McGuinty’s missed opportunity

February 21, 2012 · By

Ontario missed a great opportunity last week. Heading into the previous weekend, Ontarians were teased with the idea that the Liberal Party’s full-day kindergarten initiative would be scrapped. It was a chance to reduce waste and improve our educational system at the same time. Unfortunately, instead of taking the province’s fiscal problems as an opportunity to offer some flexibility to Ontario students and parents, Premier McGuinty will continue to clutch at his treasured program, deficits and child development be damned.

It is reported that Economist Don Drummond, who is trying to determine a way out of the financial mess the Liberals have made this past decade, will recommend that Ontario abandon full-day kindergarten. This is an eminently sensible idea.

Ontario’s books are not in order. Deficits are standard fare, and no longer can the province be considered Canada’s economic engine. It is a sad tale that brings us to our current status, that of Ontario being a Have Not province. There’s a solid economic case for ridding ourselves of this costly program.

But the economics of the situation are only a side issue. The full-day kindergarten regime foisted on Ontario was never a sound move for children. Critics have argued that it is little more than a publically-sponsored daycare system. If were true, that would be bad enough, sadly, it is a system that can be expected to do as much, if not more, harm than good.

There is no research indicating that immersing younger and younger students in rigorous academic exercises is beneficial. Quite the contrary, in fact. Kindergarten may not seem an environment of ‘rigorous academic exercises’, and that would not be the kindergarten that today’s parents remember. But today’s kindergarten classes are steeped in curriculum, programming and “structured” play (as if 4 year olds gain nothing from unstructured play with their peers). It seeks to turn children into good little students, rather than allowing them to develop towards adolescence.

Kindergarten, and the public school system, is not geared towards the needs of the children. It is primarily focused on the desires of bureaucrats and the demands of unions. Schooling is rigid and inflexible. Parents have little say in the manner in which their children are educated. There is no choice in regards to teachers, schools, pedagogy or curriculum. It is a one-size-fits-all formula that fits no one, except those who are paid to deliver it.

The Liberal government could have taken a cue from Mr. Drummond and re-worked their education plans. They could have looked at far superior school systems as models. They could have followed Norway’s relative un-schooling techniques. They could have looked to set up a robust network of charter schools. They could have turned to vouchers, as have been successful in cities like Washington D.C. and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They could have offered financial assistance to parents so that they could make their own child care decisions. Or they could have gotten out of the way, and let parents be parents.

But, no. They have decided that full-day kindergarten is the way to go. One could be cynical and suggest that there’s an element of social engineering to this, that the government reaps the most benefit from absorbing the greatest number of students at the earliest age. Certainly, Progressivism has displayed such nefarious instincts, as in the Early Years Study 3 that was released last fall. But I doubt this is the case.

This is a matter of simple politics. The McGuinty Liberals have determined that there is sufficient political benefit to maintaining this undesirable program. This is little more than a welfare program, but unlike most social assistance, this is a welfare program that directly benefits members of the middle class.

The Liberal government’s calculus is clear. A party headed by “Premier Dad” is naturally inclined to taking on a greater role in raising our children. To be able to do that while also gaining electoral support in the middle class is just too good to pass up.

Forget our wallets. This program is a direct grab for our kids.

Comments

13 Responses to “McGuinty’s missed opportunity”

  1. Ed on February 21st, 2012 3:40 pm [#]

    Excellent post. And you’re dead on, it is a welfare program. On top of that, I believe it’s also an indoctrination program. “Get ‘em while they’re young.”

  2. RD on February 22nd, 2012 7:59 am [#]

    Indoctrination towards what though? The key point here is that there is a belief that the school system is working against the people towards a specific purpose. This point should be elaborated so we can properly weigh it’s value.

    I don’t buy the kindergarten boogey man conspiracies here. There’s a positive practicality in having children in school all day. From an economics point of view, it is positively more conducive to getting families to be dual income families. More people working seems like a good economic effect.

    The statement “There is no research indicating that immersing younger and younger students in rigorous academic exercises is beneficial.” is false. There have been many studies done on the subject and in a matter of seconds I found multiple references on the internet. Perhaps you don’t agree with who sponsored the studies (such as the BCPVPA one) or the outcome but they do exist.

    Also, if structured learning at an early age is so detrimental, and is backed up by studies, then please cite them. Without anything to back it up, it smells more like opinion coming from someone with young kids that has been inconvenienced in some way. There’s nothing wrong with an opinion piece either, just don’t bring up research and studies. Talk about how you feel.

    From my point of view (how I feel), having had two young kids in full day kindergarten, I see benefits. My oldest, now in grade 1, is fully literate in both French and English. I would put her about a half year to a full year ahead of where my generation found themselves at that age.

    Finally, if this is such a terrible thing, you can always home school your kids.

  3. Jonathan McLeod on February 22nd, 2012 9:42 am [#]

    RD,

    You’re right. I’m missing citations (originally, this wasn’t going to be posted in a forum that used them – but that fell through, so I posted it here).

    If you’re happy with how your kids were schooled, wonderful! That’s great, and I think you and all parents should be so lucky, but right now, we have, essentially, one option for all parents and kids. You’re lucky that your prefered option was that one, but why are the preferences of others not worthy of public funding?

    I may just homeschool my kids. I’m given a horrible set of options by the government, and even if I choose to homeschool them, I still have to pay for your kids’ education. The whole thing’s horribly unfair.

  4. climatecriminal on February 22nd, 2012 9:59 am [#]

    “Indoctrination towards what though?”

    you can’t be serious? The indoctrination in school is rampant. The point of view that is taught as correct is ALWAYS the socialist leftwing view, and NEVER the conservative view. I mean “wear a sweater to school day” to save the planet? Please; to say that there is no leftist bias in public schools is naive at best and just idiotic at worst. If structured learning is so great at 3 then why not start at 2 or 1. Maybee because we are not a communist state yet although we are more than half way there.

  5. RD on February 27th, 2012 7:51 am [#]

    Climatecriminal, I was kidding…well actually, I was baiting you to see how far you or someone would go with their comments. I much appreciated your rant, especially the whole sweater to school day thing.

    For me personally, I don’t see this issue as a big deal and for all intents and purposes, your kid will be going to school for full days by grade one regardless.

    For the record, I wasn’t kidding about homeschooling. I know some people that do it and the results have been pretty good (at least for primary school). My opinion on this subject has evolved over time with this. Initially, I had homeschooling pegged as something religious fanatics do on compounds but it is not always the case.

    In addition to homeschooling, are there any private schools that do half day kindergarten sessions?

    An interesting point comes from this discussion too. If you do elect to homeschool your children, should you be exempt from certain taxes or at least provided a deduction?

    Freedom of choice in the public school system is a challenge. It’s aimed at the entire public so it’s very difficult to do more than provide a general offering.

  6. Jonathan McLeod on February 27th, 2012 1:48 pm [#]

    “For the record, I wasn’t kidding about homeschooling. I know some people that do it and the results have been pretty good (at least for primary school). My opinion on this subject has evolved over time with this. Initially, I had homeschooling pegged as something religious fanatics do on compounds but it is not always the case.”

    That was always my opinion, too. Working in education, and meeting more and more “normal” people (for lack of a better term) who chose homeschooling, my view has changed, like yours.

    “In addition to homeschooling, are there any private schools that do half day kindergarten sessions?”

    Of course, that leads to the problem of cost, and many parents can’t afford private school.

  7. RD on February 28th, 2012 1:55 pm [#]

    Indeed, cost is always an issue with private anything …cough…healthcare…cough.

    For homeschooling though, I think there is a line after elementary school because teaching highschool subjects is not necessarily for everyone. If you want your kid to have a chance to get into University, getting them into a highschool would be a good move unless you’re an educator by trade.

  8. Jonathan McLeod on February 29th, 2012 8:38 am [#]

    Cost is actually a bigger issue for public schools. Private schools cost a lot less… they just have a much higher price. Government money might be better spent funding schools other than public ones.

    A lot of homeschooling parents are quite proficient throughout high school. There are a lot of resources and support programs for homeschoolers. A lot of home schooled kids don’t attend high school until the last year, or go straight from home schooling to university.

    In Ontario, home schooled kids tend to have higher academic achievement than non-homeschooled kids. But still, I wouldn’t say that this type of schooling is right for everyone.

  9. RD on March 1st, 2012 8:04 am [#]

    Hey Jonathan,

    A couple things…private schools still get funding from the government, just less. They get about 40% of the pupil grant public schools do (at least in Quebec).

    About homeschooling parents, I agree. You HAVE to make use of resources and support programs. Many don’t and the kids suffer.

    Also, about homeschooling kids getting higher achievement, I think there’s a portion of your sample that is missing. A significant number of homeschooled kids never even apply to University so their performance don’t end up factoring in. The people who’s mission was to educate their kids better than the public system probably tend to get better results. So the current stat is around 50% get accepted into college. We don’t know who many simply fell off the map altogether. Also, what about success in college? Do they adapt to being in community with other students? I’d be curious to know.

    The only studies that I found about success rates for home schooling date back to the 90s. Factor in the internet, xbox and all the other distractions in the household etc etc, I wonder if the rates remain as strong.

  10. Jonathan McLeod on March 5th, 2012 12:12 pm [#]

    Hey RD,

    I didn’t know that Quebec private schools get govt funding. That’s great. I mainly focus on Ontario policy; it’s the one I know, have worked in, and (since I don’t plan on moving out of the province any time soon) the only one that will personally affect me. I am pretty sure that Ontario offers no similar funding. At least, they didn’t the last time I checked, and I haven’t found any new government programs that have changed that in the past few years.

  11. RD on March 7th, 2012 12:28 pm [#]

    Hey Jonathan,

    I can only talk about what I know…Quebec. Here’s a somewhat dated table with some information about private schools w/ public funding. Looks like being Catholic has it’s perks in Ontario:

    http://www.cbc.ca/ontariovotes.....faith.html

  12. Jonathan McLeod on March 8th, 2012 9:25 am [#]

    That’s a handy chart, RD. Thanks.

    Yeah, Catholic schools in Ontario are, basically, public schools. It’s constitutionally-mandated. I believe other provinces have gotten constitutional amendments in order to change this. It’s one reason I find it so absurd when people in Ontario cry out against any public money (or just tax rebates) going to private school tuition.

  13. RD on March 9th, 2012 10:13 am [#]

    I’m a crafty web searcher. Anytime you need a reference, let me know.

    As for public money…every budget, from municipal up to federal is creaking and ready to bust. People cry foul for the distribution of any public money these days.

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