Some thoughts on “Streaming’ and the Ontario Education System

I think I could add something to this ‘streaming’ discourse regarding education in Ontario. Also, to the discussion about free university tuition.

I defeated streaming when I was a kid in Alberta way back in the 1970’s. In fact, I streamed myself into the academic track. So I am concerned to read about all this B.S. over ‘streaming’ in Ontario, with school guidance counsellors forcing highly intelligent kids into the ‘dummy’ track.

I ended up in Ontario because I thought that the culture here was a lot more enlightened than in Alberta or B.C. In some ways it is, but there are also disturbing aspects to it. I have now discovered a new disturbing aspect; this educational streaming.

The anomalies like this in generally more tolerant Ontario may be due to the province being formed earlier, before the idea of democracy and rights was fully developed. There may be a lingering influence of the family compact, because there is some sort of hidden influence here that is severely inegalitarian, wants a class system maintained.

Some people writing on this topic seem to have the idea that Ontario is the only province which still does this streaming thing. There seem to be three others, including Alberta, still.

Another is B.C. I did not experience streaming in B.C., but I only attended elementary school there. I did miss much of it due to health problems.

My memories of school in B.C. are very good, so I am disturbed to learn that streaming gets going there in higher grades, even today. The school I attended created a really healthy social environment. The more capable kids would help out the ones having problems. The standard of behaviour was raised, with idiotic ‘act-out’ behaviour very effectively remedied.

Then my family moved back to Alberta. There was not quite a tiered system in elementary school, but certain kids considered ‘problematic’ were pushed aside. I fought against being shut out.

When I got to junior high there was, believe it or not, a three tier system; not one, but two levels of humiliation and alienation. I got dumped in with the idiots, with severe negative effects for me.

I do mean idiots. The downward spiral of behaviour, due to lack of any positive influences, was severe. I got sick of talking to counsellors who would not listen to me and got in a very big snit about me. I was not supposed to think I was above the milieu they had shoved me into. I had to repeatedly walk out of the school to get the school authorities to get the bullies/idiots to leave me alone. My marks were very bad.

I got to senior high, which started in grade ten in the Alberta system. The three level system was there too; the 10, 12, 15 courses. I just signed up for ’10’ courses and no one talked to me about it. I hated counsellors and refused to talk with them.

.

So, I went the 10-20-30 route through senior high in Alberta. I mostly got excellent marks and my health was better. I was a bit weak in mathematics. I found it so much more pleasant being around intelligent and mentally stable others.

I graduated and that was the end of education for awhile. It never occurred to me to go on to university. I assumed I could not afford it. My parents could never afford to buy me proper clothes, let alone put me through university.

Of course, I received no advice at all about applying for grants; wasn’t aware of such things. I also did not want to get into debt with student loans. Now, kids are going deeply into debt just to get what should be free for anyone with the grades.

In the 1970’s even in Alberta, university tuition was fairly cheap. It was still possible for people to put themselves through working part time. I eventually took a couple of university courses in Alberta at my own expense and for my own curiosity. I got excellent grades.

However, I was confirmed in my opinion that my medical problems and resulting unsteady income precluded me from the ‘work your way through’ approach to a degree.

Due to my need for some money, and possibly a steady livelihood, that loathsome creature, the vocational counsellor, close relative of the school guidance counsellor, got his hooks into me. I went through various vocational courses, which gave me some income for awhile but always ended badly.

There seemed to be no way to get into university despite my high school marks. One of these ‘vocational’ jackasses, unaware I had already graduated high school, sent me back there for awhile to do courses I had already taken years before.

I discovered I would have to leave Alberta to be able to access the medical care I needed to maintain health. I arrived in Toronto and within a year found a way to attend university for free and on the slow track. I got good grades, but graduated too old for it to help me establish any kind of career. Yet I loved being there and benefited greatly from it.

While there I was exposed to much ‘post modern’ thinking; for example Foucault’s teachings about the way a ruling class manufactured a class system in order to maintain its dominance.

And now, I would say that my life story is a great advertisement against any kind of streaming as well as for free university tuition. You’re welcome.

Further, I am of the opinion, based on hard earned experience, that any kind of streaming or categorizing of school children is an incredibly stupid and destructive policy. The human race has been trying to rise out of class systems for centuries, and here we have a determined effort to reproduce one. What is strange is that it does not seem to come from the provincial ministry so much as some local school boards. That Needs to be studied.

Alas, the world is full of jackasses who want to mess around with other people’s lives. Many of them gravitate to being school trustees, or guidance counsellors, or sometimes teachers. The best way to deal with them is to reduce opportunities for them to screw other people up.

This means forbidding anyone to try to try to judge kids, to make decisions for them about what to do in life. Ability to do university work should alone decide entry to university. It also requires ending opportunities to consign those with some characteristics which someone finds objectionable, to the trash can, by removing the trash can.

Negative categorizing is harmful and offensive to a free society in the same way as prisons are. They do not correct antisocial behaviour; they accelerate it.

I am not saying here that every idiot in the dummy class will be turned into a paragon by moving him/her into a unified social milieu. There are a lot of not very good people in the world and much of it is due to non social factors. The worst of people are truly beyond remedy.

But the merely crummy people can be ameliorated by positive examples and influences, or a plain refusal of others to tolerate bad behaviour. At the same time, the best are not pulled down by association with them, but I have seen them motivated to be even better, to be source of positive leadership.

When you have the full spectrum of humanity in one place, people get a more realistic assessment of where and how they can fit in. People who had been in a negatively reinforcing environment start to see that a different kind of life is available to them.

In a more egalitarian milieu, intelligent people who have not had a chance to use their intelligence can get a better idea of their ability. They can use their brains without being resented and chipped on, and can better access help and encouragement in improving themselves.

Less capable people can see that they do not have to be among the doomed; there is still a place for them in the world if they put in some effort.

Even the scum bums will soon realize that, rather than being a badass in the outcasts class, they are just contemptible clowns in an egalitarian milieu. That is usually a very powerful attitude adjuster.

The goal of an education system should be to accelerate positive behaviour and educate each individual to his/her maximum potential. It is not to produce good little worker bees but free citizens able to build and maintain a truly free society.

Maintaining a class system works much against this goal. Educational streaming, like ‘prison pipelines’ and the old work houses, are about reproducing underclasses for purposes of social control by a ruling class.

It seems now that Ontario is about to remove another means of reproducing an underclass. Yet it has been moving to put back another means; that is, obstruction of access to higher education. Until recently, we had been going toward free university tuition.

For now, we are getting rid of streaming in Ontario. We now have to watch for new ways which might be thought up for reintroducing it in less direct ways. To repeat, a lot of the push for regressive measures seems to come locally. The mess at the Peel school board would be an example of this.

It seems that perhaps the biggest way in which an underclass is maintained is through the education system. Or do we call it the diseducation system?

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