Monopoly education, unions and parental responsibility

A bitter teachers’ strike in this blogger’s corner of the world, British Columbia, Canada illustrates how public education has become monopoly education and has taken from parents responsibility for schooling their children.

 The founders of this country believed that all children should have an equal opportunity for schooling and established publicly funded schools.  Through the years this has developed into a huge infrastructure and bureaucracy.  We now have a legal requirement that parents must send their children to school.  There are a few private schools and some home-schooling but the public school system is an effective monopoly. 

We also have the British Columbia Teachers Federation which has used its strength to appropriate the monopoly profits for its members.  Education is such an emotionally important thing that in the past the threat of a strike has been enough for the government to give in.  This strike, now resolved after two weeks before the summer break and three weeks in the new school year,. has shown the lack of alternatives.  Public  education has become monopoly education with all the problems associated with monopolies including high prices and mediocre services.

The current strike appears to be a conflict between the union and the government over who is going to control the education system and especially spending decisions.  It appears the government is taking a stand and refusing to put lots more money into the system.

I believe education is first of all a parental responsibility, something which has been forgotten as the BCTF and the government fight for control.  Most parents have the skills and knowledge to teach their children but chose to hire others to do that for them.      Parents should have the right to determine curriculum, the philosophy of education and which teachers educate their children. 

One way to accomplish this would be a voucher system which would allow parents to decide which school their children would attend according to their values.  This would be true to the wishes of our founding fathers and most of us that all children should have an equal opportunity for an education.  It would also transfer decision making and power from the bureaucracy to parents.  Expect the people currently employed in the system to scream.

Other occupations thrive on competition. If teachers had to compete for students they would be innovative and find the stimulation invigorating.  Most of them would be more satisfied and pleased to see what it does for students.

This blogger’s recent experience of schools has been limited to an annual Christmas concert at the local elementary school, but during the strike  I was hearing complaints from teachers of up to five or six special needs students in each class.  I am horrified.

This may be an old issue already won by parents who want their children to be treated as normal and included in the normal school system.  This should be revisited.  We want all children to be educated to their full potential but not everyone has an equal potential.  Trying to teach children of vastly different potentials in one classroom must be asking for problems. How well do students learn from a teacher who is about to have a nervous  breakdown?

While this post was waiting for its final editing the strike was settled and monopoly power reigns supreme.  Poor students,

If you liked this post your are invited to comment, press the like button and/or click  one of the share buttons. If you disagree you are invited to say why in a comment.  While I like the idea of sharing this platform, my personality is such that I don’t reply to many comments.

Treating young adults as children and healthy eating

When I first saw this column I thought it was about our right to make our own decisions about what we eat.  But at a closer look  it was about treating young adults as children.

The column was criticizing conservatives for supporting some high school students who objected to restricted choice of menu items in their school cafeteria thanks to some nutrition guidelines for foods sold in schools.

It bugs me that some people consider others to be children until they are 16, 17 or even 18 years old.

“Remember, though, that students are still students for a reason — they aren’t adults,” says the author of the column.

A year ago while on a cruise through the Panama canal my wife and I did an excursion to a native village  in Panama.  On the way out we were told that generally by the time the girls were 14 years old they had two babies.

I don’t want my granddaughters to have children at that age but I do think that once people reach puberty  we should recognize they are no longer children.

The other issue in this column is that there are always people who want to tell others how to live their lives and they come from all parts of the political spectrum.

Some people have trouble letting others make their own mistakes and taking the consequences.  The most important things in life we have to learn for ourselves.

Probably the best way to prevent health problems is education about what makes for a healthy lifestyle.  However, it is easy to know what to do or not to do but not always so easy to practice what we know.  Most of us do things that contribute to our own demise.

School vouchers and public schools

Here’s a link to a report that mothers are generally in favor of a voucher system for schools in which parents are given a voucher and can use it for education at a school of their choice.

The idea behind public schools is excellent but one that has gone in a different direction.  All children should have the opportunity for the best possible education.  This has not always been the case and in many parts of the world still is not the case.

The result  (at least in British Columbia) has been  schools run by a huge bureaucracy and controlled by people who claim to be professionals.  (True professionals have specialized knowledge they can use to help one out of a crisis situation.)

A voucher system should allow for schools based on different curriculum, different teaching philosophies and different approaches to discipline.

Education should first of all  be the responsibility of parents. A voucher system would return that responsibility to them and allow them to determine how they want their children to be educated.  It would still allow the state to ensure that all children get educated.

Education is much too important to leave to a monopoly.

Bolsa Familia – paying mothers to send children to school

One of my concerns is that as we go through an economic downturn people will be caught unequally.  The poorest are like to suffer the most and disproportionately.  One of the ways to deal with this is some sort of  income scheme.

Therefore I bring to your attention this article about the Bolsa Familia program in Brazil.  This gives poor people a regular cash grant so long as they keep there children in school.

One of the reasons I like this is because I believe subsidies should be given to  consumers rather that producers.

I know of a young person in Canada who doesn’t even have an elementary education because his mother thinks school is not important.  He would probably be  much better off if Canadian  family allowance payments were dependent upon his attending school.

Education problems

Two items on the INTERNET this morning got me going on schools and education. First, CBC news reports British Columbia teachers have voted 90 per cent in favor of strike and will likely take job action in September. The second was a defense of teachers by a Huffington Post columnist.

I can easily accept that most teachers are sincere, intelligent and exceptionally caring people. Teaching can be a highly stressful occupation although I suspect a lot of the stress comes from administration rather than students.

I have three concerns that probably put me in conflict with most teachers’ unions.

First, education should be primarily the responsibility and under the direction of parents. Thus I like the concepts of charter schools and vouchers so that parents can choose the education their children get.

Second teachers should be considered as servants rather than professionals on a par with doctors and lawyers. We go to professionals because we are in a crisis situation and we hope they have specialized knowledge which will help us out of the crisis. We hire teachers to do a job which we could do ourselves but choose not to.

The third is that education is a monopoly industry. It is an industry in which the monopoly profits go to those people who work in it and one which suffers from all the problems of a monopoly. It should be possible to introduce some competition and maintain our commitment to provide a basic education to all children .

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