Unequal and Indifferent: Why access to quality education isn’t coming any time soon

When I was in my last year of high school, I remember poring over a science textbook that was actually being used as a textbook and reading the astonishing prediction: “Who knows?  Some day man may reach the moon.” The year was 1976.

I suspect life outside the country’s largest cities still offers a different educational experience than the one offered the toffs who go to Upper Canada College or Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s. But those are private schools and parents pay a chunky sum to send their children there. For the rest of the world, there is the public system. Or, as we all know, several public systems — many of them, in all likelihood, still less well rounded than others.

Is it that we don’t care about the education of people in smaller communities?  Is it just too expensive to keep the have-nots up to snuff with the haves? No doubt it can be and is more expensive in some places than others. Most reasonable people understand that. But in a society that proclaims health and education and safety are valued, where do you draw the line between what’s equal and what’s not?

In Ottawa, opposition and government MPs and ministers debate the subject periodically. They did so on November 20 in Question Period, with Liberal Carolyn Bennett trying to squeeze some shame out of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan about how much the federal government spends on education on reserves. Take a listen:


As you can hear, Bennett took issue with the government dismissing the complaint that far less is spent on the education of children on reserves compared to what’s spent on education for non-natives in urban centers. The government said it’s comparing apples and oranges. Bennett said it’s more like comparing half an apple to a whole apple. But Duncan argued Bennett’s figures add up differently because she uses one type of math and the government uses another.

I’m guessing maybe they went to different schools.

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