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Deani Van Pelt: Saskatchewan shows how everyone wins when we embrace independent schools

Commentary

Revelations of a class action lawsuit over horrific alleged abuses at a Saskatchewan independent schoolSaskatchewan Children and Youth Advocate launches investigation into independent schools after abuse allegations https://globalnews.ca/news/9094582/saskatchewan-children-and-youth-advocate-launch-investigation-into-abuse-allegations-at-independent-schools/ have led to renewed calls to end taxpayer funding for the entire sector.  

But that’s not really a solution to anything.

Defunding independent schools would just concentrate control of education in fewer hands. It deprives parents and communities of a more direct role in learning. And it limits options for students simply based on their address. 

Saskatchewan is much better off with a pluralist education system. This involves local-district, separate, francophone, and independent schools operating side by side.

Frankly, Saskatchewan should be applauded for continuing on the path of innovation it started in 2012 when it began partially funding Qualified Independent Schools (QIS). Right now, the QIS sector accounts for 21 of the province’s 64 independent schools. They educate about 2,000 of Saskatchewan’s approximately 185,000 students. These are non-profit schools that follow provincial curriculum, employ professionally certified teachers, provide approved programs, follow the minister’s accountability framework, are inspected, and submit financial statements.

Saskatchewan offers just under $6,000 per QIS student annually, far less than $14,000 per student allocated for the typical neighbourhood school—saving taxpayers considerable funds.

This mix of funding does at least three key things for Saskatchewan families and kids.

First, it helps families find alternatives when their catchment school just isn’t the right place for their child. No two kids are the same. Learning styles and needs vary. A system that funds and recognizes only one type of school—the typical government-run variety—is unable to meet the full spectrum of student needs. Independent schools stand in the gap to meet particular needs or offer innovative educational approaches.

We also know that the right fit between school and student makes a measurable difference. Controlling for family background and income, a Cardus study found that students who fit well with their independent school scored five to nine percentile points higher in standardized math and reading tests than those who didn’t fit well.A Good Fit: How Matching Students and Schools by Religion Improves Academic Outcomes https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/a-good-fit/

Second, Saskatchewan’s independent school funding makes education more equal for everyone. When alternatives to catchment schools are more affordable, lower and middle-income families are able to access innovative schools that meet needs or fill in gaps that the government-run system can’t. Or won’t. These alternatives shouldn’t just be the privilege of the wealthy. Public funding makes sure they aren’t.

In a major international study, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development found that in countries where independent schools get more public funding, there are smaller socio-economic differences among students at all schools.Public and Private Schools: How Management and Funding Relate to their Socio-economic Profile http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264175006-en

In other words, as public funding makes independent schools more affordable, the mix of incomes, backgrounds, and neighbourhoods represented at independent schools starts to look a lot like what you get at government-run schools.

Not surprisingly, public funding for independent schools is the norm in three out of four countries worldwide, including places as diverse as Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Israel. 

Finally, educational pluralism contributes to social cohesion.

Opponents have said the opposite for so long that many of us have believed it. But the fact is, independent schools help form students into good citizens. There have been dozens of studies on schools’ contributions to good citizenship. Out of 86 statistically significant findings, 50 showed a clear independent-school advantage towards civic formation and contribution; only three showed an advantage for government-run schools. The independent school advantage comes in terms of students’ political knowledge, civic skills, higher levels of voting, volunteering and charitable giving, and respect for civil liberties and others’ opinions. This is confirmed by a decade’s worth of data from the Cardus Education Survey—the largest reliable, representative dataset of independent school student outcomes in Canada, the United States, and Australia.Many Educational Systems, a Common Good https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/many-educational-systems-a-common-good/  

Despite the rare, tragic anecdotes that make headlines, when including all independent schools, the data reveals an international record of overcontributing to the common good.

Funding independent schools makes good-fit alternatives available, makes education more equal for everyone, and contributes to social cohesion. Everyone wins.

Mark Wegierski: Not all conservatives are sold on capitalist excess

Commentary

There are many different, broadly right-wing factions in Canada; however, most of them have a comparatively minor influence on the public scene. This piece tries to get beyond the “centrism vs. populism” debate that is the main focus of conservative debates today

The federal Conservative party has often had ultra-moderates or centrists or Red Tories exerting the most influence on it. The term “small-c conservative” arose in Canada because of the fact that the Progressive Conservative party, or “big-C” Conservatives, had almost entirely abandoned conservatism, especially under the so-called strong leadership of Brian Mulroney. In the 1980s, more ideological conservatives were often derided as “cashew conservatives”, and Mulroney had snidely declared that all the ideological conservatives in Canada could fit into a telephone booth.

It could be argued that paleoconservatives“Paleoconservatives support restrictions on immigration, decentralization, trade tariffs and protectionism, economic nationalism, isolationism, and a return to traditional conservative ideals relating to gender, culture, and society.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoconservatism#:~:text=Paleoconservatives%20support%20restrictions%20on%20immigration,gender%2C%20culture%2C%20and%20society. and social conservatives, united by the principles of upholding traditional nation, family, and religion, as well as a real work-ethic and strict law and order, do indeed have much in common. These two similar outlooks are clearly comparatively weak in Canada.

As for the opposition to capitalism and globalization, there indeed paleoconservatives differ from most modern-day conservatives. However, it could be argued that the exaltation of globalization, internationalism, and capitalism, has grown increasingly prominent among the more generalized right-wing as a result of the ascendancy of the neoconservatives. Surely, social conservatives are also aware of many negative aspects of capitalism. Most of the mass-media cultural industries often criticized by social conservatives (for example, Hollywood, television, advertising, rock and rap music, pornography) usually operate on a strictly free-market, for-profit basis. And the huge, bureaucratic, transnational—and now increasingly woke—corporations can simply be seen as part of the so-called “managerial-therapeutic regime” that is socially liberal and economically conservative and which is at war with what social conservatives esteem.

Regardless of their comparative weakness in Canada today, the outlooks of paleoconservatives and social conservatives are clearly not coterminous with those of neoconservatives, libertarians, or Red Tories. To paleoconservatives, neoconservatives are gung-ho capitalists who disdain the true common good, libertarians are libertines, and Red Tories are seen as opportunists within the Conservative party who have largely adopted left-liberal outlooks.

Admittedly, the term “Red Tory” can certainly have a more elevated meaning, as in the thought of Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant (1918-1988)“An extraordinary public communicator, his first book, Philosophy in the Mass Age(1959), began as a series of CBC lectures. In it he posed the question of how human beings could reconcile moral freedom with acceptance of the view that an order existed in the universe beyond space and time. In 1965, furious that the Liberal government had accepted nuclear weapons, he published LAMENT FOR A NATION. This short work created a sensation with its argument that Canada was destined to disappear into a universal and homogeneous state whose centre was the United States.” https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/george-grant where it becomes what could be called a “social conservatism of the Left”—but on the other hand, it can also be used to describe some of the opportunist party activists of the Progressive Conservative camp who had earlier inveighed against the supposed bigotry of the Reform Party.“The Reform Party was a right-wing, populist, western political protest movement that grew to become the official opposition in Parliament in 1997. Reform played a role in the creation of the Canadian Alliance, as well as the demise of the federal Progressive Conservative Party — and the eventual merger of those two groups into today’s Conservative Party.” https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/reform-party-of-canada

It cannot be expected that the paleoconservatives’ and social conservatives’ distinct identity is to be entirely melded with and into neoconservatism, libertarianism, or Red Toryism. For example, because of their appreciation for “the truly social,” paleoconservatives and social conservatives are unlikely to unqualifiedly embrace capitalism. The desire for upholding some kind of “true Tory” welfare state in Canada would, in fact, also be more popular than the economically strident but socially flaccid outlooks of many free-market boosters. Paleoconservatives should also be able to see much that is worthwhile in the passionate attachment of the Quebecois nationalists to Quebec, and in their visceral disdain for federal state centralism.

Paleoconservative and social conservative philosophical outlooks, despite their reputation of obdurate reaction, contain within them aspects that allow for some degree of coalition building with various other outlooks—some of them perhaps unexpected, such as ecology or trade-unionism.

It may be that trying to solidly define oneself, and engage in reflective thought as to what one represents, is more conducive to true coalition-building than the attempt to embrace everything. The sensitivity of paleoconservatism and social conservatism to “the truly social” mentioned above offers a certain nuance to their views that is lacking in the usual neoconservative boosterism of unrestricted capitalism and unlimited technology as a panacea.

There are many aspects of capitalism today that are harsh and ugly. And profound concern for the environment should not be written off as tree-hugging lunacy. At the same time, paleoconservatives and social conservatives resist the dogmas of political correctness and do not wish to be associated with those tendencies in “the official Right” (typified by Canadian Red Tories, many neoconservatives, and some libertarians) that heavily defer to these.

Paleoconservatives and social conservatives are very likely to remain in critical opposition to the so-called late modern society. However, some of their critiques might begin to have an impact on the thoughts and actions of a significant number of people. It could be argued that keeping one’s outlook in coherent, uncompromised existence makes it far more likely that, at some point, it will indeed influence people’s hearts and minds, which might then lead to substantial shifts in public policy.