Chapter Three: Policy and Politics
- Schooling is greatly affected by a wide variety of policy decisions, some of which are listed at the beginning of this chapter. Working first individually and then in small groups in your class, define what you mean by the term policy, then brainstorm as many areas of education policy as you can. Indicate whether, to your knowledge, these policy decisions are made by teachers, students, parents, school administrators, or others.
- Taking one or more of the policy areas defined in Exercise 1, define how this area is political, using the definition of politics provided in this chapter. How does this issue shape (1) what is taught; (2) to and by whom it is taught; and (3) where, when, and how it is taught?
- Again, taking one of the policy areas you have defined, find out what the current situation is in your province. What measures or policies, if any, are in place, and how did they come to be there? Is this issue controversial? Why or why not? Good sources of information for this inquiry could be local school administrators, local school trustees, teacher organization officials, or officials of the provincial Department or Ministry of Education.
- Select a current educational issue in your province or community (perhaps one that has recently been in the news). Think about how the issue has been defined. Whose definition of the issue appears to be uppermost? What other definitions or views of the issue might exist that are not being expressed? Why aren’t they?
- Find a position paper or brief on education that was written in your community (Such resources are likely available on the websites of various organizations). Comment on how the brief uses evidence and argument to advance its point of view. How fair and open-minded do you think the position in the brief is?
- Identify a stakeholder group in education. Interview a member of this group to determine the group’s position and its actions on one or two current issues. Look for the inside story, not just platitudes; how do they try to influence policy?
- Attend a meeting of your local school board. Keep careful notes on what you observe. In what ways does the meeting contribute to or prevent the careful and full debate of important policy issues in education? Was the meeting, in your view, political? Why or why not?
- Using one or two of the issues identified in one of the earlier exercises, develop a list of people (individuals or groups) who would be affected by a decision made about that issue. Should all those affected have some role to play in making the decision? Do they? How, if at all, should the decision-making process on this issue be changed in regard to participation?
- Suppose you were an elected official facing a difficult political decision, such as whether to sell condoms in high-school washrooms. What strategies might you use to work toward a good decision based on community discussion? What if it were a K–12 school?
- Interview one or two teachers. Ask them their views on politics in education. How, if at all, are they involved in politics? Do they see their work in the school and classroom as political? Why or why not?