Technological Glitch vs Infrastructure Ditch
Much fuss was made in the media (e.g., IT World Canada, Toronto Star, National Post, CBC News) this past week over the failure of the compulsory, provincial tenth grade literacy test to “load.” Essentially a technological issue left students and teachers waiting for an electronic version of the provincial literacy test that did not arrive. The provincial government Ontario reported that the contractor would be working diligently to discover why students could not take the electronic form of the literacy test, a test which students must pass in order to be eligible to graduate from high school.
However, an editorial by David Dawson in the Orillia Packet, a regional newspaper in Ontario, put this “technological glitch” into perspective. Dawson contrasted the fuss made for the literacy test with the lack of fuss being made over unspent, but designated, infrastructure funds, an infrastructure “ditch,” that exists for Aboriginal education. According to Dawson, the federal government of Canada itself reported that issues needing immediate attention in “First Nations” schools require $2 billion to fix. Yet, a significant percentage of that money remains unspent each year.
Of course, some might argue that these two topics are unrelated because standardized testing is a provincial concern, while infrastructure for “First Nations” schools falls under federal responsibility…but jurisdiction is not the issue here. The issue is one of media and social attention. As Dawson suggests, and a glimpse at the coverage indicates, the hue and cry over the technological glitch in standardized testing is robust and loud. Where is the equivalent for the Infrastructure ditch of unspent designated funds for Aboriginal education? Why is one given so much attention and the other so little? With, as Dawson indicates, over half of the schools in "First Nations" communities having at least one health and safety deficiency, we all need to exert pressure on the media to raise its collective voice in alarm and on governments to meet and even exceed a different kind of standard—basic health and safety standards for "First Nations" schools.