Sep 15, 2010

The Globe’s Report on Private Schools


If there was truth in news reporting, the Globe’s “report” on private schools (Sept. 14) would be labeled a “special advertising supplement”. It is essentially a cheerleading exercise for private schools, funded by advertising from private schools, so you’ll find no news in this report. Which is too bad because the topic of private schools merits some real journalism about real issues. But in the Globe the matter of “public vs private” is a foregone conclusion; to them, the real issues are co-ed vs single-sex, or “traditional private” vs “alternative, progressive private”.

The supplement plays on parents’ fears that their child is not going to get a decent enough education for success in this cut-throat world of ours. God forbid that your grandchildren might have to bear the shame of going to public school. Only in a private school can those parental fears be assuaged.

Of course, the truth is that once you are in a private school, that is just the first rung on the ladder of class distinction. Among those with the financial means, there is always another, even better, clique to aspire to. So it goes with private schools. Once in, you may realize that your child’s private school is weaker than other private schools in terms of its ability to provide status and lifelong connections in the business world. Sad as that is, more and more parents feel the need to play this silly game.

And as an Old Boy of Upper Canada College, I will let you in on a little secret: attending any old private school carries no weight because all those other private schools, um, suck. Interestingly, UCC did not even bother to advertise in the Globe’s supplement on private schools; I bet the headmaster was laughing over his coffee at this feeble attempt on the part of other schools to place an ad, the benefits of which trickle up to UCC as top dog, anyway. Besides, the wait list for UCC is a long one, even if you can afford $25K per year (books, sports and school trips not included).

In all seriousness, I do wonder that, given school has already started, what is this “report” playing at. I think it is probably a way of making parents of public school children feel less worthy … and cultivating the sentiment that maybe next year, perhaps with a big enough tax cut, that could change.

Here’s a better change: cut the funding (in BC, private schools get half the per capita funding as public schools) and privileged treatment that goes to private schools, or better yet, put a tax on private school enrolment, and put that revenue in the public system. Or just raise taxes on the richest, and use that to double the public education budget. All children deserve the best education we can provide them, and we’d all benefit from that investment. It is nothing magical; it has nothing to do with a uniform. It is all about providing the funding so that kids can learn in small classes with the right infrastructure of books, play, sports, art and nature. And in the meantime, make the Globe call its bogus report a “special advertising section”.