Trying to Wiggle out of Social Class Analysis

By Little, Doug | Our Schools, Our Selves, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Trying to Wiggle out of Social Class Analysis


Little, Doug, Our Schools, Our Selves


The Fraser Institute (FI), the extreme right wing "think tank" that supports the almost total privatization of public education, has released its list of Ontario school rankings again in an attempt to provoke anger where very little exists. Over the years the FI has been in almost complete denial with regards to the progressive critique of differences in school outcomes. The progressive community has always acknowledged that there are significant differences in school outcome but concludes that these are primarily the result of the complex problems experienced by the poor and that the results reflect Social-Economic Status (SES) or, more brutally put, social class.

This analysis frustrates the right to no end because it dramatically undercuts their contentions that lazy teachers, self interested teachers' unions, ossified educational bureaucracy, lack of merit pay, progressive teaching methods, opposition to privatization, lack of charters and vouchers and the rest of their barbarian analysis is not seriously considered.

Up until now the FI, and its Uttle brother the CD. Howe Institute, have simply ignored the class analysis and tried to beat a bigger drum on their own Troglodyte agenda. This has not worked for them since mainstream thought has largely picked up the progressive agenda and therefore has moved, ever so slowly, towards the mitigation of the worst aspects of social class by the use of compensatory education, today in the form of wholly inadequate Learning Opportunities Grant (LOG), class size reductions, Early Childhood Education (ECE) in the form of the Early Learning Program (ELP) in Ontario, professional development of teachers, the addition of support staff, adult education, and similar reforms. Today these reforms are aU seriously under-resourced but the framework is in place waiting for a truly progressive government to fund it properly.

This time, the Fraser Institute finally, grudgingly, acknowledged the elephant of social class in the room, not to shift its analysis, but to further deny it. The FI has come up with a class index that it lies alongside its EQAO testing analysis in order to attempt to prove that there are differences in achievement between schools with similar social class characteristics. They then latch onto this to try to say, aha - social class does not explain everything. We need to look deeper at what some schools are doing that others may not be doing to explain differences.

There are problems within the FI analysis, notwithstanding the fact that it is based already on highly questionable EQAO results. First of all, some high SES neighbourhoods lose a significant number of students to private schools. Are the remaining students highly representative of the income group?

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