Kindergarten as workforce training?

Both of Vancouver’s daily papers ran a story earlier this week (on their business pages) under the headline “Unprepared schoolkids cost B.C. $400 billion.” The stories reported on a BC Business Council funded report that argues “B.C. loses $400 billion in lost potential because it sends one in three children to kindergarten unprepared.”

Why would the Business Council care about kindergarteners?

Well, what we’re seeing is an intensification of the “school as workforce training” rationale pushed down from the secondary and post-secondary levels of education to kindergarten and preschool. “If children are not ready for school, they won’t be ready for the working world,” says one the report’s authors, who is a professor in Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC.

The master logic of “schools as workforce preparation” has been captured in the New Commission on the American Workforce report, “Tough Choices for Tough Times”. Tough-Tough was authored by such educational experts as the director of the militarized Lockheed-Martin, and university presidents whose incomes are frequently dependant on grants from the military, earmarked for “research.” Tough-Tough calls for national curriculum standards as a means of recapturing the witless patriotism necessary to get people to work, and eagerly fight and die, for what is abundantly easy to see are the interests of their own rulers.

Here’s a letter I sent to The Province newspaper, which was not published:

From: E Wayne Ross
Subject: BC Business Council report on kindergarten
Date: September 18, 2009 4:39:02 PM PDT
To: provletters@theprovince.com

Kindergarten as workforce training? This absurdity, found in a recent BC Business Council study, illustrates what is wrong with educational reform across North America: education for corporate profits instead of in the public interest.

The first principle of the Business Council, and the provincial government, which serves at its beck and call, is that the market rules, no matter the social damage from cutting public expenditures for social services, deregulation, and privatization. The BC Council report conceives of young students as “human capital” and reduces learning to bits of information and skill to be taught and tested.

If we leave kindergarten to these folks it will be transformed from a space of creative play and social interaction to one where the next generation of low-wage workers learn to do what they’re told.

E. Wayne Ross
Professor
Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
University of British Columbia