Every once in a while I’m reinvigorated by others who share my beliefs. Yesterday I read this announcement and my brain lit up. I am a firm believer that 95% of the world’s problems will be fixed, in time, with an overall improvement in education. I’m proud of the fact that Ontario boasts one of the best public education systems in the world, but that does not preclude it from improving. As wonderful as an Ontario education seems, I am perpetually stunned by the general ignorance and incompetence that often greets me in my day-to-day life, especially when our taxpayer-funded education was meant to solve the issue-at-hand. I have been known to lambaste the Green Party, but I wholeheartedly support Ms. Conning’s stance on a unified education system, and frankly, everyone but the excessively religious should!
We can easily make the fairness argument that Catholics do not deserve a publicly-funded school board if other religions can’t have them, and Ontarians have shown their disdain for the latter idea by turning on John Tory in Ontario’s 2007 provincial election shortly after he announced his support for faith-based education. Evidently this is not a particularly compelling argument, regardless of it’s validity, because there is no real groundswell regarding a unified education system.
If fairness is not a good enough answer, let’s think about this from the perspective of the quality of education the province provides. The provincial goal is for all students to have access to the same high-quality education. We already face problems based on demographic and geographic factors, with challenges spreading equality to the north and to minority-infused population centers (citation). Having two publicly-funded school systems simply makes it harder to oversee the education system and make it function properly. So how do we go about fixing it, and what do we stand to gain/lose if we implement the changes?
Fortunately, the business world has already provided an ideal model. If we look at this from a business perspective, the province is ostensibly the parent firm for a chain of franchises, the schools/school boards. Franchises thrive on the quality of their reputation, which they create and maintain by enforcing uniformity and quality standards. When you walk into McDonald’s, you know that you are getting the same high quality burger, regardless of whether you purchased it in France, Argentina or Kentucky. It’s exactly why unadventurous travelers flock to chain restaurants when on vacation; they know it’s “safe.” At the same time, these chains benefit financial from the increased bargaining power with suppliers through larger purchase sizes, which can yield quantity discounts and other favorable pricing policies.
Similarly, uniting the catholic and public boards would provide a plethora of economic advantages. 1) It would improve comparability and transparency, making it easier to spot troubled groups/areas and develop policies to bring underachieving schools/students up to par. 2) It allows for larger supply orders and standardized textbook purchases. The savings would make it easier to update classroom resources on a more regular basis meaning students won’t be stuck with texts that use the moon landing as an example of contemporary human achievement. 3) A unified education system would allow teachers to find employment closer to home, since there would be a larger number of local positions to compete for. 4) It would provide equal opportunity for employment, meaning that under-qualified teachers wouldn’t get hired simply because they meet a religious requirement. 5) Students would not be segregated by religion, meaning that tolerance and acceptance would be more easily embraced (though we should credit children with being far more ignorant of petty, marginal differences and should hope to foster a continued naivete into adulthood.)
Now, it would be unfair to berate the current system without considering potentially harmful consequences as well.