Montreal, September 15, 2005 • No 158




Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.




by Harry Valentine


          Recent news reports coming from Alberta and Ontario have indicated that one third of teenagers are dropping out of government run high schools. As is typical with state-run programs, the blame for such failure lies outside of the government bureaucracy. Ontario's high school system was revised by former premier Mike Harris, a former school teacher who is now being blamed for having created a system that is causing teenagers to drop out of school.


          During his tenure as premier, Harris frequently reminisced about the good old days when he taught in the public schools. He wanted to return to a system where every teacher would teach the same material to the same grade level on the same day across the province. He advised that if any parents relocated to another part of the province, their children's education would continue uninterrupted. Modern telecommunications technology can allow pre-recorded subject lessons for every grade level to be broadcast into the proper classroom in every school across Ontario. Such technology even allows for simultaneous broadcasts of different school lessons to be made to multiple television sets in the same home. Several school-aged children in the same family would be able to do their learning at home, under parental supervision.

          The Harris program is now in effect in Ontario and, taken to its extreme, would mean that Ontario would need fewer teachers. Prior to this system being implemented, Ontario school teachers already had a high rate of sick leaves, early retirements and professional burnouts. An increasing number of younger teachers have left the profession and made mid-career changes. During an interview several years ago, a group of school teachers criticised teacher training programs for not adequately preparing them for life in a modern classroom.

          They criticized professors of education who had not been inside a school classroom in many years and had no concept as to what kinds of problems awaited contemporary teachers in a modern classroom. A few grade school teachers advised that over half of their students were from single parent homes and that over half of their class time was spent dealing with behavioural problems. As a result, academic progress during the children's crucial formative years of learning was often slow. One of the ways in which some two-parent families have dealt with this problem has been to use the learn-at-your-own-pace home schooling approach for younger children.

State welfare policy

          Prior to the era of state welfare that guaranteed monthly checks to single teenaged mothers, the majority of school-aged children were from two-parent families while a few children lived with a widowed or divorced parent. In recent years, much research has been undertaken into the developmental and behavioural problems of fatherless children who live in mother-only homes, including children of divorce. State welfare policy has indirectly caused the population of fatherless children to escalate and now account for over half of the enrollment in the public system, even in Ontario.

          An experiment begun over a decade ago in New York City involved male teachers being assigned to teach mainly fatherless kindergarten children from mother-only homes. They were kept with the same group of students for several consecutive years. By the time male students from these classes reached their teen years, none of them had gravitated into gangs. Most of their fatherless peers also from mother-only homes but taught exclusively by women had joined gangs. Several in this group had dropped out of school and become involved with drugs, had run-ins with police, had social adjustment problems. Some of their peers had anger management problems while others were socially mal-adjusted and were prone to violence.

"State welfare policy has indirectly caused the population of fatherless children to escalate and now account for over half of the enrollment in the public system, even in Ontario."

          Fatherless girls from mother-only homes who had been taught by male-only teachers since kindergarten showed greater social adeptness and had far fewer teen pregnancies than their peers who had been exclusively taught by women. However, Ontario provincial educational authorities favour female over male teachers, allocating over 80% of places in teacher training programs to women. A few grade level and junior high schools in Ontario have actually had an all-female academic staff and a male janitor. Courtesy of affirmative action, political pressure and laws requiring equality in hiring, feminists in Ontario could herald a victory a few years ago after an all-boys private school in Ontario hired a female teacher to teach an all-boys class.

          At the time, female political activists deemed it desirable that boys from well-to-do homes be presented with the feminine perspective and feminine viewpoint. A former student, who attended the same school during his youth and had been taught by an all-male staff, visited his alma mater to interview some of the new generation who were taught by women. His impressions were that several boys exhibited effeminate qualities and seemed confused about their sense of masculinity. Without political intrusion in private schools, the all-boys school may still have had an all-male teaching staff.

          As the last school year ended, the Globe and Mail reported on the success of gender-separate classes in junior high schools in Montreal and in Hamilton, a program initiated by a female teacher in Montreal. This teacher was of the view that boys and girls had different interests, that they learned and processed information differently and that they may benefit from being taught by a role model of their own gender. After a few all-boys' classes were taught by men and a few all-girls' classes were taught by women, teachers reported improvements in behaviour and academic performance. Students who were interviewed expressed a preference for gender-separate classes and advised of a decline in incidents of bullying.

System causing teenagers to drop-out

          A succession of government policies and programs has created a system that causes many teenagers to drop-out of high school. To remedy problems caused by his and previous governments in education, Ontario's premier has proposed to use force of law to compel teens to attend a school until age 18. He claims that teens will have a variety of choice as to the kinds of programs they may attend. No mention has been made of home schooled children despite thousands of them already having been successfully home schooled in learn-at-your-own-pace programs across Canada. The success of home schooling in the USA and the high scores achieved by home schooled students on academic tests has embarrassed public school officials.

          In a few deplorable cases across the border, school district superintendents responded by having truancy charges laid against home schooling families. There is a distinct likelihood of similar authoritarian behaviour occurring in Ontario after the new compulsory school attendance law is enacted. Ontario home schooling families could be charged under the truancy laws. Home schooled teens over age 16 can enroll in online/distance learning programs offered by universities and colleges. The fact that several teenagers have already passed such courses may mean nothing to officials after legislation requiring compulsory school attendance until age 18 takes effect.

          The compulsory school attendance policy could cause an increase in all kinds of anti-social behaviours. Police already make regular visits some high schools in Ontario and the trend is likely to increase. It could take a toll on teachers, many of whom know that disinterested students who are compelled to be in a classroom are the ones most likely to cause class disruptions. As a result, more teachers could leave the profession, take sick leave, go on disability or take early retirement. Students who are most interested in learning would be compromised by the short-sighted legislation.

          Their only refuge may be home schooling, except that under the compulsory school attendance legislation, Ontario government officials would be likely to strongly oppose the practice. State school officials in California took a strong stand opposing home schooling, even threatening to imprison home schooling parents under that state's truancy legislation. Concerned citizens took a firm stand and fought back against such abuse of authority, forming an organization to support the separation of school and state (see:,, In the future, two-parent families in Ontario who care about their children's education may have little choice but to initiate the kind of action pioneered by parents in California.