Liberal ministers certainly well trained – Holtz

Column from Jim Holtz for the May 7, 2014 Grand Forks Gazette newspaper.

The current B.C. Ministers of Education and Advanced Education don’t seem to know the difference between training and education. In a CBC radio interview last week, Amrik Virk, Minister of Advanced Education, talked about training college and university students to compete in a modern economy. When asked by the reporter if funding would be removed from university liberal arts programs, Minister Virk replied that the government believed liberal arts training was also needed in the new economy, but the priority would be to change “learners to earners.” Peter Fassbender, Minister of Education, released the latest addition to the Education Plan, “B.C. Skills for Jobs Blueprint: Re-engineering Education and Training,” describing how the public schools would now be spending more time and money steering students toward trades and work training programs.Receiving an education is not the same thing as receiving training. An educated person is not the same as a trained person. For government ministers responsible for education portfolios to not understand the difference is troubling. Certainly, B.C. should be involved in helping students receive job training in the trades and other skilled occupations. But those students who are being trained to weld, cook, repair vehicles, build houses and so on also require an education. Educated people have an understanding of the world, their society and their place in it. They receive this understanding through a wide range of experiences, many of which have become the responsibility of the education system. Science classes, English classes, French, social studies, art, music and drama classes aren’t provided in order to increase the earning capacity of students or fill specific job categories that the government believes are important. They are there to provide students with a perspective of the world that they might not be able to get on their own, a perspective that Canadian society has over the years determined to be important in maintaining a vibrant, democratic and value-driven nation. When more and more resources are removed from the courses and programs that provide the broad understanding an educated person needs, the danger is that society will be reduced to simply a docile and uninformed workforce that has neither the knowledge nor understanding to question authority in numbers large enough to allow informed and constructive change. By all means help young people learn skills that will allow them to be gainfully employed and contribute to the economy. But don’t forget to educate them. Society’s responsibility is not just to train men and women so they can make perfect welds on the steel pipe being laid across the province, but to provide them with enough knowledge, perspective and understanding to ask themselves if they should be doing it.The shift in education toward creating a competent and skilled workforce for business and industry, in keeping with the Liberal agenda, indicates that Ministers Virk and Fassbender  have been well-trained. They could, however, use a little more education.