Well, its taken a few months, but some of the issues that emerged from the Waiting for Superman conversations in the United States have started to slowly drift north of the border.
This week, many news services picked up the trial balloon surrounding merit pay for teachers floated by B.C. leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon. At the same time, the National Post carried a commentary by Kevin Libin pointing out that some international jurisdictions appear to be enamoured with Alberta’s policy allowing for charter schools and voucher programs–despite the fact that the rest of Canada has appeared to take very little notice.
Both of these articles have drawn, and will continue to draw the expected responses from the usual suspects and advocacy organizations on both sides of the debates, and that’s OK. That’s their job.
At the same time, I’m hoping that the emergence of these issues in the popular press might finally begin to animate a set of conversations at tables around the country–boardroom, kitchen and staffroom–about education in this country. As many involved in educational data and research are quick to point out, Canada does pretty well on many international assessments. But there are still major issues of quality, equity and vision that need to be addressed.
This is not a time to hope that debates around teacher quality, testing, funding and school choice will simply go away. Instead, this is a time to try to keep these issues on our radar and in front of Canadian citizens. Let’s begin to tackle these questions head on in passionate but rational ways. Let’s move the important conversations about the future of Canadian education and Canadian schools out of the dark corners of relatively obscure blogsites and into the open light.
We have a great deal of work to do if we are going to claim that all Canadians have access to an excellent public education system in this country. But we need to carry on that work in a spirit of full disclosure, shared vision and evidence-based decision making. This is not a time for partisan politics, unexamined assumptions or timidity. Instead, this is the perfect time to accept the challenge to open up conversations that will ultimately result in sound policy and a system that meets the needs of all Canadians as we move further into the 21st century.
Bring on the controversy. Let’s get it started!