Message lost in the rhetoric

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By Lori Fazari

The fluorescent yellow posters were hard to miss. A walk down the hall from our Jorgenson Hall office brought to our attention images of a skull and crossbones, enough to warrant a double take. The object of the posters’ condemnation: private universities.

Privatizing Ontario’s Resources

First, Walkerton’s Water

Next, YOUR Education

The propaganda — because there’s no other word for it — is part of student council’s campaign to raise awareness about the provincial government’s Bill 132, which is set for third reading in the Ontario legislature and, if passed, will expand the definition of who can offer a university degree in the province.

The posters liken the privatization of postsecondary education to Walkerton’s water crisis. That statement is so far out of line, it’s incredible the student government allowed it to be posted for students and the Ryerson community,

Let’s gain a little perspective here. A degree is a piece of paper, not a vital element of life. Bacteria in Walkerton’s drinking water caused the deaths of seven people last spring. More than 2,000 people fell ill, and an inquest is now underway to try to determine where the blame lies.

Ryerson’s student government has proclaimed privatization the cause of Walkerton’s tainted water. In the typically overblown fashion that has come to be expected of the student movement here, the argument goes so far as to compare this to our education system. How are the student activists’ arguments supposed to be taken seriously when they shock rather than make students think about a situation and the impact it would have on them? All the posters manage to do is trivialize the Walkerton situation, using it as a tool to further their leftists agenda.

No one can reasonably make the statement that a private education system equals death. No students will be harmed in the earning of their degrees, whether they pay nothing ot $5,000 or $10,000 a year for it. Sure, they may have to work extra hard to stay in school, but the deaths of seven people and the thousands made ill is nowhere near the same situation.

Education, as we’ve been raised to expect, is a basic human right, along the lines of health care and water and paved roads.

By that principle, it is hard to swallow the province’s commitment to shift attention toward private schools as opposed to increasing funding and support for the long-established high-quality ones already in the province.

In an ideal world, maybe the Tories would have upheld their commitment to public education, as they stated in a 1996 panel on the future direction of the postsecondary system.

But every action has its consequences. The Tories wanted to eliminate a year of high school. If every other student in every other province is smart enough to finish secondary school in four years, Ontario students should be able to as well.

With that comes a transition year, which means the postsecondary education system is going to be strained come 2003. In the end, whatever political wrangling happened to make private universities a near-reality in the province, the government was bound to make sure every student finds a seat in a postsecondary institution. The Tories’ way, like with so much else in the province, is to dump the responsibility on private institutions. But a life or death situation this is not.

 

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