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Why the attack on private schools?

Posted on May 2, 2017 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Craig Funston
There are a lot of myths flying around these days over one specific form of education. Some myths involve its finances or quality, others deal with its isolation or exclusivism.
Some of the attacks are based on what the critics think are facts, but the so-called “facts” get tangled up. And some of the attacks are not based on facts at all, but are merely presented as facts.
If the matter at hand, namely, the educational options for parents, wasn’t so fundamental and essential, this would be a laughing matter.
I myself am the product of a public school education—both day school and university. I have many friends who are teachers and administrators in public schools right across Canada. Like all teachers in all systems, they have their hands full and my hat goes off to them.
I think of teachers, but I also think of parents and their educational choices. Choice in education is a big thing these days, and so it should be. Parents should have the ultimate say in what model of education they want for their kids: public, private, or home. That’s a fundamental right, though there is a serious move afoot to curtail that right.
I have many friends who have their kids in all three systems. With regard to the former option (public), between the many changes coming down the pike and the ones already in place, the parents have their work cut out for them. I have encouraged them to be part of any school committee that they can.
After all, students are the children of their respective parents (they are not the property of the school board or province), and parents need to inform and be informed in every significant matter that goes on within the walls of any school. That’s a given, and anything less is suspect.
Simply meeting the bus somewhere or dumping them off at the front door of the school, is not acceptable parenting. I get it that there are economic or domestic restrictions that could factor into limiting parental involvement. However, getting, then staying, involved with their child(ren)’s education is, and has always been, a key responsibility of every parent. The ultimate example of that parental responsibility, of course, is home education.
As stated before, all my education was in public schools; all my teaching experience was in private schools; and all my kids have been home educated. That strikes me as an intriguing balance, to say the least.
So when we speak of private schools (or education), we need to be specific. There are religious and non-religious private schools, with a wide variety within each fold. And within the secular camp, for example, I am aware of multi-themed schools, mostly in sports and the arts.
And on the religious side of things, we have Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, just for starters. (Catholics are faith-based), but they’re under the public school banner. But considering recent attacks and media compliance, when you read about “private” schools in Alberta, you could accurately replace the word “private” with the word “faith-based.” It is a religious attack, and a specific one at that.
I am unaware of Jewish and Muslim schools falling under the same scrutiny, but I can’t be dogmatic about that. And the same holds true for other private, non-religious institutions. In other words, hockey or ballet schools have not been be threatened with a withdrawal of government funding (so far as I know).
I suggest a double standard is in play here, but I fail to understand why. Though it’s not clear to me, I can’t resist suggesting some reasons. I believe private education is a very reasonable option for students in this province, and I want to develop those thoughts in this space over the next couple of weeks.
At this point, just to whet your appetite, I suggest private education is a good option because it saves the government millions of dollars annually. Throw the home education option into the mix, and the savings are enormous.
And not only do we see the economic benefit, there is the academic benefit, with details to follow in another column.
So, next week’s assignment, children: Find out how much money private education saves the government on an annual basis.

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