All of Ontario's teacher's unions are now prepared to strike. The teachers claim there are several issues in the mix -- class sizes, e-learning, all day kindergarten. The government claims there's only really one issue -- compensation. It has declared that all public servants will receive a 1% raise. The teachers want 2%.
And, in the midst of this confrontation, comes news of the Ford government's plans for higher education in the province. They want to tie funding for colleges and universities to what the graduates of these institutions earn. Martin Regg Cohn writes:
Over the next two months, the Tories are putting the finishing touches on plans to measure not merely how many students graduate, but how fast they land jobs — and how much money they make. The less these graduates earn, the less in turn will be the cash flow from the government to their alma mater.
Once the metrics are phased in over the next few years, fully 60 per cent of $4.5 billion in provincial funding will be subject to review and punitive clawbacks on every campus. That compares to as little as 1.2 per cent today.
Where is the wisdom behind this policy? Cohn writes:
Are the Tories trying to turn the academy into an algorithm? Will the humanities and social sciences — which teach critical thinking and reward intellectual curiosity — pay the price if graduates don’t find lucrative work compared to, say, more nimble and practical commerce students?
Will we teach students for the jobs of today, not the work of tomorrow? What happens to popular STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) faculties if the booming economy goes bust and graduates can’t command the same salaries they once did? Will schools be squeezed for reasons beyond their control?
And the policy raises other questions:
What if universities start “gaming” the system by choosing only those applicants, and investing only in those faculties, with the best odds of economic success — sacrificing the pursuit of knowledge and academic inquiry? And why deliver such a rapid-fire jolt to the system, ramping up the metrics from a mere 1.2 per cent to 60 per cent of the $4.5 billion funding envelope in a mere four years?
Yes, the ivory tower can seem ossified at times, overdue for shock treatment. But a truly wise government knows what it does not know, and strives to do no harm when rolling out an untried remedy.
And that's precisely the problem. This government does not know what it does not know. And that's also why, according to the latest poll, the Liberals -- a party without official party status -- leads all of Ontario's parties.