Private Schools Miss the Mark


The argument about how many sheckels private schoolers should pay to support their school choice is beside the point. The real  point is that public education will quickly deteriorate and fade if people are given any money at all to separate their kids from whatever they see as the riff raff or heathen of society.

Oh they’ll protest that that’s not it, but it is.

Private and Charter Schools have destroyed the American Public school system.The U.S.  system is two tiered. When a Chicago mayor closes dozens of public   schools,there is little uproar, because so many Americans – the richer ones with a voice, have their kids ensconced in private schools, so they oppose public education funding, teachers, and teacher’s unions.

If private schools offered a better education for those who can afford it , it would bad enough;  but they don’t even do that.  Private schools worship a false God. They, and the parents who enrol their kids there, buy into the false notion that competition, high stakes testing, rigour, uniforms, homogeneity, and compliance are what good schools push. Higher test scores are their measure of success. They’re wrong.

The Finnish school  miracle proves something just the opposite; that it is equity of experience, less competition, and an unshakeable community respect and commitment to public education and teachers that best promotes student learning and happiness ( if we care at all about that self esteem crap )

Private schools are taking us in  the wrong educational direction, and they will destroy public education in Canada as they have in the U.S.

The main reason we, in B.C. do so well in international measures is that we have shreds of a perennial commitment to equality in educational opportunity and because we have resisted the accountability movement and the test score overseer that reduces learning to a meaningless Fraser Institute rating.

And for those private schoolers who point to asian education models of rigour, testing, longer school days, and lots of pressure as the reason asian students do well, think again.

Finnish students score higher on international measures and their students have 20% less face time than Canadian students and almost no homework.  Korean students also do well on international measures , but their success is not due to their school’s hellish hours and exhorting of kids towards high grades. What Finnish and Korean schools have in common is a cultural reverence for education, the belief that education is the most important of society’s commitments. This is instilled in their children and is expressed to their teachers, who are well trained, well respected and well paid.

Private schools and home schooling rob children of that which is most important about growing up in schools – assessing and developing one’s relationship with a real world, with real diversity, with dumb kids and smart kids , those of little means and some who aren’t so nice or have special needs. Kids need this – not from mom or dad but in a safe place,away  from their parent’s world.

I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with parents worlds, it’s just that kids don’t or shouldn’t, develop on the dotted lines of their parents. A surreptitiously spectated  public school experience with as little intervention as possible, combined with good parental role modelling at home is a better recipe for children’s growth and learning than is over- parenting and insistence that kids grow up and learn to compete too fast – they have lots of time before they need to stress about mortgages and beating down the other guy in the business world.

Keeping kids at home, in the nunnery, or with the creme de la creme, is not only disastrous to the public schools it’s not as good for   the kids being home schooled or Crofton Housed.

Jim Nelson,

Port Moody

About jimnelson806

Educational consultant from Port Moody. "The Stuff Isn't What's Important" " School Wide Discipline Programmes Don't Work" " Vice Principals are crucial towards setting direction"
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3 Responses to Private Schools Miss the Mark

  1. jimnelson806 says:

    Reblogged this on Schools, Politics and Other Stuff and commented:

    The current education dispute has more to do with private schooling than anyone thinks.
    In Peter Cameron, Peter Fassbender, and Christy Clark, who started the twelve year pogrom on teachers ,we have the Anti Public School dream team.

    • jimnelson806 says:

      Hi Jeanine;

      You’ve always been so diligent, and smart. Thanks for taking the time to compose such a thoughtful and complete response to my post.I wish I had you working in our school when I was still “in the yoke.”
      I wouldn’t expect that you would be doing anything less as a teacher than what you describe; I applaud you for it,knowing just how difficult it is to be a caring teacher, who puts kids first. Then to have a respected (old) teacher of mine knock my school and work in a blog, would inflame me a bit. Sorry…

      To answer your question, yes I include all independent schools in my description of “private” schools.I think “independent” is a value laden euphemism, like “Pro Choice” or “Pro Life”.
      “Private” is more descriptive to me; meaning any school that can or does exclude any kid for any reason, from religious belief to special need, to socio-economic wherewithal.

      Your school may accept anyone ( except perhaps those who can’t afford it). I’m sure there are all kinds of teachers like you in private schools; wonderful teachers with whom I have only admiration and respect.How could I be critical of the great work you and they do face to face each day?

      Private schools in B.C. started as Catholic Schools, for people who wanted their children educated by and with others of their faith. I’m against people of other religions and non-believers paying anything for that choice, regardless of what a great job you’re doing.How comfortable would you be paying taxes for an “independent” atheist school? Is an atheist school an appropriate educational focus? Wouldn’t it be better for my child to be educated in a school that had Muslims,and Taoists,Lutherans, agnostics, and the odd Shinto? Can’t Lutherans learn to be Lutherans on the weekend? I can say with personal certainty that your attending a public school rounded and enhanced your perspective of the world, and probably strengthened your religious beliefs.

      But it’s not just Catholic Schools. “Independent” schools now include back to basics schools,schools of other religions and cultures,snobby ” prep” schools and institutes, and even “Charter Schools”. I’m against paying for Catholic Schooling and I’m really against these other schools, many of which are completely out to lunch pedagogically.

      But the main reason I favour publicly funding only public schools is that funding private schools ultimately destroys public schools.The U.S. example has happened before our eyes.
      Their public schools, chronically underfunded and replaced by Charter Schools and other private, even corporate options, have relegated their public schools to a repository of the underprivileged and visible minorities. That’s where we’re going in B.C., having learned nothing from the American’s twenty year destruction of public schools.

      In contrast, What we learn from Finland’s school miracle,by consensus and measure, the most effective schools in the world, is that the exact opposite of what we are doing in B.C., is what improves student learning. Finland stresses equity of opportunity,no standardized testing,professional autonomy,masters level training and salary, and a reverence for public education and educators – that’s how they developed their system over the past twenty years.

      Our current government does not support public education. They don’t respect the professionalism of teachers or believe that teachers have any particular skills or training. They think someone who has played in the Vancouver Symphony for a few years could step in tomorrow and do a better job of teaching grade 9 music than your husband, who they think of as just some teacher who took some courses.Teachers are just workers; they have no craft.

      What has this to do with Private schools? Everything, because that’s where we’re going in B.C. First, degrade the public system and it’s teachers. Point at private schools that don’t have labour disputes and a horrible union; where class sizes are small and discipline tight. Increase funding, perhaps offer vouchers.Stress “choice”. Who could be against that?

      It is and will become, even more disastrous for our children and our communities.

      My rhetoric about what private schools “believe” was a bit sweeping, but I stand by it. Still, I know there are lots of caring private school teachers who are child centered, like you; lots that don’t believe in high stakes testing and competition,

      To me they are that way despite their mandate, not because of it.
      To improve our public education system, I’m sorry Jeannine, but I believe the first thing we should do is de- fund all private schools. The second thing would be to raise teacher’s salaries by 20% and use standardized testing only by blind sampling to test systems not kids or schools.

      Just think, if private schools had proliferated like this when i was at Moody, I wouldn’t have the privilege of working with you, Heather Anderson, and Grayson McReady in “Debate and Research” class – you would have been trotted off to some academy or Catholic School, probably “St. James Academy” or something.

      Keep working with your kids – it’s the most important job there is, and I know you’re great at it.

      Cheers, Jim Nelson

  2. Jeanine Sallos says:

    Mr. Nelson, do you include all independent schools in your definition of private? If so, I’d love to invite you to visit my Kindergarten class at a Catholic school in Surrey. You won’t meet a more diverse group of 31 little ones! Aside from sharing a common faith, they come from very different families, with a variety of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I have 2 children funded for ASD (and another whom we suspect of it – but it’s just as hard to get testing in our school as it is in the public system). My classroom is not one that follows a model of “rigour, testing, longer school days, and lots of pressure”. Nor are those of any of my Catholic school colleagues.

    As you can see, I have a class size larger than a public school Kindergarten. My school is new; we opened last year with just three classes (K, 1 and a combined 2/3). This year we had 5 classes (with grades 3 and 4 being separated and running at lower numbers) and by 2016/17 we will be a full K – 7 school. It is my hope that at that time class sizes will be reduced to levels closer to public schools; however, we currently rely on a large enrolment in order to run the school. Tuition is kept as low as possible – current CISVA (Catholic Indpendent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese) guidelines have a maximum tuition amount of $265/month for the first child in the family. Second and subsequent children have a reduced rate. The whole idea behind our schools is to support families in educating their children in their faith tradition.

    I’ve seen arguments that religious schools shouldn’t receive any funding. The way I see it, all children in our province are entitled to a basic education; parents sending their children to religious schools pay extra for the privilege of having that support (and receive less funding than public school students for the same services).

    Given our new status, we have only had one group of students write FSA tests, and I have no idea how they did. I know, however, that at my previous school, we hated the FSA testing and especially the Fraser Institute rankings as much as any public school teacher. Our Grade 7 teacher had a master’s degree in math (she had taught at the college level) and used to complain about the lack of validity of the stats due to a low class size (that school is here in Chilliwack, where I live, and has had issues with enrolment for various reasons, one of them being that Chilliwack middle schools start in Grade 7; thus, families who don’t plan to send their children to the Catholic high school in Abbotsford often pull out after Grade 6 so their kids can start middle school with their peers. Lower grades tended to have higher numbers.) I especially hate the part in the “report card” that compares a school’s results to the previous year’s – you’re not talking about the same group of kids! Apples to oranges! And we all know that just one or two students falling below the mark will affect the percentages for the entire class. Does that truly reflect on the quality of education received? Of course not!

    I completely agree with you that “assessing and developing one’s relationship with a real world, with real diversity, with dumb kids and smart kids , those of little means and some who aren’t so nice or have special needs” is very important, and also that “Kids need this – not from mom or dad but in a safe place,away from their parent’s world.” Obviously I don’t support your viewpoint that private – or, as my school system is more properly referred to, independent – schools deprive children of that. I do agree that homeschooling and truly PRIVATE schools (admission tests, screening to keep out those with special needs, hefty tuition rates) can have that effect. On the other hand, I would also submit that a public school in an area with a higher socio-economic status (think White Rock, or the University Endowment Lands) is going to provide a less diverse environment than the school my children attended – a regional Catholic high school. We have been part of that community for 11 years now and I daresay that the school population is much the same as the one that I experienced in Port Moody. We did not enrol our children in this school to “separate [our] kids from whatever [we] see as the riff raff or heathen of society”. Over the years the school has dealt with many of the same issues a public high school would, including students who drink or use drugs, teenage pregnancy, students going through parental break-up issues, students with depression/suicidal tendencies, etc. I would never characterize this school as one that buys into the notion of “competition, high stakes testing, rigour, uniforms, homogeneity, and compliance” making a good school. Okay, they wear uniforms! Even there, however, there are lots of different options so it’s not like you enter a classroom and see a bunch of identical kids. Catholic schools also welcome non-Catholics. I have taught a number of them over the years and my children have had many non-Catholic friends.

    I completely support the public school teachers of BC in this dispute. I have far more in common with them than many might realize in terms of the type of children I teach, the amount of time I spend, the amount of money I spend, the amount of money I DON’T get (we are not paid for extra-curricular work, as I hear that some private schools do; our pay scale is slightly less than the public system, although in the same ball park). When, at recess time, I’m tidying up from one activity and preparing for the next, snatching 5 minutes to wolf down a snack and hit the bathroom, I’m in complete sympathy with my public school colleague who is locked out during that time. We obviously have a government full of people who DO NOT UNDERSTAND what it means to be a teacher in the 21st Century. One of my favourite photos of my mom shows her at the age of 18, wearing her very proper 1950s full skirt, with a grade 1 class of about 35 children. She, with her high school diploma (she graduated at 16), Grade 13, and one year of normal school was able to manage all of those children because times were different. I’m sure I had close to 30 students in my elementary school classes in the 1970s; a few of them stand out, but with the separation of children with special needs, my teachers were not dealing with what today’s teachers – in both public and independent schools – deal with today. When support is given, it’s an incredible thing. I am grateful that the parish that my school is a part of is willing to supplement our school’s budget in order to give the kids that support – even then, it does not go far enough. Just one of the boys in my class requires full-time assistance. Class size and composition in public schools needs to be addressed!

    For the record -my husband is a teacher in the public system – formerly a band teacher, he is now a middle-school counsellor. I know that he wasn’t doing 10% less work at any time in this job action.

    Well, this may have been a lot of rambling, but I hope it helps give you a bit of a different perspective!

    Jeanine Chevalier Sallos

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