INTEGRATION AND EDUCATION: Canada's Schools Now Mainly Serve Corporate Interests

Article excerpt

The discussions involving Canada, the United States and Mexico through the proposed Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) are alarming because, if acted upon, they will threaten Canada's sovereignty and way of life far more than the FTA and NAFTA have done. Those international agreements have been responsible for the massive restructuring of the Canadian economy and huge job losses. In addition, we now have as Prime Minister a cheerleader for the U.S. government's policies and priorities.

Most Canadians, however, still seem oblivious to the dangers we face from strengthening ties with our powerful neighbour. In trying to explain this lack of public awareness, I draw on my experiences as a teacher in the public educational system for 36 years-34 years in a community college and two years as a secondary school teacher.

What I myself learned as a teacher is that Canada's public educational system serves mainly corporate interests.

Despite the efforts of social activists such as George Martell, Bob Davis and Larry Kuehn, of many teachers and some labour organizations, our schools basically serve the needs of corporations. This can easily be confirmed by examining the curricula of most educational courses and programs. For example, you could start by looking at the calendars of colleges in Ontario, as well as the courses made available through the public education/continuous education programs of the school boards. You will find in both calendars and C/E brochures numerous courses and programs that reflect business and occupational requirements.

No matter if the students will eventually find careers in the public or private sectors, the ideology and the values invariably reflect the needs of the corporations. Programs like business administration, accounting, information technology, public relations, marketing, human resource management, communications in business, to name a few, predominate. Even programs such as early childhood education, law enforcement, social services, nursing, and international relations are based on the assumption that what is good for business (or the "bottom line") is good for society as a whole.

Books like Teaching as a Subversive Activity or Paul Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed have long disappeared off school library shelves or never even made it there. If present at all, such quaint "old" references would at best be seen as specimens from a previous age when the "counter-culture" existed.

Similarly, the curricula of primary and secondary schools tend to give little attention to such matters as the experience of carpenters, electricians, women workers (especially those working in non-traditional occupations), public employees, or immigrant workers.

As further evidence that the public education system serves corporations and employers, you need only look at the members of college advisory committees, college and university boards of governors, and internal course and program committees. Nearly all of them have business backgrounds. The teaching qualifications at most colleges also emphasize business and industry experience as a priority. This is conducive to a pro-employer mentality that creates and reinforces a private sector approach to public sector affairs. Lean-and-mean production, doing more with less, "labour-saving" methods, privatization and contracting out-even a "union-free" bias-these private sector practices are assumed to be appropriate for the provision of public services as well.

In a few universities and colleges, courses in trade union history, the sociology of work and labour, occupational health and safety, trade agreements, and the politics of the left are still being examined or considered-but their number is small and dwindling.

The children of working-class and middle-class families seldom have the opportunity to examine and understand the daily lives of their parents. …