comments 5

Well this is special…

I don’t often stray into the world of politics here on his oasis in the blog-swamp, but I can’t let this go by without highlighting it. Please don’t run away. I’ll try not to let it happen too often.

The Ontario government has decided to increase high school class sizes. When asked why, Minister Lisa Thompson told reporters that larger class sizes prepare teens for the real world and boost their resiliency. I’m not making this up. She really did come right out and say that. I expected to hear how the province needs better fiscal responsibility, and how they are tackling the debt, but hearing this comment instead was really special.

On CBC radio the Minister said, “We’re hearing from professors and employers alike, that they are lacking coping skills and they are lacking resiliency. By increasing class sizes in high school, we are preparing them for the reality of post-secondary, as well as the world of work.”

High school students can breathe easy knowing they are building resiliency. It’s a good thing Minister Thompson clarified this. Otherwise those students might have thought the larger classes meant less personal attention and less access to teachers. Instead, she explained the government was “enabling more group work, we’re enabling more opportunities for people to work with each other and actually build the skills that employers are looking for.”

Oh my.

I wondered if Minister Thompson had any formal experience in education so I Googled her Wiki page. Although she does not have a degree, she attended the University of Guelph and obtained college certification in public administration and took a class in consumer economics. She also has experience managing a goat cooperative.

Premier Ford attended the same high school as I did, in Etobicoke, beginning as I was finishing. He apparently graduated, and also attended Humber College for two months.

I’m sure I’ll hear from all the conservatives and “Ford Nation” zealots out there, setting me straight and explaining their resiliency strategy further. Fortunately I have a thick skin.


  1. vox kadavergehorsamkeit

    If the minister is truly interested in toughening up our kids, perhaps she should take a look at the creative approach adopted by one teacher in California, Federico Vargas, a special education teacher. He established a fight club for the students and refereed the matches. You just can’t make this stuff up. Sorry for the source linked to and be certain to ignore the comment section.

  2. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    When I went through high school classes routinely had 32 students. We also had a uniform province wide exam at the end of grade 13 which you had to pass in order to graduate. I really really liked the concept of that province wide exam because it measured education based on performance rather than the number of students who received a participation trophy and were graduated. At the time Ontario was hailed as having one of the most effective education systems in the world. I always figured that was the whole point of having an education system.

    The system was problematic to the teachers union though. The province could look at the results of that province wide exam and do a bit of analysis. If the students at a particular school generally had significantly below average results the province could investigate the reasons for it and try to fix the problems at the underperforming school. If the students of a particular teacher had terrible results then perhaps, God forbid, the teacher might not have been competent and he could be replaced. The union didnt like the performance being measured and they fought hard to rid the system of anything that might well point to an incompetent teacher. So that exam is gone and instead of having to work toward actually having an adequate education the students get participation trophies. Here you go Bobby, you showed up so you graduate, have a nice life. Once you remove the ability to actually measure what the students are learning you lose the ability to call bullshit on the demands of the union. Class sizes started to shrink dramatically because small classes need more teachers to staff them. If we have more than 20 kids in a class poor Bobby will grow up to be a moron. Ummm well we need 30% more teachers so the province better go hire a bunch or we will go on strike. The union chant became ‘teachers, partners in your child’s education’ and this gets screamed from the rafters in expensive advertising campaigns. The problem is of course that teachers arent a partner in anything except the downgrading of the quality of education we provide our children. Teachers are employees not partners. The government should set the curriculum and they should set the standards for results and the performance of individual teachers should be measured against those results. Anything less and we will continue to produce students who are less well educated than they should be. As a country we need well educated graduates. If we need to kick some union ass to make that happen then so be it. Step one has to be to install the mechanics needed to evaluate the teachers and to have standards of education which must be met before students are allowed to graduate. And we need to take back control of the education system. Allowing teachers to set curriculum is letting the fox guard the hen house and that needs to stop right away.

    I dont know much about resilience. I do know that when we measure the skills of our graduating students against the students of other countries that Ontario comes up short, and we need to fix that. More teachers and more participation trophies probably isnt the way to get that done.

    • vox kadavergehorsamkeit

      Just a few quick points on your thoughtful post. A school with students who regularly underperform on standardized tests might be explained by causes other than poor teachers. Just off the top of my head, not all Ontario schools are in neighbourhoods such as Forest Hills and so the socio-economic factors that may influence a student’s grades, such as being able to provide a tutor for a student who is struggling, make such linearly drawn conclusions questionable. As well, couldn’t a school with underachieving students be the result of lead poisoning, not crummy teachers? Just two years ago there were 640 Ontario schools and daycares with higher lead levels in their water than permitted under provincial regulation and some of those were exceeding that level by 300 times.

      • Salvelinas Fontinalis

        Yes of course there can be reasons other than teacher quality for poor performance of students. The thing is that if you are measuring student performance with uniform testing you have an opportunity to identify that there is a problem in a school. Once the fact that there is a problem is identified there is an opportunity to investigate the reasons and correct them, whatever the reasons might be. If you arent doing the student measurements then you dont have the tools to know there is a problem. When I went through high school my school was top 5 in the province in terms of student performance. If the school suddenly dropped to 183rd I would want someone looking at why that happened. Right now we dont have the ability to spot that and if we want a quality education system we need that ability.

        Maybe a bit off topic but I am also concerned about our hospitals. Right now if you have for example a hernia there is a best hospital for fixing it. Are there 5 really bad choices for getting your hernia fixed? Does anybody know which 5 hospitals you should never let treat your hernia? And is anyone doing anything to fix that? My feeling is that we dont have that information and if we have suspicions nobody is doing anything to fix the problem. I find that worrisome.

        • vox kadavergehorsamkeit

          It is quite true that Ontario hospitals are not graded by particular procedure. But they used to be and may still be graded according to a number of rather important criteria, such as deaths per 1,000 operations and percent of readmissions after 1 week….For particular procedures it is best to ask the surgeon his success rate with the proposed procedure and how he measures up to others performing the same task. Mt experience has been that they are not offended by the questioning. As well, you may try exploring this new web site that may offer some useful info.

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