Education set back 2,500 years (Editorial, Sept. 23, 2002)

By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/10/2002

Science, literature, philosophy, the arts, athletics. The ancient Greeks pursued all of these in their approach to education. Nourishing the intellect, the artistic soul and the body were educational principles evident in the flowering of Athenian culture around 500 BC. And yet today, as Canada looks to prepare children for the future, cost-cutting provincial politicians find little value in the ideals that came to epitomize the birth of western civilization.

From British Columbia to the Atlantic provinces, education reforms have jeopardized anything that falls outside a narrowly defined view of the school system as a place to learn practical skills that lead directly to jobs in accounting/finance, computer systems and engineering. (With trades and apprenticeship programs for students with other aptitudes.) Music, sports and extra-curricular activities have become frills — nice-to-haves but not essential at budget time.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Ontario in the last few months, where Premier Ernie Eves and his Progressive Conservative government have stripped rebellious elected public school boards in Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton of their powers, handing decision-making authority to provincially appointed supervisors. The supervisors will do what elected trustees refused to — balance the books by cutting tens of millions of dollars in programs and spending.