Twenty-five years after E.F. Schumacher published “Small is Beautiful” the Ontario government still doesn’t get it.
It is about to close hundreds of small schools across Ontario because they are “inefficient”. The Ontario Public Schools Association predicts that 600 small schools will have to be closed to meet the demands of the Harris government. In Toronto alone, 128 schools are slated to be shutdown. In response to the public outcry, Harris tells the boards to cut their own “bloated bureaucracy”. He tells them, to give up some of their administrative space, though he must know that even if they gave up all of their administrative space, it would still be less than 20% of what is required.
The Toronto Board has already implemented the following:
- School superintendents (making $100,000 a year) cut from 92 to 47.
- Trustees cut from 74 to 22.
- Trustees’ salaries cut from up to $50,000 to $5,000.
- Administrative staff of 2,000 to be cut in half over three years.
Well, hey, we all hate bureaucracies, so way to go Toronto School Board! I’m too stupid to figure out what 2,000 administrative staff do in a city the size of Toronto, so let’s turf them.
Well, what do they do? The truth is, I have a feeling that a lot of what they do is administrative masturbation. You need a clerical worker to do the filing for an administrator who organizes training seminars for other administrators who run the human resources department which administers the pension plans and benefits packages for the secretaries and the administrators. Other administrators spend a lot of time doing “the vision thing”, going on retreats, and making strategic plans.
Anyway, speaking of Napoleon, I’ve had enough the Harris sniveling about “improving” education. He thinks we are stupid enough to believe that reducing the money spent on education will result in smarter, better students and teachers. Just as you know that if you reduce the amount of money you spend on a car, you will end up with a better car, right? And if you spend less on plumbing, you get better pipes, right? And if you hire the cheapest computer programmer, you get the best software, right? Riiiiight.
Now, obviously, spending more money does not guarantee a better educational system, just as it doesn’t guarantee better software. But you certainly can’t have a good educational system without spending the money necessary to do the job well, attracted good people, and provide adequate resources.
I attended small schools all my life. My children attend a large high school. The larger high school has some advantages, but the biggest difference between the two, by far, is that it is relatively easy to coast unnoticed through four years of education without learning anything in a big school. And it is hard for parents to get to know your kids’ teachers. You see them once for the one semester your child is in their class, and then you never meet the same teacher again. You never develop a strong enough relationship to feel that wonderful sense of accountability that teachers in small schools feel.
Small schools are often an important social and cultural force in the communities they are located in. They are where everyone goes for Halloween parties and the Christmas pageant and graduation. Parents volunteer to help in the classroom and to improve facilities. Everyone meets there at 3:15 to bring their children home. Everyone cares about their safety.
Harris wants to put them all on a bus, demolish or sell the schools, and convince the parents to place all their trust in an institution he has been slamming ever since he came into office.
Does Harris really care at all about education? It’s hard to believe that anybody could be so stupid as to not care. But all of the policies and directives and initiatives he has taken seem far more concerned with reducing costs than actually improving anything. The truth is, improvements do cost money. The truth is, even though we know schools and school boards waste a lot of money, they do still accomplish things. Students need good lab equipment, computers, books, field trips, art supplies, film, paint, desks, and so on. Having all those things doesn’t guarantee a good education, but you can’t have a good education without them.
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The government has stacked a committee that was supposed to hold hearings, listen to varying viewpoints, think about the information gathered, then come to a rational and fair conclusion about how 46 million hectares of publicly owned land in Northern and Central Ontario should be used. This committee heard from loggers, industrialists, commercialists, environmentalists, cottage-owners, and the general public. They then adopted a very thoughtful expression and said, “hell, let’s turn everything over to the loggers.”
The Committee’s official conclusion is that 7.6% of public land should be set aside for preservation. “Hell, let’s give everything to the loggers.”
Now, this is a government that says no one gets a free ride. No more welfare bums. No more government handouts for people who don’t contribute. This government wants to charge user fees for fresh air. This is a government that wants schools of 10,000 students, taught by video camera from a windowless cell in Port Elgin. This is a government that wants MacDonald’s to operate our prison system. But then they turnaround and offer all the trees in Ontario to the logging companies for practically nothing.
If you’re poor. If you’re destitute, and living on the streets of the Toronto– this government says, tough luck, fella. I can’t help yah. But give that bum a chain saw, and the government says, hey, you want some trees? We don’t need them.
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Hey, I’ve been saying this all along! You know those late penalties they charge you on your utilities bill (in Canada)? Like, about $20.00 if you’re one day late on a $200.00 bill? The real interest rate on those charges is, according to actuarial experts, about 5,000,000,000%. That’s right, five billion. In Canada, it is illegal to charge interest rates higher than 60% per annum (which is pretty ridiculous anyway). Well the Supreme Court just ruled that these interest rates, contrary to previous rulings, and with the complicity of the Minister of Energy for Ontario in the 1970’s (under Premier Comatose, Bill Davis), may well be subject to Federal law after all.
This was just another example of the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. Now it looks like there’s a chance that the law might be applied equally once again.
The court case is based on a challenge of the penalty filed by Gordon Garland against Consumer’s Gas, on behalf of the 30% of customers who pay late.
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The Blue Jays are demanding a “better deal” from the Skydome or, so they say, they will play at the “mistake on the lake”, Exhibition Place, next season.
Watch your pockets. A “better deal” means the Blue Jays want the taxpayers of Ontario to subsidize the cost of playing baseball in the Skydome so they can pay Jose Canseco $28 million over four years to bat .234.
Why don’t they just pay Jose Canseco less? Because the New York Mets just agreed to pay Mike Piazza $91 million over seven years to play catcher for them. How can they pay this guy so much money? Well, they can’t. Buy we can. You and I will gladly hand over our money for stadiums and police and road construction so Mike can have an extra limo, three or four extra houses, body guards, and a $25,000 stereo system.
If we don’t pay, undoubtedly, they will move the Blue Jays to Sarasota or someplace that has more suckers per capita than we do.
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How many wars are there in the world this year? How many conflicts between two or more nations in which people are shooting or bombing or shelling each other?
None. Nada. Not a single one.
Yes, there are conflicts. But every conflict in the world this year, involving military action, is a civil conflict, between two factions within a single nation.
It’s true– you can check it out. Is humanity making progress? I think so. Eeyore says, “oh, there’s sure to be another war soon.” Pooh says that’s dumb.