IN THIS ISSUE'S COVER FEATURE ON EDUCATION, the passage that resonated most strongly with me was a "qualification" in John Richards's article on school dropouts: "Even if elites engage actively, it is uncertain whether more money and different educational policies at the provincial level can improve outcomes in the trenches--in the thousands of classrooms in the hundreds of schools within a provincial school system."
This points to what seems to me to be the central truth about formal education: that ultimately it comes down to a teacher and a group of students in a classroom, to the relationship that the teacher builds with those students and the impact he or she has on them. A really good teacher can work miracles; a really poor one can cause lifelong damage.
And yet, we keep trying--at the school board, provincial or national level--to make education better and fix its problems. Those efforts are not entirely futile. Upper-level policies can create excitement around education or they can sap morale; they can provide teachers with valuable resources or saddle them with useless burdens; they can attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession or drive them away. Our section is largely about these efforts and the problems they are intended to fix.
One of our catalysts for choosing education as a theme was a landmark article in Le Journal de Montreal by former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau drawing attention to the school dropout problem, especially among francophone students. An English translation of the article is included here. Parizeau's former adviser Jean-Francois Lisee has also addressed educational issues in a chapter in his recent book Pour une gauche efficace. He has adapted his critique for Inroads. John Richards looks at the dropout problem on a Canada-wide level, focusing especially on the crisis in Aboriginal education.
Christian Rioux and Magali Favre examine the changes in high school history teaching that have come about as a result of Quebec's ambitious educational reform, and find them seriously wanting. Henry Milner finds reasons why Ontario's compulsory civic education Course, intended to boost youth political participation, had the opposite result. And Luc Allaire provides an overview of the educational system in Finland, widely regarded as the most successful in the world.
Finland's success has not only been educational. Jan-Otto Andersson draws on a broad range of economic, social...