Sunday, January 10, 2010

We don't need no education

...but thought control is another matter.

Having barely recovered from being patronized by Stephen Harper the other night, as he patted Canadians collectively on the head and told them not to fuss about grown-up things like Afghan detainees and proroguing, I read yesterday that he's cutting off funds to yet another world-class organization, the Canadian Council on Learning.

The CCL's offence? Apparently, speaking too plainly about the state of formal education in Canada, and our ludicrously poor metrics for determining how we stack up against other countries. The Globe & Mail's perceptive Gary Mason writes:

Here's the truth: Ottawa didn't like the CCL leading the call for national standards for our postsecondary system. Didn't appreciate, either, hearing the council plead for more accountability around how billions of dollars being poured into our universities are being spent. For more information about our universities in general.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development had noted in various reports on postsecondary education that when it came to Canada it was unable to report figures for two-thirds of the information gathered by the other 39 countries covered in the survey. That would include basic information such as participation, enrolment and graduation numbers in our colleges. We don't even have complete information on dropout rates. "We are the laughingstock of the OECD," Paul Cappon, president of the CCL, said a year ago.

The OECD, in fact, took the time to write to Stephen Harper last year, praising the CCL. "It is a pleasure to pledge my personal support to CCL in its on-going work," said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria.

And so Canada's international reputation, for everything from peacekeeping to climate change to democracy to human rights, continues to circle the drain. CCL now joins other Canadian organizations wounded by the axe of far-right ideology: KAIROS, cultural programs and producers, gay rights groups...the list of casualties is growing by the day.

Education, culture, charity, human rights: like facts, these all have an unfortunate left-wing bias. Harper prefers to give the people bread and circuses instead--even if, these days, those classic political pacifiers are better-known as tax credits, the Calgary Stampede and the Vancouver Olympics.

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