.
Specifically, this book asks: what was done to education? How was it
done? And — as Alberta embarks upon an era of post-deficit politics —
what is likely to be done in the future?
Readers will discover that education restructuring in Alberta has been
and continues to be ideologically driven. They will further learn that,
under the guise of increasing public input, the government has in fact
centralized authority and decreased equality of student opportunity while
opening market niches for private entrepreneurs. Finally, readers also
will discover something of how they have been manipulated by the Alberta
government to "buy" these policies.
This book, however, is not narrowly about education. Nor is it — as
much as we disapprove of many of the government's actions — a tirade
against the Klein Tories. As Kas Mazurek notes in chapter one, "the current
state of schooling in Alberta is not merely the consequence of a political
agenda by the administration of Premier Klein." Rather, we criticize a set
of ideas — often termed "neo-liberal" — which have narrowly construed
the meaning, purpose, and value of education and have affected all public
services in Alberta. The long-term consequences of these ideas pose
irreparable harm to people, communities, and democracy itself. If the
Klein government, and other governments, are to be faulted, it is for
accepting neo-liberal ideas too easily while failing to understand or
examine their far-reaching effects.
Ultimately, the editors call for a strategic realignment of educational
interests around a politics of postmodern socialism.3 At the core of such
an approach remains a critique of capitalism, class, and power. Indeed,
such a critique is essential to understanding current events, including —
as this book goes to press — the ongoing crisis in global markets and the
growing likelihood of a world recession. At the same time, given the
history of the twentieth century, no such analysis can ignore the
limitations — and dangers — of entrusting too much power in a
centralized state. There can be no worthwhile socialist politics that is not
also democratic, bottom-up, and responsive to local needs and initiatives.
A postmodern socialist politics integrates, in a genuine way, the
perceptions and experiences of groups and individuals too long
marginalized by dint of ethnicity, race, and gender; yet it also eschews
the false tolerance of relativity and the new intolerance of particularistic
voice. A postmodern socialist politics respects civil and individual rights,
but it does not give way to the alienation and destructiveness of either
"possessive" or "false" individualism.4 Likewise, postmodern socialist
politics includes intellectual rigour and a shared sense of community,
but it does not fall prey to rigid notions of hierarchy and authoritarianism.
Public education in the post-war era, with which many of us are
familiar, was based upon a particular political economy — capitalist in
nature — and particular politically and socially liberal premises. With
the rise of globalization, public education, as a kind of dutiful handmaiden
to the old system, has itself been necessarily transformed. But it is
important to understand that the seeds of these changes lay within the
previous educational system. Certain elements of public education have
made it as much a perpetrator as a victim of its own demise.
A failure to recognize the broad political and economic contexts in
which education is embedded frequently confuses people and renders
debates about education narrow and unrewarding. Too much emphasis
— and blame — is placed on teachers and schools without consideration
of the social conditions and political agendas that affect the classroom.
As a result, education has become a way to avoid dealing directly with
issues such as growing social inequality, changing family structure, the
perceived rise in juvenile crime, and heightened consumerism. As a proxy
for an economic battle, education is treated as both "the problem" and
"the solution" for productivity decline and international competitiveness,
thus diverting attention from more fundamental issues related to the
inability of the business community to maintain economic growth,
employ educated labour, and sustain the real wages of workers.5 But why
scapegoat education and not something else?
Anyone who has visited a newsstand or bookstore in recent years
will immediately recognize the contentiousness of this question and the
limited nature of many critiques of education. There, one will find a
number of books and articles on public education, many strewn with
such terms as catastrophe, failure, and bankruptcy. Nor are universities
sheltered from this conflict. Some of the criticisms are different,
encapsulated in terms like special interests, political correctness, rising
tuition fees, and irrelevancy. But the gist is the same: something has gone
terribly wrong with education.
These appeals hit home with the public. Parents already feel
overworked and straitened by taxes. Now they are told that if drugs and
violence don't claim their child, illiteracy and modem-impairment will.
Even if their own experiences deny the threat voiced in some of these
books, apprehension still remains. Maybe public education really is going
to hell in a handbasket. Of course, public education also has its defenders.
But for the parent, this simply adds to the confusion. Who's right? Who's
presenting the "straight goods"?
This book provides a means by which parents, teachers, and
concerned citizens can sort through the discrepant claims about public
education and re-think the relationship between education and society.
Ultimately, we argue that public education is inseparable from broader
moral, economic, and political issues, in particular the construction of a
democratic community and a just society.
This book does not claim to be "academic," although its scholarship
is first-rate. In line with the recent seminal analyses provided by Lisac's
Kachur and Harrison XV
The Klein Revolution, Laxer and Harrison's The Trojan Horse, and Taft's
Shredding the Public Interest, this book is intended not only to increase
public understanding of education and the deep social, political, and
economic changes occurring in Alberta, but to goad readers into action
and to shape the future direction of public education.6 The contributors
to this book — many of them scholars familiar with existing research in
their specialization — were instructed to keep to the facts when dealing
with evidence, but otherwise to write with a point of view and in a readerfriendly way, keeping citations of academic research to a minimum.
In order to fully understand the situation in Alberta, it is first necessary
to review what has gone on in education and to escape the illusion that
Alberta is unique. While possessing some unique characteristics, events
in Alberta are nonetheless part and parcel of a host of world-wide
economic, political, technological, and other changes generally called
Globalization and the Welfare State
Globalization is the buzzword of the 1990S. Everybody says it, imagining
that they are all talking the same language. But what is it? In a general
sense, globalization involves a combination of broad, cultural, economic,
political, and technological forces that are changing the ground rules for
human interaction on a worldwide scale. But such a broad definition
tells us both too much and too little.
One major problem in defining globalization is that the term is
frequently confusing. On the one hand, ideological and structural changes
(e.g., cultural interaction and the emergence of a "global village") are
occurring simultaneously; on the other hand, there are the consequences
of globalization (e.g., the rise of religious fundamentalism and ethnic
nationalism), which are separate from its core elements. Efforts to define
globalization as the emerging "global village" or as increased
internationalism oversimplify a term that needs clarification.
Our stance is not so forgiving. Quite simply, globalization involves
the worldwide extension of a specifically capitalist form of production,
including a global division of labour and the promotion of rampant
consumerism and competitive individualism. In practical terms,
globalization means the heightened mobility of capital, fostered by
modern technologies, and the reorganization of production under the
direction of large multi-national enterprises whose power and wealth
frequently rival — even surpass — many states. It means that while some
people and countries are becoming richer, many are becoming poorer.
Globalization further means a reduction, shifting, or transformation of
state powers. Some of these powers have been taken over by multi-national
corporations or other non-governmental organizations. Other powers
have shifted upward to new, transnational bodies, such as the World
Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), or downward to various
levels of government.7
Education is necessarily implicated in this neo-liberal approach to
globalization.8 The "new consensus" assumes that competitive advantage
in the global economy goes to the country with the best-educated
workforce. As economic policy, education has taken on greater political
significance in terms of the quality of national education and training
systems and the universal spread of schooling, computers, and high-speed
communications. Economic and educational initiatives focus on
investments in new technology, the quality of human resources, and
attracting foreign capital. At the same time, however, governments have
found it more difficult to acquire the necessary revenues to pay for these
initiatives. Usually concurrent with reform, then, are declining living
standards, stagnant or slow growth, and increased unemployment. Alberta
has been a leading promoter of this model.9 As Trevor Harrison notes in
chapter three, the demands of the new knowledge-based economy require
large investments in education, science, and technology. However, a
resource-based economy, such as Alberta's, faces unique challenges in
adopting this model as a matter of faith. Likewise, as Lee Easton notes in
chapter two, much of educational reform is tied up with the creation of
a new kind of worker — the "perpetual learner" — able both to produce
and consume the latest technologies.
But globalization has also changed education in another way.10 The
institutions of modern, mass public education were expanded and
redefined, along with other public services, after the Second World War.
The expansion of these services — encapsulated in the phrase "welfare
state" — was part of a historic compromise between capital, labour, other
social classes and cultural groups, and the state. This compromise was
meant (among other things) to reduce class conflict (a staple prior to the
war) and to provide a fiscal hedge against capitalism's inevitable booms
and busts. For capital, the compromise ensured the cooperation of workers
and their unions; also, it provided low-end consumers with the money
necessary to purchase mass-produced goods. For workers, the arrangement
ensured increased wages and benefits based on an expanding economy.
For the state, the gains came in the form of increased popular support
from previously marginalized groups, as well as from workers, for whom
the welfare state provided increased rights of social citizenship. While
these rights varied from state to state, in general they included a
commitment to full employment, guaranteed forms of income
maintenance (unemployment insurance, pensions, social welfare), public
health care, and expanded opportunities for publicly funded education
(including post-secondary education). These same rights also promoted
strategies for the inclusion of cultural minorities within a democratic
civic culture. In Canada, for example, the politics of education and
inclusion focused primarily on policies related to language,
multiculturalism, and feminism.
But by the late 1970S, the welfare state compromise began to unravel.
The unravelling occurred on two fronts: economic and socio-political.
On the economic front, business began complaining of declining profit
Kachur and Harrison XVII
margins, resulting from increased competition and public demands. On
the socio-political front, the complaints of business were reinforced by
corporate groups such as the Trilateral Commission, an organization made
up of leading corporate executives, intellectuals, and high government
officials from the United States, Europe, and Japan, who actively
questioned the "excesses of democracy" and appealed to the growing
and popular resentment of an economically threatened middle class."
Business addressed the problem of declining profits in two ways.
First, it began seeking out new investment opportunities abroad in order
to increase capital accumulation. Thus began a process of corporations
moving production to areas of cheap labour, untapped resources, and
limited government regulation and taxation. Second, business used
foreign expansion as a lever for demanding changes at home from both
labour and the state. These demands included, among other things, lower
corporate taxes, deregulation, and undermining union contracts. Business
began to pressure the state to act as a broker in arranging regional and
global foreign investment agreements (North American Free Trade
Agreement [NAFTA], Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation [APEC], and the
Multilateral Agreement on Investments [MAI]), which serve the double
purposes of facilitating business and placing brakes on welfare state
programs and expenditures. Gradually, these foreign investment
agreements undermined the capacity of states to act on behalf of their
citizens. Legislative power shifted to the executive, while executive power
shifted to the departments of finance, trade, and industry. The economic
and political underpinnings of the welfare state compromise quickly began
to crumble. In its place, a new development model was implemented
throughout many Western countries based on structural adjustment
policies recommended by the World Bank, IMF, and the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In the first decades of the unravelling, corporate taxes declined and
middle-class taxes and unemployment rose, while government
commitments to social programs remained static. It wasn't a pretty sight,
but nonetheless the welfare state limped on. By the early 1990S, however,
a lot of people — particularly members of the disgruntled upper-middle
class who felt overtaxed — wanted the "social" part of the welfare state
put down. Led by populist politicians aping forms of anti-political politics,
debt hysteria encouraged attacks not only upon the welfare state but
upon the idea of government in general.12
But the welfare state did not run aground on financial reefs alone.
By the 1980S, the socio-political environment had changed and the welfare
state faced considerable resentment from increasingly conservative
middle-class males and private-sector workers, who felt their traditional
advantages had been eroded by "special interests": various marginalized
groups (e.g., women and visible minorities) and entrenched public-sector
professionals and their clients (e.g., welfare recipients). Likewise, other
conservatives, such as religious fundamentalists, disliked the increasing
secularism, pluralism, and moral relativism encouraged by modernity, of
which the welfare state and the education system were a part.
These economic, political, and cultural critiques provided the popular
bases for a political coalition known as the New Right. Ideologically, this
coalition married neo-liberalism (or economic liberalism) to residual forms
of political and social conservatism.13 The New Right's first political
victories were in Britain, under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, and in the
United States, under Ronald Reagan in i98o.14 Then starting in 1984, the
New Right experienced a second wave of victories, beginning in New
Zealand, before entering Canada through Alberta. Here, as elsewhere, a
focus upon education was a necessary part of these victories.
New Right Ideology and
Educational Reform in Canada
Under the Canadian constitution, provinces have responsibility for
education. This control is complicated somewhat by the federal
government's fiscal authority: witness Paul Martin's announced
"millennium scholarship fund" (see below) and the anger expressed by
some provinces over this federal "intrusion." Nonetheless, the Chretien
Liberals have taken a neo-liberal turn since 1995 and downloaded power
to the provinces in all areas, including education.15
In Canada, no less than in Alberta, education has long been the site
for broader ideological debates (Kas Mazurek, chapter one). Beginning in
the early 1970S, Canada experienced a series of economic, social, and
political crises that continue, in one form or another, to beset the country
and that have a major impact on education. Almost immediately,
education became a scapegoat for many of these problems.
The criticisms of education came from all fronts. Social democrats,
for example, berated progressive education for failing to deliver on social
equality, arguing that liberal schooling in a capitalist society actually
produces social inequality by socializing students for their future roles as
members of a compliant and proficient labour force. They further
denounced Canada's education system for failing to do enough to deal
with continuing racism and sexism.16 Likewise, traditional conservatives
faulted education for failing to instill "proper" social and moral values
and otherwise undermining the stability of the "traditional" (that is,
nuclear and patriarchal) family.17 But by far the most influential critique
of Canadian education was that launched by business people, various
neo-liberal organizations (e.g., the C.D. Howe Institute, the Fraser Institute,
the Economic Council of Canada), and members of the intellectual
In several important ways, neo-liberal critiques of education merged
with conservative concerns. Like many conservatives, neo-liberals argued
for increased parental "choice"19 and decried the seizure of education by
a so-called "iron triangle" of teacher unions, educational bureaucrats,
and university theoreticians, in coalition with other "special interests."
Kachur and Harrison XIX
Author Jerrold Kachur and Trevor W. Harrison Isbn 9780888643155 File size 12.51MB Year 1999 Pages 232 Language English File format PDF Category Politics and Sociology Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Education has become a battlefield, the classroom the arena where the contest is fought. The 1997 Ontario teachers’ strike, the federal government’s Millennium Scholarship, and a wave of protests across the country are among the signals that the war is heating up. Alberta stands as a Canadian model of radical education reform, propelled by economic necessity. But is all reform necessarily right or good?-and who decides? A range of commentators-teachers, scholars, parents, and others-discuss the conflict in Alberta’s schools. Download (12.51MB) Citizenship Education in China: Preparing Citizens for the Chinese Century Democratic Drift: Majoritarian Modification and Democratic Anomie in the United Kingdom The Way It Was: Vignettes from My One-Room Schools (Legacies Shared) Renegade Lawyer: The Life of J.L. Cohen Education and Democratic Theory: Finding a Place for Community Participation in Public School Reform Load more posts