School Wars: The Assault on B.C. Education


241 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-919573-51-7





Reviewed by George G. Ambury

George G. Ambury is an associate professor of adult education at
Queen’s University.


The stated purpose of School Wars is to examine thoroughly B.C’s education crisis, with some historical background, from February 1982, with the announcement of the Public Service Restraint Act and the Education Interim Financial Act, to the dismissal of the trustees on the Vancouver and Cowichan school boards in May 1985. The author’s approach to dealing with the issues is not as an academic but as a passionate participant. He has served as a school trustee, has taught in B.C. community colleges, and sends two children to public school. He is also a columnist, a freelance journalist, and author of several previous books. Kilian recognizes that the struggle is based more on ideology than on reason. He identifies the opposing forces as ecumenists (who believe in democracy, openness, co-operation, and respect for diversity) versus the schismatics (who advocate high standards, elitism, and business-like management, and who tend to be anti-intellectual). The ecumenists have tended to be politically naive, thinking that reason could triumph over rhetoric and evidence could overcome invective. He finds that even the strike of November 1983 gained little and left the teachers discouraged “inner emigres” unwilling to fight on behalf of education. The overall picture is a grim one in Kilian’s eyes: a portrayal of vast unemployment, public lethargy, and a generation of young people in schools, colleges, and universities being deprived of adequate educational opportunities. The B.C. crisis in education, however, is not a local problem but an extreme example of what is happening in much of North America. The author’s actual aim is to inform and warn his allies as well as to attack the government and the “lazy anti-intellectual attitude” (p.2 19) of the people who support it.


Kilian, Crawford, “School Wars: The Assault on B.C. Education,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,