Friday, March 22, 2019

Foolish Canadian Grit

Proving that dumb knows no national boundaries, Ontario's Education Minister Lisa Thompson this week defended the plan to increase class size by making this observation:

This woman.
"When students are currently preparing to go off to post-secondary education, we're hearing from professors and employers alike that they're lacking coping skills and they're lacking resiliency," Thompson told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday.

"By increasing class sizes in high school, we're preparing them for the reality of post-secondary as well as the world of work."

Yessireebob-- what we need to do to toughen students up and give 'em some grit is just c ram more of them into classrooms. Why would the government even want to do such a thing? That answer is also recognizable down here to the south-- it will let them cut a bunch of jobs. About 1,000, by some estimates.

In all fairness to our neighbors to the North, their idea of increasing class sizes is pretty bush league-- high schools would go from an average of 22 students per class to an average of 28. I know. There are plenty of US schools where it would be a huge relief to get only 28 students in a class.

But the reasoning. Thompson is a longtime politician, though in her civilian life she was the manager of a goat cooperative, which seems like fine preparation for running an education system.

In the meantime, if she's really keen on this real world preparation through toughening approach she might consider some other program ideas. Make them all walk to school without coats-- no, without coats or pants! Glue the doors of the school shut and make them claw their way in. Build special roads so that when they walk to school, it's uphill both ways.

Prepare students for being too poor to eat well by closing all school cafeterias.

Prepare students for being mugged by hiring people to beat the children up on the playground.

Prepare students for dealing with tedious bureaucracy by making them go through a fourteen step process just to ask to go to the bathroom.

Prepare students for living with rules written by clueless leaders by letting random strangers from the street make up rules for the classroom.

Emma Teitel at The Star took Thompson to task under the headline, "Bigger class sizes don’t promote ‘resiliency.’ They just make it easier to skip class."

If you’re a fan of evidence-based policy in government, you might want to move out of Ontario. If you’re a fan of populist sound bites about pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps just like grandpa did in the good old days, by all means, stay put.

Teitel also has some thoughts about where Thompson might have gotten the evidence for her educational insight:

Says who exactly? Apparently Thompson heard this “loud and clear” in a consultation with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, from people whose names and credentials she did not provide.

This does not sound like policy by research. It sounds like policy by anecdote. It sounds like Thompson went for lunch with a few business men, one of whom (likely a guy whose kids attended private schools and whose experience with public education is limited to voting Conservative in a school gym) blurted out over frites something to the effect of “I’m telling you Lisa, the kids coming out of school today are soft. No resiliency. No backbone. We had one intern with us a few months ago. The guy couldn’t cut it. In my day …” And voila, a plan for education reform was born.

Oh, Kids These Days. Pampered and lazy and won't even work for me for a crappy wage under lousy conditions. I don't know much of anything about Teitel, but I'm pretty sure I like her.

Just a reminder that other countries are not immune from the same kind of amateur-hour boneheaded leadership that we suffer under in the US. In the meantime, I see that Thompson has a family. May I suggest that she and her husband adopt twenty more children, so that they can all be raised with a proper amount of grit.

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