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Shall We Dance? (The Privatization of Education)

Posted: 2006-01-18

If you want to know why our public schools are under attack, then read this article. Heather-jane Robertson is employed by the Canadian Federation of Teachers. Where is the similar in-depth analysis from our own teacher unions?

Here is more information on APEC.

And more.




http://www.creativeresistance.ca/awareness/1999-aug-13-privatization-of-education-heather-jane-robertson.htm




originally in Phi Delta Kappan, 1999.



At a 1998 Education Industry Summit, Charles Ivey was perplexed that so little of his dream of privatizing Canadian education had come to pass. A high school dance, with the boys on one side of the gym and the girls on the other, was his metaphor of choice. But, as Ms. Robertson points out, the partners have already found each other, and the music's getting faster.



AT A 1997 investment seminar, promoted as "The First Canadian Education Industry Summit," an American analyst claimed that Canada's schools were ripe for the picking. Canadians, he noted approvingly, were not encumbered by all the political baggage that Americans bring to the privatization debate.1



The sold-out audience did nothing to contradict this assessment of Canadian complacency. Participants from the education sector exchanged business cards just as enthusiastically as those whose interest in education was limited to how it could contribute to their clients' bottom lines. There was no scent of animosity in the room, no evidence of values in conflict. When the chairman of the summit, Charles Ivey, claimed that "the sound you hear is an industry about to be blown up," no one rushed for cover.



Everyone took notes when Stephen Beatty, from the investment house KPMG (one of the summit's sponsors), patiently explained that "the value of an education is what people are willing to pay for it." But Canada has been giving it away for free, Beatty complained, which really isn't fair. The champions of the for-profit education market are out to level the playing field. They have found eager allies in what Michael Apple calls the conservative alliance -- even though this club is not restricted to conservatives.2 Entrepreneurs, free-marketers, right-wing ideologues, fed-up taxpayers, religious fundamentalists, and radical education reformers may make strange bedfellows, but they have found a common mission: dismantling the monopoly of public education so that market rules can be applied to the business of schooling. When parents and students become customers, consumer power will ensure that everyone gets what he or she is willing (or able) to pay for.



Two years later, these predictions that the Canadian education industry was in pre-explosion mode seem to have been a mite optimistic. Only two "educorps" are publicly traded, when, according to Ivey's calculations, Canada's market should have generated at least 11. Although contracting out and other dalliances with privatization are now common, no K-12 system has swallowed the privatization pill whole. Ivey has mused that the delay is merely stereotypical Canadian reticence about embracing change. "Canadians may be a little late out of the gate when it comes to recognizing their own education industry," he admits, "but they will catch on quickly."3



As the 1998 summit approached, Ivey bullishly claimed that "the advent of government cutbacks, the onset of competitive mentalities, and demanding stakeholders" would triumph over caution. His survey of the Canadian opportunity landscape was encouraging, he wrote, as he pointed to a postsecondary sector that is changing fast. Many publicly funded institutions have faced the choice of embracing privatization or closing their doors. It is only a matter of time, Ivey promised, until the whole system falls into line.



It's like a high school dance, Ivey mused, "with the boys on one side of the gym and the girls on the other. Nobody wants to make the first move across the abyss onto the dance floor."



Line Dancing



The federal government has cut $3.1 billion in postsecondary funding over seven years; most provinces have followed suit. Even reluctant colleges and universities have had to rethink their business plans; the University of Toronto can't rely on small efficiencies to make up for $54 million in lost funding, nor will tuition hikes of up to 127% make up the shortfall. Setting up a number of private programs within this public institution has eased some of the pain. But trying just a little privatization seems akin to trying to eat just a few peanuts. Overnight, guided by a governing council of corporate heavy hitters, the University of Toronto has begun offering to the highest bidder everything from programs to washrooms.



According to activist faculty members and students, the path from the Xerox library through the Price Waterhouse seminar room to the Ernst and Young classroom to listen to a lecture from the Royal Bank Professor of Social Policy is taking the whole institution in a new direction.4 Its new orientation to the private sector is blamed for decisions that have bestowed the university's blessing on everything from questionable corporate-funded research to the granting of an honorary degree to former U.S. President George Bush.5



As yet no Canadian elementary school has been named for a fast-food chain or for an American President, but times are changing as budgets are cut. Spending in these sectors, as measured by per-pupil calculations, has declined steadily since 1991.6 Schools have had little choice but to do less, even though expectations for "educational productivity" have not been downsized to match declining budgets. Public opinion remains watchfully supportive of the performance of schools, even though the monopoly-owned print media have often been caustically critical of every aspect of education, from the vacuity of Canadian curricula to the indolence of teachers.



Canada's education ministers have sometimes ensured that such criticisms receive maximum play. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, invited the editor of Canada's highly influential national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, to address a national conference on the health of schools. Although he admitted that he had not been inside a school for some 22 years, William Thorsell concluded that the standards of Canada's schools would be "scandalous and bankrupting if applied to the design and manufacture of auto parts."7 Find private solutions to public problems, said Thorsell. Education will not improve until it genuflects to the market.



Canadians' apparent refusal to apply this advice to their K-12 systems of schooling is perplexing to the pundits. Several explanations seem plausible. Perhaps the investors, whose capital greases the skids of privatization, just aren't prepared to take the risks. At the 1997 Education Industry Summit, Smith-Barney's Gerald Odening warned profiteers that even though running chains of for-profit schools might look easy, investors should keep their heads up. "It's a real snake pit of local politics," he complained, warning that local schools are fiercely defended by hysterical, middle-aged women. "I call them the bitch-ilanties," said Odening.



Although I appreciate the compliment, it seems unlikely that anything as retro as angry citizens can claim the credit for derailing the privatization agenda. Could it be that, despite their criticism, politicians are attached to public education and understand that our national future lies in the universality of our schools and in our obligation to them? Perhaps deep down, they too reject the drift of every unregulated market, a process that ensures that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.



Unfortunately, crediting politicians with halting the privatization movement is also questionable. Ontario's newly named minister of education boasted that he would "create a crisis" in education. He announced that teachers (a.k.a. "front-line service providers") would deliver a superior (and cheaper) product to customers -- or else. John Snobelen's vision of schools-cum-training centers, where each kindergarten child would be paired with an international business advisor and each student's electronic "career file" would be booted up in grade 1, provoked the largest teacher strike ever seen in North America.8 Some striking teachers and their supporters tried to convince the public that privatization was the government's ultimate objective, but politicians refused to admit any such motive. Since only union bosses, as they were labeled, ever used the "P" word, this analysis was broadly dismissed as alarmist if not paranoid.



Political rhetoric has been somewhat less inflammatory in other provinces, but the direction of their systemic reforms has been identical. Generally elected school boards, which for decades had enjoyed broad powers, have been eliminated or have had their numbers reduced and their powers curtailed. Once school boards have been forced into amalgamation, existing collective agreements have been nullified, guaranteeing labor unrest and furnishing more opportunities to blame the woes of schools on unions. Each province has moved in seemingly contradictory directions, centralizing and decentralizing simultaneously. Curriculum, testing, education funding, and "standards" have been pulled toward the center, while the dilemmas of coping with conflicting provincial policies, of meeting provincial standards with fewer dollars, and of dealing with other politically hazardous waste have been downloaded to newly mandated parent councils.



Overnight, parents have become the de facto boards of directors of their stand-alone educational franchises. In some provinces, parent councils are required to appoint their own CEO-cum-principals, choose textbooks, and determine teaching methods -- powers the parents didn't ask for and rarely want to exercise. Ontario followed the lead of British Columbia and Quebec by forcibly removing school administrators from their unions, separating management both symbolically and tangibly from workers, the way it is done in the private sector. As schools have been forced to act as competitors for budget share, staff, and prestige, the advantages of collaboration have given way to the urge to outmaneuver the opposition. Just as other private sector businesses trade on their reputations, so competition for more (and "more desirable") clients begins to shape the culture and priorities of schools. (After all, as the summit-goers were told by KPMG's Beatty, "You will know you have achieved value in your ed biz when you can charge more, attract more students, and more of the 'better' kind of students.")



Politicians, opinion leaders, and the media have promoted these reforms as apolitical, efficient, and empowering. Any suspicion that they have been intended to imitate privatization, at best, or induce it, at worst, is not part of the authorized debate. Parents can easily be persuaded to focus on new curricula, new report cards, and new standards -- reforms that are much more concrete than the philosophy of school governance. Criticism has been muted. What reckless politician or union leader would challenge "parent involvement"? Yet public education is public only if it is governed democratically. Quasi-volunteer parent councils, no matter how dedicated their members, are not elected by the public and have neither the mandate nor the mechanisms to be held accountable to that public. Forced to concentrate only on their school's market share and competitive advantage, parents soon lose interest in what misfortune befalls other schools and other people's children.



This is how the public is groomed to accept privatization, because privatization starts with perception. In rhetoric and reality, education is recast as a private good, not a public service. Those who have children in school are urged to judge the curriculum, teachers, and even other students on their contribution to the bottom line of personal advantage. Those who have no children in school get the message that what happens there is of no consequence to them, since they are no longer shareholders. Surely it is only a matter of time until this substantial majority of nonparents concludes that it no longer wishes to pay taxes to support an institution it neither uses nor influences. Then the other shoe drops. If parents are the school's only customers, let parents be the only ones who foot the bill.



For savvy governments, shifting the "ownership" of schools from the general public to parents has been politically brilliant. Every opinion poll finds that parents with children in school are the most enthusiastic about the quality of schools, and these parents are likely to be the most politically active when they believe their schools are threatened. This cohort of the Canadian adult population is diminishing each year. Shrinking the number of voters who feel entitled to hold opinions on education is an inspired move, particularly when mandated reforms and budget cuts prove unpopular. Let activist parents spend their volunteer time on fund-raising for competitors, not marching on the legislature. If they march anyway, their demands can be dismissed as merely the predictable whining of a self-interested minority.



Having achieved so much in so little time, one might expect the conservative alliance to be celebrating its success. However, boasting would alert the public to what is at stake. Conservative think tanks, such as the influential Fraser Institute, refrain from crowing over the implementation of the pro-privatization reforms they had once championed from the political wilderness. Their approbation has been limited to expressing satisfaction in more parental control, greater teacher "accountability," and the entrenchment of "more rigorous" curricula -- although, of course, much more remains to be done. The absence of the "P" word from media analyses, kitchen-table discussions, and ponderous academic debates allows the process of privatization to proceed unchallenged.



Even less attention is paid to the ascendancy of market values in the curricula. The announcement that the design of Ontario's new outcomes-based curriculum would be tendered to the private sector made headlines, but not because the teaching profession and local academics had been bypassed in favor of the ed biz. The buzz was about the ridiculously short time lines, which ruled out the design of new, made-in-Canada curricula. The publishers of the textbooks (a.k.a. curricula) that won the tenders met the deadline by producing what Canadians know as split-run editions: American materials containing cosmetic references to Canada, raising the fearful prospect of highlighting eager beavers and spear-toting "Eskimos."



As it happens, the newly mandated curricula waste little energy on such superficialities. As befits a province that has adopted "Open for Business" as its official slogan, even the most unlikely topics have become opportunities to celebrate the importance and achievements of commerce. Grade 5 students now learn about time zones by associating them with the location of our "trading partners." They learn to decode such acronyms as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Community). Even Canada's involvement in United Nations peacekeeping efforts is reduced to just another marketing initiative, according to the geography unit called "Canada and Its Trading Partners."9



Do the Hustle



Twelve-year-olds might well conclude that geography, history, and school itself exist to celebrate the market. The private sector is close at hand to ensure that this message is not subverted by unsympathetic teachers. In the guise of "business/education partnerships," corporations are exporting curricula and expectations that reinforce market-friendly messages. The Conference Board of Canada, which represents the hundred largest companies operating in Canada, is proud to be known as the force behind these partnerships, described by its promotional materials as a "higher type of relationship." According to the Conference Board, "the explicit ethical dimensions" of partnerships can be appreciated by deconstructing the philosophical doctrines of 1) ethical egoism, 2) utilitarianism, 3) deontological ethics, or 4) virtue ethics.10 It seems that even a strings-attached deal between a school strapped for cash and a company selling screen-saver advertising can have higher meaning.



In the absence of regulations to govern the relationships between corporations and schools, parent councils are on their own. People who have little experience negotiating with transnational corporations, let alone time to figure out the nuances of deontological ethics, are left to work out the ground rules.



This situation pleases at least one-half of the partnership and explains why many of these deals are little more than vehicles for advertising and opportunities for corporate tax write-offs. But the fundamental problem with partnerships is not that many of them are smarmy. The long-term problem is that public schools are becoming dependent on the private sector and its abiding approval. "Partnered" schools soon admit that they couldn't survive without the largesse of their corporate benefactors; predictably, the terms of the deals are ratcheted up as dependency increases. Corporations get what they want at both ends. The same players that have successfully led the lobby to reduce public spending get to selectively rescue the victims of the cuts and bask in their subsequent gratitude.



The pursuit of "mind share," not just market share, furnishes the link between partnerships and privatization. An Ontario school superintendent who worked out a "privilege card" deal with McDonald's restaurants was sanguine about the implications of encouraging poor kids and their families to eat at the Golden Arches more often. "It's a no-brainer," he told the press, because it is such an easy way to raise a few -- very few -- dollars for his schools. Furthermore, he added, "It's the real world," where money trumps morality.11



In another part of that real world, there are more schools than fast-food outlets, just as there are more workers than jobs. Competition begets compromise. As the pressure to snag a partner builds, schools start to mimic the mates they wish to attract by getting rid of whatever separates them from the for-profit sector. One partnership broker from a rural Manitoba school summed up this transformation when he boasted that he and his colleagues had left their educational roots behind, along with the jargon. Gone was the wishy-washy talk of meeting students' needs and fostering child-centered learning. "We describe ourselves as educational entrepreneurs, staking our limited resources on finding solutions to the needs in the educational marketplace," he told a partnerships conference.12 Obviously, he too recognizes that when the conquerors and the natives already speak the same language, invasions go much more smoothly.



Spinners



But just when education has adopted marketese and globalspeak as its vernacular, the privatization alliance has begun to couch its school reform agenda in the argot of equity and opportunity. The clamor for greater public funding for private schools is positioned as a battle over "choice" and "equity," not as a contest between private and public interests. Demands for charter and voucher systems are treated as bold but apolitical calls to reinvent schools, not as incremental privatization.



Privatization also ducks behind the confusion that thrives when everything is reformed simultaneously. Critics have had their hands full merely keeping track of new developments, let alone linking them to a common agenda. In systems where school secretarial work has been shifted to volunteers granted easy access to confidential student records, there has been controversy over privacy, but not privatization. Ninety-four of the 103 Edmonton school buses pressed into service after transportation was "contracted out" failed to pass safety tests, but the uproar was over shoddy service, not the perils of privatization. Nova Scotians nearly brought down their government over reports that decisions over where to build schools had handsomely paid off government cronies. But the media frenzy fed on kickbacks and pork barreling, not on whether the private sector should be deciding if, when, and where to build schools. When that province's auditor-general exposed how public accounts had been finessed to disguise the true cost of these "public/private partnership" schools, supporters of public education were heartened, but not for long. The same day that the critical report was released, the neighboring province of New Brunswick announced that it too would follow the public/private partnership model.13



Privatized education? Canadians know that if their public health-care system were to be privatized, corporations would stand to profit enormously. We recognize instinctively that there is big money to be made from illness, if not from health. Our national psyche is primed to guard vigilantly the jewel of Canada's public services. But the idea that our education system could be an equally lucrative industry, complete with its own privatization lobbyists and profiteers, has simply not registered. Sergio Marchi, Canada's industry minister, evidently considered his endorsement of the education privatization summit to be politically safe, perhaps even advantageous. Had he instead blessed a conference on new investment opportunities flowing from privatizing Canadian health care, his political career -- and very likely his government -- would have gone up in front-page flames.



However, the media didn't cover the 1997 summit or Marchi's remarks, which may explain why he was again the featured speaker at the 1998 summit. The Education Industry Report claimed that "the major difference [between the two annual summits] is this year's [1998] clear support and involvement of Canada's federal government, which views the education sector as a major future export opportunity."14



Marchi's representative informed the 1997 summit audience that "the role of government is to reduce the impediments that reduce competitiveness, and thus add value." This is a remarkable statement on behalf of a traditionally interventionist Liberal government, speaking for a nation that has never adopted a "less is more" philosophy of government, let alone one devoted to sweeping aside impediments to unbridled competition. Marchi's statement sounds more like the American edu-sector investor Giam Ghazi, who has his own thoughts on the changes in public policy that "add value." "The concept of making a buck off the dying and sick was outlandish 20 years ago," Ghazi told writer Rebecca Jones. "Making money off kids -- that's the same kind of thing. So change is possible."15



In the Swing



The "change without a name" remains below the radar of public consciousness. Privatization didn't get a mention when a recent national poll asked respondents to identify the trouble spots in public education. But had it been named as a trouble spot, it would not necessarily have made a difference. Remarkably, no public opinion poll has found general support for the key elements of Canadian education reforms. Canadians are opposed to retooling curricula to suit employers, they don't want school libraries to stop buying books, and they believe that good teachers and small class sizes make a difference. The public supports more spending on education, not less -- even when pollsters point out that this might result in higher taxes.16 This remarkable gap between what the public wants and what it is getting raises obvious questions about who or what shapes the national education agenda.



If you ask governments, of course, they answer that "globalization," the all-purpose excuse to absolve decision makers of responsibility, is shaping the education agenda. Globalization has replaced debt and deficit as the justification for dismantling the public sphere, for cutting welfare, for rolling back human rights legislation, and for ignoring environmental regulations. And, of course, for reforming schools.



The nature of this new form of schooling is quickly taking shape. Globalization watchers point out that restructuring causes "disintermediation," a chilly Newspeak term that means, literally, getting rid of the middle. When companies downsize in order to spike their bottom lines, middle management is squeezed out first. Intermediate levels of government, including municipalities and school boards, are meeting the same fate. The size and influence of those in the middle shrinks. But what happens to these intermediate players?



Despite its pretensions to G-7 status, measured by population and GDP, Canada is at best a middling country. At the level of geopolitics, disintermediation means that middling states lose sovereignty over their public policy. There is ample evidence that the trade agreements that reflect and hasten globalization have had precisely this effect. In Canada, the terms of the Free Trade Agreement increasingly restrict and even determine public policy. The Multilateral Agreement on Investment would have elevated lost sovereignty from being a side effect of trade deals to being their explicit purpose, since it proposed that "national standards on human rights, labor rights, or environmental protection" could be rolled back as illegal infringements on corporate rights.17 As Canada's prominent free-trade advocate Michael Walker once said approvingly, "A trade deal simply limits the extent to which signatory governments can respond to pressure from their citizens."18 In other words, globalization disintermediates democracy.



The power that once resided in the middle of organizations -- and in democracy -- flows elsewhere. Conservatives argue that this process benefits "ordinary people," since it forces power to shift from politicians and bureaucracies to individuals and their families, who become consumers free to shop for what were formerly public services. When the public becomes convinced that the roles of consumer and citizen are synonymous, then privatized products, including education, become indistinguishable from public services.



However, like corporations that speciously promise to empower front-line employees by cutting their work force and restructuring jobs, the rhetoric of power flowing from the middle "down" is mostly propaganda. Disintermediation means that the real power flows "up," toward management, while its effluent flows down. Applied to Canada as a disintermediated nation-state, this means that the sovereign powers it once exercised are being offered up to economic blocs, the political equivalents of corporate headquarters. Ordinary Canadians are swept downstream in the global race to work cheaper and expect less, a transformation that requires the help of schools.



Fancy Footwork



Canada participates in a variety of alliances in the Americas, among Francophone countries, and within the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), but its participation in APEC influences government policy most directly. This opinion is not widely shared among Canadians, perhaps because our governments dismiss APEC as merely an opportunity for good friends to exchange deep thoughts about mutual economic advantage. Few find reason or opportunity to challenge this official position, and APEC activities are hardly the focus of daily newscasts.



To the extent that Canadians recognize the name APEC at all, they associate it with the inquiry over Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers pepper-spraying student protesters during the 1997 summit of APEC leaders in Vancouver. This incident has led to serious challenges to the government's integrity, questions about the relationship between the national police and the government's political agenda, and criticism of the role of the media. This scrutiny has not extended to questioning what APEC is, what it does, or why the Canadian government went to such lengths to ensure certain dictators wouldn't be inconvenienced by reading placards that proclaimed "free speech."



Canadians preoccupied with education may see no APEC connection at all, although a visit to a pro-APEC educational website, funded by the federal government and a stellar cast of transnational corporations, tells a different story. Asia Connects was a public relations project targeted at education that was built around promoting 1997 as "Canada's Year of the Asia-Pacific," a designation that was to smooth the path for the summit.19 Asia Connects encouraged teachers and students to log on and "get that global team feeling about APEC." In the months leading up to the summit, keeping this team feeling intact required the strategic deflection of growing public demands that APEC address human rights and employment -- key issues that leaders had refused to discuss at previous summits. The sponsors told students that APEC could not be expected to deal with such sensitive issues, since human rights are "relative." Respect for "sociocultural cultural [sic] differences" obliged Canadians to give the leaders the right to pick and choose what they should discuss. Furthermore, according to Asia Connects, people were being misled about human rights abuses in APEC countries.



While "many headlines about the horrors of child labor have graced the front pages of Canadian newspapers," opponents of child labor are actually driving more children into prostitution through their protests. Asia Connects discouraged the imposition of trade sanctions against human rights violators by repositioning the problem as a matter dear to the hearts of teen consumers: "Go to your closet and look at the tags on your clothes. . . . Many of them are from Asian countries. . . . What about your Walkman, CD player, and television? How might your life be affected if Canada stopped trading with Thailand or Indonesia?" This message was brought to Canada's students not by Asian dictators but by their own federal government.



This relentless emphasis on promoting whatever is good for global trade (and global greed), no matter the human or environmental consequences, is built right into APEC's heart, so to speak. Although summits are attended by the heads of state of the 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, in APEC circles the words country and state are banned. The entities that these CEOs represent are referred to exclusively as economies. This distinction turns out to be strategically important to the debate on education policy. When economies are the singular focus of debate, it is inevitable that schools will be cast as the global engines of human resource development -- and little else.



These engines receive a great deal of attention inside APEC -- and very little monitoring outside its inner circles. Canada chairs APEC's working group on education, although APEC "chairs" are referred to, rather sinisterly, as "head shepherds." This title seems quite appropriate given APEC's way of doing business. Within APEC, no concrete policies are adopted, and no decisions that could be subject to public scrutiny are revealed. Head shepherds merely herd their flocks toward consensus on common policy directions, whether the subject at hand is deregulating foreign investment or retooling education.



The sheep pass through a gate tended by a "lead economy," which is how South Korea came to write the definitive APEC paper on education. Its wording was later massaged to be less inflammatory to the sensibilities of the West, but in its original form this paper delivers some remarkable insights into the bottom line of education-for-global-profit:



The emphasis on education for itself or on education for good members of a community without a large emphasis on preparation for the future work [is] no longer appropriate. In other words, the idea that work is only an instrumental part of one's life is no longer appropriate. Such a dichotomic view on education and work cannot be justified in the world where economic development is emphasized.20



According to APEC, the goals of education and their achievement must be subjected to market forces: "Decisions must be taken by a school system for good business reasons with maximum business intervention." The paper criticizes the teaching of "concepts and theories" and "learning for the sake of learning" -- wasteful activities that could be eliminated by subjecting schools to "business practices." APEC claims that economies throughout the Asia-Pacific region are concerned that too many youth are pursuing "nonproductive" education, such as that offered by general high schools. Apparently, too many young people believe that the level of education they have attained should entitle them to the jobs that have been disintermediated by globalization. An educated out-of-work force can be a dangerous threat to global political stability.



APEC's position paper on education concludes with a commitment to harmonize education across the region, a goal that could be realized by classifying education as a cultural product. Like all other products, education could then be bought and sold in different quantities and qualities. Has Canada bought in? Minister Marchi told the privatization summit that "APEC will provide the next growth opportunity, a true test of the Government's strategy to use academics as the instruments of diplomacy." Of course, academics and diplomacy have become global-speak for training and trade.



And so, even as they deny any external influence, Canada's education ministers implement South Korea's plans: retool the curriculum to better sort and train students, collect the indicators that APEC determines to be of value, implement the curriculum built on the outcomes that APEC demands, encourage partnerships with business, cut postsecondary funding, and deregulate tuition fees to discourage nonproductive education. APEC's Canadian sheep are all in the fold.



The lambs will follow. At the People's Summit on APEC in Vancouver, carefully screened young people were on media display, full of that global team spirit. One group pressed eagerly around a colorful multimedia display that featured the new slogan of globalization, youthspeak version. "I want to be a leader in the world of the future" read the huge caption above a smiling young face. "In my world, there won't be any borders."



These disappearing borders are not only the lines that are still drawn on maps, even as their meaning fades. The borders between public good and private worth, between citizens and consumers, between children and human resources, between education and training are dissolving just as surely. The new borders that are replacing them will be harder to cross. They are the walls that prevent us from naming what we are losing and from seeing that, perhaps, through our distracted passivity, we are taking it away from ourselves.



Back at the 1998 Education Industry Summit, Charles Ivey was perplexed that so little of his dream of privatizing Canadian education had come to pass. That high school dance, with the boys on one side of the gym and the girls on the other, was still his metaphor of choice. He thought there was far too little dancing going on. Ah, Mr. Ivey, you are obviously not a teacher. Appearances can be deceiving. Any teacher could tell you that, when it comes to school dances, what you think you see is never, ever, what is really going on. The partners have already found each other, and the music's getting faster.



We just can't seem to name that tune.







--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. The Canadian Education Industry Summit: The First Canadian Conference to Provide Compelling Reasons for Investing in the Education-for-Profit Industry, Toronto, 24 September 1997.



2. Michael Apple, "The Politics of Curriculum," Education and Urban Society, May 1991, pp. 279-91.



3. Charles Ivey, "Canada You Say . . . ," Education Industry Report, September 1998, p. 2.



4. Sarah Schmidt, "The University of Toronto Is Selling Its Classrooms, Its Programs, Even Its Washrooms, to the Highest Bidder. But the Corporate Takeover of the Academy Goes Much Further," THIS Magazine, September/October 1998, p. 23.



5. Dorsa Jabbari and Carla Tonelli, "Mass Protest over Bush," The Varsity Online, 20 November 1997 (http://www.campuslife.utoronto.ca./groups/varsity).



6. Canadian Teachers' Federation, "Spending Per Pupil in Canada Declines in 1997-98," Economic Service Notes, June 1998, pp. 1-3.



7. William Thorsell, "Notes for Keynote Address," paper presented to the Second National Consultation on Education, Edmonton, 9 May 1996.



8. Greg Crone, "Study Ponders Teacherless Society," Ottawa Citizen, 9 October 1997, p. A-1.



9. Government of Ontario, The Ontario Curriculum: Social Studies, Grades 1-6 (http://www.edu.gov.on.ca./eng/document/curricul/social/social.html), 1998.



10. Ethical Guidelines for Business-Education Partnerships, Draft (Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada, 1995).



11. "Jane Hawtin Live," Women's Television Network, show number 4-019, "Corporations in the Classroom," 8 October 1998.



12. Norm Lee, "Schools as Learning Organizations," MSTE News, April 1996, Faculty of Education, Queen's University.



13. Canadian Union of Public Employees, "The Attack on Our Schools," Organize, September 1998, pp. 3-9.



14. Ivey, p. 2.



15. Kevin Bushweller, "Education Ltd.," American School Board Journal, March 1997, p. 20.



16. "Focus on Education," Environics Research Groups Ltd., November 1997.



17. John McMurtry, "The MAI Would Make Corporate Rule Absolute," CCPA Monitor, September 1997, p. 12.



18. Ibid., p. 13.



19. Asia Connects 1997: A World Premiere Learning Event, 3 April 1997 (http://www.tgmag.ca).



20. Larry Kuehn, "Schools for Globalized Business: The APEC Agenda for Education," paper presented at the Public Education Forum of the People's Summit on APEC, Vancouver, 19 November 1997.





HEATHER-JANE ROBERTSON is director of Professional Development Services, Canadian Federation of Teachers, Ottawa, Ont., and the author of the Kappan In Canada column. Her most recent book is No More Teachers, No More Books: The Commercialization of Canada's Schools (McClelland & Stewart, 1998). ?1999, Heather-jane Robertson.

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