The Globe’s Report on Private Schools

If there was truth in news reporting, the Globe’s “report” on private schools (Sept. 14) would be labeled a “special advertising supplement”. It is essentially a cheerleading exercise for private schools, funded by advertising from private schools, so you’ll find no news in this report. Which is too bad because the topic of private schools merits some real journalism about real issues. But in the Globe the matter of “public vs private” is a foregone conclusion; to them, the real issues are co-ed vs single-sex, or “traditional private” vs “alternative, progressive private”.

The supplement plays on parents’ fears that their child is not going to get a decent enough education for success in this cut-throat world of ours. God forbid that your grandchildren might have to bear the shame of going to public school. Only in a private school can those parental fears be assuaged.

Of course, the truth is that once you are in a private school, that is just the first rung on the ladder of class distinction. Among those with the financial means, there is always another, even better, clique to aspire to. So it goes with private schools. Once in, you may realize that your child’s private school is weaker than other private schools in terms of its ability to provide status and lifelong connections in the business world. Sad as that is, more and more parents feel the need to play this silly game.

And as an Old Boy of Upper Canada College, I will let you in on a little secret: attending any old private school carries no weight because all those other private schools, um, suck. Interestingly, UCC did not even bother to advertise in the Globe’s supplement on private schools; I bet the headmaster was laughing over his coffee at this feeble attempt on the part of other schools to place an ad, the benefits of which trickle up to UCC as top dog, anyway. Besides, the wait list for UCC is a long one, even if you can afford $25K per year (books, sports and school trips not included).

In all seriousness, I do wonder that, given school has already started, what is this “report” playing at. I think it is probably a way of making parents of public school children feel less worthy … and cultivating the sentiment that maybe next year, perhaps with a big enough tax cut, that could change.

Here’s a better change: cut the funding (in BC, private schools get half the per capita funding as public schools) and privileged treatment that goes to private schools, or better yet, put a tax on private school enrolment, and put that revenue in the public system. Or just raise taxes on the richest, and use that to double the public education budget. All children deserve the best education we can provide them, and we’d all benefit from that investment. It is nothing magical; it has nothing to do with a uniform. It is all about providing the funding so that kids can learn in small classes with the right infrastructure of books, play, sports, art and nature. And in the meantime, make the Globe call its bogus report a “special advertising section”.

Sept. 28 Update: Today’s Globe goes one step further with a glossy magazine supplement, Our Kids Go To School: Canada’s Private School Guide. Weighing in at 184 pages, claims 248 private and independent school profiles. Ostensibly, a $19.95 value, yours free with a purchase of today’s Globe.

Now, it goes without saying that when the Globe says “our kids” they do not mean “your kids”; the whole point is to keep “our kids” away from “your kids”. This time, UCC does have a full page ad, on page 2 across from the Table of Contents. No time to get into the details, but a quick look at the lead article, “The benefits of private school” looks to me like a great agenda for what we might do if we doubled the budget of public schools.


  • With news revenues on the decline- I have witnessed a few of these over the past months. Really makes you wonder where journalism and public information is going.

  • Here’s a better change: cut the funding (in BC, private schools get half the per capita funding as public schools) and privileged treatment that goes to private schools, or better yet, put a tax on private school enrolment, and put that revenue in the public system. Or just raise taxes on the richest, and use that to double the public education budget.

    We could do that; and it’s always fun to give the rich a good kick. On the other hand, we could spend _less_ on our education system and we might get better results, like in Finland or Korea.

  • “…it’s always fun to give the rich a good kick.”

    It has been so long I can’t remember if it felt good, bad or indifferent. Judging by the past thirty years though it does seem as though the rich have taken some pleasure in kicking the poor. Sport of kings I guess…oh shit that’s polo. I wonder what the little ball symbolizes?

  • So, wait . . . John is suggesting that in order to get better results, what we need to do is cut funding?
    Well. An interesting experiment, if radical . . . how’s about we start by cutting the funding on the private schools and see if they get better?
    As to taxing the rich . . . well, that’s where the money is.

  • Marc: great post!

    A day after this appeared, Jane Gaskell (Professor, OISE, University of Toronto) wrote the following op-ed in the Toronto Star about a new a new movie on education, called Waiting for Superman.

    According to Professor Gaskell, the movie argues that “[t]he bad guys in the film are ‘the system’ and the teachers unions, both of which resist change…[and that the] solution to America’s school crisis is charter schools.”

    Here’s a link to her op-ed…–education-movie-points-the-wrong-way-for-change


    This op-ed raises an interesting point: education outcomes depend on more than school spending. Those outcomes also depend on our other social spending. Query whether, to help kids do better at school, what we need is more spending on social services for kids living in poverty rather than more spending on education as such. I live in Hamilton, and I would guess that the problems faced by our “inner-city” schools won’t be helped by raising teachers’ salaries. Those problems might be addressed by ensuring that teachers don’t have to double as social workers.

  • Thanks for the feedback, all.

    I’m not sure of the current situation, but when I went to UCC the teachers actually made less than they would have in the public system. Presumably, the appeal of working in a well-funded environment with small class sizes made it worthwhile.

    Basically, if we want great teachers we need to paid salaries that (at least) do not discourage people from wanting to be in the profession. Teachers unions’ job is to ensure that their compensation keeps up with the rest of society, and why they get such a bashing for this is beyond me.

    But I notice a lot of demand from the union to address working conditions, which in the classroom means class size. There were negotiated class size limits in a previous era of collective bargaining in BC, but that was stripped by the Liberals several years ago.

    So when it comes to new money, my priority would be hire more teachers and assistants so that class size could be brought down to, say, private school norms.

  • The Star published a pile of letters to the editor on the issues raised by the film:–a-harbinger-for-our-schools

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