Worth repeating: If the Progressive Conservative Mike Harris government had tried to do to the Ontario education system what the Liberal McGuinty government is currently doing, the teachers’ unions and all those who agreed with their anti-government stance, would have protested for days on end — all covered by a supportive liberal media.
Yet, all we read or hear that questions the current Liberal government’s so-called “Success Strategy” is from some retired teachers, a few media journalists (e.g., Moira MacDonald at the Toronto Sun) and some concerned citizens and bloggers (e.g., regular readers Ann, Educ8m and Skinny Dipper).
And, what do educators and the public hear from the McGuinty government? They get a very defensive written response from the Deputy Minister of Education, Ben Levin.
Now, while I would agree that Mr. Levin’s letter is articulate and systematic in his defence of the “no-fail” policy, he is far from convincing. Why? Because most of his points of defence are based on unsubstantiated assumptions.
Mr. Levin does, for instance, frequently claim an issue is supported by empirical evidence. Yet, we are never told what that evidence is and under what conditions the research was conducted (e.g., the methods used). In other words, simply saying something has been shown to be good or helpful in certain circumstances does not mean that conclusion should be generalized to an entire education system.
Moreover, as a former educational researcher and academic, I know, for example, that you can prove just about anything you want as long as you identify your limitations and assumptions. So, simply saying empirical evidence suggests this or that is a very slippery slope.
As a result, at the end of the day, the Ontario government’s arguments are just more political spin meant to convince everyone that all is well — trust us, don’t worry, be happy.
Well, we should be worried because no amount of spin can cover up the allegations being made that the current Ontario government is destroying the Ontario education system with their failing “no-fail” policy.
And, why are the McGuinty Liberals pushing this policy so hard? Because they promised during the fall 2007 provincial election, that if re-elected, they would increase the graduation rates, while simultaneously decreasing the drop out rates. Problem is, they didn’t say how they would do it.
The crux of the matter is that if the current relativistic “seldom or never fail” policy keeps up, guaranteed, we will soon have illiterate and/or unprepared high school graduates competing for jobs and post-secondary admissions with graduates who completed all their work and deserved to graduate.
My message to the McGuinty government and Mr. Levin: By all means, implement policies that help students “succeed.” No one would ever quibble with that concept. But, please do not do it by generalizing the acceptance of substandard work because the students you think you are helping now will only fail later.