National Public Education
14May/120

Ontario Education

A recent Atlantic article extols the success of public education in Ontario, Canada (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/05/what-america-can-learn-from-ontarios-education-success/256654/).  As many of the commentators on this article noted, this should mean that the U.S. could do the same with its own state-level programs.  Canada has no federal education program; all public education is funded and run by the individual provinces.  But there are significant differences between provinces and states.

The first is that far fewer residents of the provinces move to other provinces than we do in the states.  The figures are that about 15% of the residents of a province were born in another province, while about 40% of the residents of an American state were born in another state.  That is almost three times as many.

The provinces simply have a stronger "identity" than our states do.  This is partly because there are far fewer or them, but also because they have a definite culture of their own.  Of course Quebec is different, but so is Manitoba.  They even have their own political parties that are different from the national parties, and their own somewhat odd forms of government.  Are there any state governors who are not Democrat or Republican?

This identity and stability mean that an educational system run by a province has a much greater chance of actually benefiting the public who are paying for it than one run by a state.  In the state, 40% of your graduates are going to move away, but only 15% in a province.  This makes a difference in how much you want to spend on education, or simply how concerned you are about this problem.

In the article it was noted that the whole reform process started when the voters elected a government that was committed to long-term educational success.  Has this ever happened in a state?  Some governors have worked hard on education for a few years, and made some progress, but never over a long term. Do any state politicians ever run on an education platform?

The reality, I think, is that we don't in fact want to spend much effort on improving our particular state's education program, or anything else about the state.  We know we may not live there all that long and have no real commitment to it.  We are committed to American education, not New Jersey's.

In the comments after the article it was lamented that Canadians take education more seriously than Americans.  Perhaps this is true, but what can we do about this?  Not much.  What we can do something about is our state system of education.  It cannot work, ever, unless we all go back to spending our lives in one state, and that is not going to happen.  The only serious solution is a national education system.

P. Dodington

May 14, 2012