Sunday, January 19, 2020

Why The Liberals Are On Top In Ontario

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.


Lorne said...

Clearly, Owen, the Dunning-Kruger effect is at work with this government.

"In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence."[1]

Owen Gray said...

We are all capable of the Dunning-Kruger fallacy, Lorne. But these folks revel in it.

Anonymous said...

I graduated from UBC in 1980 with a B.Sc. in mathematics. People used to ask me what I would do with a degree in math; I didn't have a good answer but I wasn't really worried about it. As it turned out, my degree in math served me very well. Lots people graduated with degrees in Arts/Fine Arts and I suppose that those people were asked similar questions, but I don't recall any talk about de-funding those faculties. I think people at that time viewed universities as institutions of higher learning.

I the last 20 years or so, I have become alarmed at the increasing view that universities should be training grounds for industry. I think that is a big mistake as we will lose too much with that vision, such as culture and diversity. Furthermore, if that is the way we want to go, then let industry pay for the training. It saddens me to think that our institutions of free thinking might become pawns of industry. In a lot of ways, I think that this has already happened. Look at the links between the oil and gas industry in Alberta and the universities in Alberta.


Owen Gray said...

Higher Education should be about broadening your prespective, not narrowing it, GDN. The Fordians -- and their acolytes -- suffer from tunnel vision.

The Disaffected Lib said...

I've been told that some universities are now tailoring tuition levels according to the earnings expectations of grads. The higher the average earning potential, the higher the tuition. It becomes akin to an admissions tariff.

The stories I've heard about what it costs to get into UBC law school today are disturbing. Back in the 70s I would have found this prohibitively expensive. You either come from a wealthy and supportive family or, if you qualify for financing, you emerge under a massive debt load.

What this means is that law school is degraded into just another trade school, churning out soon-to-be-in-harness solicitors and barristers. Yet law is so much more than conveyancing or articles of incorporation or litigation. The study of law is also a matter of philosophy and history.

When I entered law school some of our professors were already railing against the powerful push to a trade school faculty. I saw it in my fellow students. Certain courses essential to the understanding of law and its purpose, the ancient subjects such as jurisprudence, the philosophy of law, and the law of equity, the unwritten law of fairness, were in decline. They were relegated to optional courses. I was immensely lucky to be taught these subjects by a young and brilliant professor from Trinity College, Dublin, a fellow named Liam McCaughey. More than once I argued cases in which I cited precedents of equity from as far back as the 14th century. I was able to show how those obscure and almost entirely forgotten rulings established principles that bound the court even in the 20th century.

Later in my practicing days I interviewed law school grads applying for articling positions. I couldn't find any who had studied equity or jurisprudence. Few had even studied the law of evidence, no longer a required course. It turned out that most of them wanted to become what they had been educated to become - corporate counsel, tax lawyers, real estate types - the areas where one didn't have to be very good to earn a reliably comfortable income. Of those who did opt for litigation there were a good many who proved hopelessly inept.

What Ford proposes is about sterilizing schools, leaving them intellectually barren. Schools that provide less remunerative fields such as liberal arts will be comparatively defunded, forcing them to find their money elsewhere, presumably from higher tuitions or increasingly rare private endowments. Why do I keep thinking of of Pol Pot?

Owen Gray said...

When I went to university, there were only a few optional courses, Mound. I could choose my major -- or honours -- stream. But after that, my courses were laid out for me. I needed a math course to get a B.A. I needed two years of philosophy, theology and classics. I grumbled a bit. But I'm glad I had that kind of education.

These days, Ignorance rules the roast. I read that Donald Trump recently told the prime minister of India he was lucky he didn't have to share a border with China.

Pardon me?

e.a.f. said...

some one from the Betsy De Vos school of learning might have been chatting with Ford.
This is also a method of ensuring the continued hold on money and position for families who have both. Poor need not apply for potentially high income professions. At a time we need more doctors, Ford is going to ensure it becomes a career, which most won't be able to obtain an education for. That ought to work very nicely for Ontario.

Ford, perhaps with the assistance of his "advisor" the former over lord of B.C. and money laundering, Gordon Campbell (el gordo) he is giving dismantling of an education system another try. Its all about the dumbing down of the population, as we have seen in the U.S.A.

People voted for Ford, now they can life with it or die because of it.

Anonymous said...

I am in Alberta too GDN. And I have spent a good deal of my life at the UofC and UA, know a bit about MRU too. Also stops at; Ryerson, UBC and Oxford. The relics of a misspent life?

May I speak freely? laugh - This has been pissing me off for a long time. And Academic enquiry is, in my view, not being well served by the paucity of argument, discussion and debate about the purposes and goals of higher learning. The, ahem, slow march to global realisation that Global Warming is a scientific fact tend to prove my point, I would think?

... long slow pause . . .

What comes next is up to the kids. Again. As usual.

Think about it. A 16 year old kid with her own problems to deal with is getting it done. Or at least getting it started. I don't see a tidal wave of sudden recognition quite yet ... but she and her generation better figure it out quick is my guess.

So, I am just going along trying to give them a hand when I can. I celebrate every small victory. Best drinking game ever . . . lopsided smile

j a m e s

Owen Gray said...

For Ford, people who can actually think their way through a problem are dangerous, e.a.f.

Owen Gray said...

The fate of the world is -- or soon will be -- in the hands of the kids, james. My impression is that they know when they're being snowed.

Toby said...

I am frequently reminded of Alan Bloom's 1987 book "The Closing of the American Mind."

Bloom predicted that the changes being made in universities would ricochet through society.

Owen Gray said...

Bloom believed in what used to be called a classical education, Toby -- and he became a pariah in the acadamy.

John B. said...

Once the libertarians had succeeded in discrediting the A-students, we should have considered giving the C-students a whack at it before turning it over to the imbeciles they offered us.

the salamander said...

David Climenhaga's post today, savagely supports your premise Owen

Its easily found near your link at Progressive Bloggers.

Its astonishing to think Doug Ford and Jason Kenney may exchange sticky notes re Education so to speak.. One of them is supported by the eminent scholar Stephen Lecce who trained at The Harper Reform School.. and dontcha know the other is supported by one Matt Wolf from the very same Harper School. There is a strong stench of Manning School.. and also The Tom Flanagan School of Firewall teachings. Truly can we soon see the astonishing and feral Medical Science wisdom of Kenney / Ford soon, please ?

The dangerous symtoms of 'The Smartest Guy In The Room' are strong in those two.. it must have been imbued via osmosis, direct from Stephen Harper who of course is the situational ethics guru of the syndrome.. or better said the primary vector of that contagious malady

Owen Gray said...

At least C students know what they don't know, John.

Owen Gray said...

When ego is assumed to be a synonym for knowledge, sal, we're all in deep trouble.