Contested Classrooms: Education, Globalization, and Democracy in Alberta by Jerrold Kachur and Trevor W. Harrison


7159bd3128e432c-261x361.jpg 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


 

Contested Classrooms Education, Globalization, and Democracy in Alberta This page intentionally left blank Contested Classrooms 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 and Parkland Institute 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 ISBN 0-88864-315-2 Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data Main entry under title: Contested classrooms Copublished by: Parkland Institute. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-88864-315-2 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. LC9I.2.A4C66 1999 379-7123 C99-9IOO3I-9 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. Canada To Kelli and Nik, Jayna and Keenan, and the rest of Alberta's children. This page intentionally left blank Contents Acknowledgements ix Contributors x Introduction: Public Education, Globalization, and Democracy: Whither Alberta? xiii Globalization and Educational Change 1 Passing Fancies: Educational Changes in Alberta 3 Kas Mazurek 2 Constructing the Perpetual Learner: Education, Technology, and the New Economy 21 Lee Easton 3 The "Alberta Advantage": For Whom? 33 Trevor W. Harrison 4 The Marketing of the University 45 Tom Pocklington The Politics of Educational Restructuring in Alberta 5 Orchestrating Delusions: Ideology and Consent in Alberta 59 Jerrold L. Kachur 6 Re-Investment Fables: Educational Finances in Alberta 75 Dean Neu 7 Deep and Brutal: Funding Cuts to Education in Alberta 85 Frank Peters vii 8 From Boardroom to Classroom: School Reformers in Alberta 99 Alison Taylor 9 Privatizing Public Choice: The Rise of Charter Schooling in Alberta 107 Jerrold L. Kachur 10 Challenging Restructuring: The Alberta Teachers' Association 123 D.J. Flower and H.L. Booi Re-organizing Schools: Scenes from the Classrooms 11 Is it Just a Matter of Time? Part-Time Teaching Employment in Alberta 139 Beth Young 12 Board Games: The New (But Old) Rules 151 Judith Evans 13 The Principalship at the Crossroads 165 Norm Yanitski and David Pysyk Conclusion 177 Appendices 183 viii Acknowledgements 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 experience. 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 book evolved. 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. ix Contributors 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 of communications. 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 year. 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 x 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 education. 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 Science Association. 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. xi This page intentionally left blank Introduction Public Education, Globalization, and Democracy: Whither Alberta? 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, xiii 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. XIV Introduction 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. 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 XVi Introduction 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 XViii Introduction 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 community.18 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

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