Saturday, August 30, 2008

Vimy Ridge: Comments from CBC's Cross-Country Check-up

I am a Canadian, but have been 'away' from Canada for the last 10 years. This year has been spent re-adjusting to a changed Canada. During my time away, I was exposed to the effects of war in Kuwait, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Cambodia & Sri Lanka through both my work with those who have been traumatized by war, and through just visiting these areas.

While away, I promoted in conversations, in a naive and proud way, Canada as a country that did not support war and violence as a solution, but rather, as a country of social justice, rule of law & equity, with its military dedicated to peace-keeping. Upon my return, I find that this Canada does not exist - our cities have numerous homeless, the disparity between rich and poor has increased, health-care coverage is not applied to returning Canadians for three months, even in life-sustaining therapy, public education is underfunded and university is only accessed by those with means. What happened to Canada? Where are our leaders of substance with core values of justice and equity?

How do these ramblings this relate to the question above? After viewing and experiencing, to some small measure, the effects of war, I have concluded that it is extremely important to keep alive the memories of past war. However, the purpose of keeping these memories alive is to demonstrate and remember the foolishness, futility and stupidity of war; to reinforce that violence and war is NEVER a solution.

I am deeply disturbed by our present government's re-militarization of Canada, both in their emphasis of our troops being now in the role of combatants rather than peace-keepers, and today, in their support of the 'Celebration of the battle of Vimy' Ridge as a time when 'Canada became of age'. Is violence and war a method of 'coming of age' to be celebrated? CBC coverage in this similar vein is equally disturbing. When will we ever learn?

If Canadian milestones and sacrifices are to be celebrated, then choose life-building and life-affirming achievements such as universal health care, Canadian Charter of Rights, excellence in education as achievements to be lauded. The futility of war, for example 'the war to end all wars' -- is not something to be celebrated, but rather something to be mourned.

David Peat

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Funding of Private Schools in Alberta

I am not usually politically active, but my experiences in education over the past three years here in Alberta have led me to begin to make public my opinions. What follows below is a letter which I sent to CBC concerning; a) the reduction in the quality of their reporting and, b) the issue of Government funding levels of private education in Alberta. Please read and respond, if you wish.


CBC Radio

Dear Sir or Madam:

Over the past few days I’ve listened carefully to CBC’s response regarding the funding announcement by Alberta Education detailing the increases to the funding of private schools. Let me first say that I am deeply disappointed by the CBC’s reporting on many fronts. Specifically, the reporting is biased, reflecting only the Alberta Government’s perspective. The last ‘report’, simply detailed the increases, and was shored up by a comment from an administrator of a private school. There was no attempt what so-ever to deal with this topic in a substantive manner, and to detail the ramifications of this decision to public education. In short, I find that the CBC’s quality of reporting has become ‘surface/fast’, rather than ‘deep/substantive’, and in general, the critical thinking necessary to determine what is important versus what is ‘titillating’ is lacking.

I am coming from the perspective of living out of the country for a number of years and then returning to Canada. During our absence, we viewed BBC and found a broadcasting corporation taking their role as critical spokesman for the people, through objective analysis and reporting of issues, very seriously. Also, upon returning to Canada, we could compare our view of CBC of the past to current practice, finding it sadly lacking in objectivity and substance, moving toward news as ‘edutainment’.

Now, back to the issue of Alberta Education’s increased funding of private schools. This is a MAJOR issue. The increased funding is a substantial erosion of public education. The private schools will get substantially increased monies, yet still are able to charge tuition, can raise money as a charity, and yet are not obligated to follow the regulations and guidelines of public education. To be specific, they can control admissions, rejecting students with special needs, and can keep their class sizes at an optimum level. In short, on top of the points mentioned above, these two factors alone put them on a financial footing far above the public schools.

This is in direct contrast to public education who must follow the School Act, the Standards of Special Education and other documents which set a high standard throughout the province. Public education’s increase was 4.53% increase as compared to the private school increase of 22%. This is in spite of the fact that current funding and services in public education is sadly lacking. There are tens of thousands of children in Alberta with diagnosed special needs that are unmet. Charities and NGO’s are supporting education through golf tournaments, charity drives, etc. in order to provide books, assistive technology and school playgrounds! This is a wealthy province in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Canadians and Albertans should be ashamed of themselves in allowing their politicians to bring education to this low level! Any investigative reporter, with time and resources could verify the above!

Then, there is the basic philosophical argument – This continues the support of the Alberta Government to segregate and compartmentalize Albertan society according to ability level (e.g., intellectual and academic performance = elitism), religion and race. This begs the question – is this the kind of society we want in Alberta, as part of the greater Canada? Is this the kind of society wanted by Albertans? There was no debate, no in-depth analysis by either politicians or the public before this decision was made!

To conclude, concerning the CBC’s (and other press and broadcast bodies) non-coverage of this issue --- How is this possible? How could such an issue be ignored? Do you know of any other issue that has led to a UNIFIED response from the Alberta School Boards Association, the College of Alberta School Superintendents, the Association of School Business Officials of Alberta, and the Alberta School Councils Association (Please see attached letter)?

Come on CBC, do your job! Please raise this issue to the level it should be – one of public awareness and in-depth reasoned debate.


Dr. David Peat
Calgary, AB

1200, 9925 109 Street Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2J8 Phone: 1.780.451.7122 Fax 1.780.482.5659

Release date: July 31, 2008


Education Groups Alarmed by Government’s Increased Support of Private Schools

Four provincial educational associations have come together to express their alarm with the Alberta government’s decision to substantially increase funding to exclusive private schools.

In 2008/09 private schools will receive an increase in funding of 22%, while Alberta’s public, separate, and francophone schools will only receive a 4.53% increase. And, for the first time, private schools will get access to additional provincial funding , including annual operating and maintenance grants.

“Public dollars should go to fund public education – not private schools,” said ASBA President Heather Welwood. “This decision is unfortunate. Any extra funding could be used to enhance early education programs so that more students graduate from high school and to fix and build desperately needed schools.”

Although accountability measures for private schools will increase marginally with this announcement, they still fall well below that of public schools, noted the organizations. And while public schools are governed by elected trustees, private schools are just that - private. They simply do not have to follow the same rules.

“All parents in Alberta should have the choice of where their children should attend school but private schools can deny access to students and most parents pay substantial tuition fees, a luxury many Albertans can not afford. This decision encourages inequity in the education of children,” says Trina Boymook, president of the Alberta School Councils’ Association. “Albertans should be concerned that this decision did not involve any consultation. This suggests that the government is determined to put more public money into private education no matter what the public wants. This is very disturbing,” she added.

The presidents of the Alberta School Boards Association, the College of Alberta School Superintendents, the Association of School Business Officials of Alberta, and the Alberta School Councils Association will be sending a joint letter to Premier Ed Stelmach expressing their concerns and requesting that he reconsider the decision to increase public funding for private schools.

There are 26,136 students in Alberta’s 173 private schools and 550,324 students in Alberta’s 1800 public schools. Public education includes Alberta’s public, separate and francophone schools.

For more information:

Contact Heather Welwood, President, ASBA at 1.780.812.1895.
Contact David Anderson, Executive Director, ASBA at 1.780.910.8207.
Contact Michele Mulder, Executive Director, ASCA at 1.780.983.5700.
Contact Wayne Braun,Vice-President, ASBOA at 1.403.294.8340
Contact Kath Rhyason, Executive Director, CASS at 1.780.719.3116.

The Alberta School Boards Association serves and represents all Alberta’s public, separate and francophone school boards.