How Can We Get Better Public Schools?

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Well, the first thing we can do is carve out some time to ponder, imagine, dream, inhale, exhale, chat, brainstorm, breathe some more, and forget for a minute that we’ve had a decade of hard-core privatizing, de-funding of the public education system.

It’s hard to imagine a better future when we’re constantly fighting the latest Shock Doctrine-based assault on the public education system in BC.

One solution is on the horizon next week, but first, read this great assessment of the current two-tiered education system we’ve had in BC all along:

There are a few fully private schools in B.C. They get no government cash. They enroll 544 students.

The “private” schools getting government money enroll more than 69,000 students.

These are public schools that you, the taxpayers, cannot access without paying extra. Usually thousands of dollars extra, per child, per year.

This is the issue that no one wants to talk about in B.C. education, the boil they don’t want to lance for fear of seeing the horrible stuff that would seep out.

We have a two-tiered education system in this province, subsidized by everyone for the benefit of the upper middle class and the wealthy.

via Who pays for private schooling?.

So what’s the solution coming up next week?

On Tuesday night, COPE is holding an event called Re:Imagine Schools to ponder the future of public education. We’ll take a couple hours Tuesday night to try to forget the crush of crises we fight every day to listen to some inspiring perspectives and imagine where we want our education system to go.

Because if we can’t imagine what we want our system to be, it’s hard to fight through the attacks.

The event costs only $10 and is free for students.

It’s been a rough year for public schools in BC. It’s not a new thing, but the end of each school year takes a little bit of our resilience away from us. We need nights like next Tuesday to re-invigorate our capacity to dream.

It will be a tonic for the weary and a stimulant for the visionaries who dream of better schools sooner rather than later.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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5 thoughts on “How Can We Get Better Public Schools?”

  1. The school system is symptomatic of a broader pattern of regression, a bellweather for what is happening to the general citizenry. While it is always a worthwhile exercise to envision a more constructive direction in education, it might also be a good exercise to envision how the rejigged education system will fit into a rejigged society.

  2. Seems to me that we’ve been trying variations on libertarian, cut-’em-outta-the-herd, trickle-down, TINA, along with schemes to dress up greed in economic mumbo-jumbo and high sentiment like cod liver oil without the omega-3s for most of my life. While I don’t like Stalin any more than I like Hitler, I believe that our future is collective, but flexible and not overly prescriptive. I spent thirty years in the public education system and found it full of contradictions, wherein it did wonderful service for some and absolutely destroyed others, often from one-size-fits-all and often because the education system wasn’t working to engage students in a way that made sense to the students, to their parents, and to a community that, as I said in my first post, suffers from a bad case of scrambled brains in its processes and aspirations. I won’t get any more wordy here, but decent funding is only a start for the public system. We also have to redefine what we want students to learn, wherein they need a basic skills set, but beyond that, we need to spend time encouraging curiosity, interaction, self-direction, and the willingness to question honestly. I love watching my grandkids learn when they’re around our place, because they’re free of the peer pressure and cultural bombardment that happens “out there” (including in the schools), there is no pressure to learn, and we encourage them to learn by answering questions honestly, honouring their thoughts and encouraging them to poke into whatever interests them. Oh, rats! too many words… it’s your fault, you got me started. I can’t be at the event, but I’ll be reading any follow-up.

  3. I can tell you that rolling over to the teacher’s union instead of having administrators, paraeducators, parents, students and general taxpayers at the table really is a turn-OFF. I credit Premier Christy Clark, M-L-A for fixing that as Ed Minister to put schools into the public interest.

    Off hot.

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