Politics of Educational Reform in Alberta

Description

356 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
$29.95
ISBN 0-8020-8352-8
DDC 379.7123

Year

2001

Contributor

Dave Hutchinson is assistant superintendent of the School District of
Mystery Lake in Thompson, Manitoba.

Review

When I first cracked the spine of this 350-page research study, I
thought I was in for a long, uneventful journey through one of
Alberta’s less glamorous political (and societal) reform initiatives.
This perception was short-lived, however, and as I read through chapters
with such titles as “The Hegemonic Work of the Conference Board” and
the Hegemonic Work of Governments,” my interest was soon piqued. What
researcher Alison Taylor constructs is a thorough review of the Klein
conservative government’s education reform policy, which along with
other reforms, fell under the banner of the “Klein Revolution” or
the “Alberta Advantage.” According to Taylor, this initiative
included “funding cutbacks, centralized provincial control over the
collection and allocation of funds, amalgamation of school boards,
stronger school council legislation, site-based management,
charter-school legislation, expanded standardized testing, and increased
focus on preparing students to meet the needs of business and
industry.”

In her research, Taylor conducts a number of interviews with a broad
cross-section of Albertans, including high-school students, parents
council representatives, First Nations peoples, and members of the
Raging Grannies. What she uncovers is a web of ironies as participant
after participant confirms the failure of the “Alberta Advantage” to
live up to its lofty social and economic reforms. The role of trustees
as democratically elected officials is weakened, students feel less than
confident about their educational futures, and teachers generally feel
undervalued. Perhaps the greatest irony, and one that Taylor could have
no doubt predicted, is that the Klein government has recently passed
back-to-work legislation as a response to striking teachers: so much for
the “Alberta Advantage.”

I liked Taylor’s application of critical social theory in this study;
it adds a certain depth that helps us get at the ideology underscoring
large-scale social institutional reforms. In this case, where students
are reduced to “customers” and “clients,” it is evident that the
influence of corporations and “big business” lay at the core. It is
also a study that reveals the importance of detailed, periodic
evaluations of public policy—something that we clearly need more of in
Canada. Anyone with an interest in critical theory-based qualitative
research and comprehensive approaches to assessing the impact of
government policy will find this text highly useful.

Citation

Taylor, Alison., “Politics of Educational Reform in Alberta,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30485.