The firing of elected school trustees from Cowichan school district by former Minister of Education George Abbott was an assault on democracy. However, it is the connection between the “trustee” appointed by the B.C. Liberals and U.S. mega-corporation Pearson that raises serious questions.
The majority of school trustees in the Cowichan district were elected on a platform of advocacy for resources for schools in the community. The trustees felt that the ever declining resources provided by the B.C. Liberal government for public education had to be challenged with a budget that accurately reflected the needs of the schools. The budget the school board approved still involved cuts, but not as deep as the B.C. Liberals had wanted from that district. The Board was fired for non-compliance.
As is customary in a democracy, when an elected body is dissolved, an election is called. However, Abbott demonstrated contempt for the democratic process and decreed that there would not be a by-election for the trustees. He did so because he believed that the community would re-elect the same group of trustees.
In its place, the B.C. Liberals appointed Surrey superintendent Mike McKay, not only an administrator appointed by a civic party (Surrey First) who shares a logo with mega-corporation Pearson Education, but also the star of a Pearson film on education reform called Making it Happen.
U.S. public education advocate Diane Ravitch states: “Of course, Pearson is not just a publisher of standardized tests. It is a mega-corporation. It is a behemoth of for-profit foods and services to the education marketplace. It sells textbooks and test-preparation materials.”
This corporation has profited from reforms that have wreaked havoc on public schools in the U.S. according to Ravitch. Pearson, with the adaptive learning company Knewton, has created modules for personalized learning in the virtual environment that greatly limit teacher autonomy and control the content of what students learn. While not mentioning Pearson by name, B.C. Liberal George Abbott has extolled these types of reforms as the future for our schools.
The action to fire and replace the Cowichan trustees with an administrator connected to the Pearson mega-corporation may just be an unconnected coincidence, but evidence suggests there may be a design to the madness.