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Governing Education

Governing Education

  • Book Info
    Governing Education
    Book Description:

    High levels of cynicism about politics, fuelled by a lack of understanding of the real dynamics of policy and the political process, are dangerous to democracy. So argues Benjamin Levin inGoverning Education. With this book, Levin seeks to improve public understanding of the way government works, especially with regard to education policy.

    Based on his experience as Manitoba's deputy minister of education from 1999 to 2002, Levin offers an insider's account of the events and conditions that governed Manitoba's educational policy as a way of illustrating the larger dynamics of the political process. He demonstrates how the actions of governments are rooted in diverse political demands, and looking at the current state of education and education policy in Canada, comments on its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

    Levin's unique combination of informed analysis with real stories of real events told by participants provides an incisive exploration of government in action. While based on events in Manitoba, the same dynamics and conditions apply across the country. This book will have strong appeal to people in education, political science, and public administration.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7543-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Governing
    (pp. 3-47)

    Itʹs 21 September 1999, election night in Manitoba. In a large hall in north St Boniface, near the site where the city of Winnipeg was founded nearly two hundred years earlier, members of the New Democratic Party are gathering for what they hope will be a celebration. The party has been out of power for eleven years. Now they see an opportunity to regain government from the Progressive Conservatives, under Premier Gary Filmon. The polls have been good. The NDP leader, Gary Doer, has seemed the clear victor since the television debate a couple of weeks earlier.

    Doer has been...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Education in Canada: Myths and Opportunities
    (pp. 48-83)

    I agreed to take on the role of deputy minister of education in Manitoba because I believed there were important things to be done and that these things required government action. For most of my career I have been critical of Canadaʹs education system, feeling that it could and should be better than it is. I have been concerned especially with the lack of respect that students are often given, especially students who do not want to conform to the systemsʹ expectations. I have also worried about the significant number of students who do not do well in school or...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Grade Three Assessment: Even Doing What People Want Can Be Hard
    (pp. 84-100)

    ′How do you feel about writing the math exam today?′

    ′I′m so glad we′re finally writing it.′


    ′Because all we′ve been doing every day for weeks is math, math, math, and I′m sick of it.′

    ′Are you nervous about the test?′

    ′No. Our teacher keeps telling us, ″Don′t be nervous,″ and she′s the only one who is nervous.′

    This was a conversation with my 8-year-old daughter in 1996, on the way to school the day of the provincial Grade 3 math pilot test.

    Across Canada, as in many other countries, the amount of large-scale testing of students was increased...

  8. CHAPTER 4 College Expansion: Unforeseen Problems in Meeting a Commitment
    (pp. 101-118)

    A pledge to increase enrolment in community colleges was a central NDP commitment during the 1999 election. The campaign announcement promised to ʹdouble college enrolmentʹ by increasing funding, to expand co-op education programs, and to implement a more flexible system of transferring credits between colleges and universities. The commitment was estimated to cost $6 million per year in additional funding for each of the next four years. This promise was made part way through the campaign, after the Progressive Conservatives had announced their billion-dollar package of $500 million in increased spending and $500 million in tax reductions.

    The genesis of...

  9. CHAPTER 5 School Funding: Managing the Intractable
    (pp. 119-139)

    Very early in his tenure, Minister of Education Drew Caldwell met with a school board. The school boardʹs issues focused entirely on issues of money and the boardʹs need to get more of it from the province. After about forty-five minutes of this, the minister looked across the table and said, ʹWeʹre nearly out of time, folks. Would you like to say anything about education while youʹre here?ʹ It was probably an impolitic remark, but I was silently cheering.

    In education in Canada, as in health care, no issue gets as much media and public attention as funding of schools....

  10. CHAPTER 6 School Division Amalgamations: Giving the Public What It Wants
    (pp. 140-157)

    At the end of my first week as deputy minister, I drove with a colleague to Brandon to a meeting of the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents. This would be a good chance for me to talk with superintendents about their concerns and some of our plans. That morning theWinnipeg Free Presscarried a headline quoting Drew Caldwell as expressing a strong interest in reducing the number of school districts in the province. I was taken aback by this headline, as, for me, school district reductions would be an unnecessary distraction from what I thought were more important educational...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Adult Learning Centres: From Crisis to Opportunity
    (pp. 158-175)

    In October 1999, even before I took over as deputy, I was told that the department was overspent by some $10 million in its grants to schools, and that this was a result of increasing enrolments in what were called adult learning centres. This was my first introduction to an issue that would occupy a considerable amount of time and energy for the next three years. Its development shows the fine line between a political crisis and an educational opportunity.

    The story behind adult learning centres in Manitoba goes back to 1996, when the Department of Education made what was...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Focus on What Matters: Managing the Department and Looking After Education
    (pp. 176-195)

    One of the accoutrements in the deputy ministerʹs office when I arrived in 1999 was a stuffed clown that was part of the provincial governmentʹs art collection. When I left in September 2002 a successor was not immediately named. My staff put the stuffed clown in my chair and sent me a digital photo. It was apparent they had found someone to do the job who was easier to work with, just as efficient, and better looking! When this news spread around the legislative building, other ministers asked whether they, too, could have a stuffed clown for a deputy, but...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Improving Government and Improving Education
    (pp. 196-206)

    It was a privilege to serve as deputy minister of education for three years. It may sound trite, but I truly did feel as though I were serving the people of Manitoba. My visits to schools and other educational centres, my conversations with educators or parents or students, all reminded me of how important public education is. Not everything the department did during my tenure was good or successful, but I am proud of quite a few things we accomplished, and just as proud that we chose not to do in Manitoba some of the negative things we felt were...

  14. APPENDIX: Chronology of Main Issues and Events in Education, 1999–2002
    (pp. 207-212)
  15. References
    (pp. 213-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-222)