Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

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Monday, December 30, 2002

Shoot it out of the sky.

The Alberta provincial government has floated a trial balloon this morning. Unfazed by the failures of voucher systems in every region of the United States, the Premier has suggested Alberta should try it:

The voucher system would force schools to improve and offer parents a greater choice, says Klein.

Klein said he's not formally advocating a voucher system -- a method of education funding popular in some parts of the United States -- but said he has heard a clamour for it from some Albertans, and expects it will be examined by the ongoing commission into the future of learning in Alberta.

It sounds great on the surface, but in the end, it helps the wealthy subsidize their private schools using the tax money of the middle class. And it also creates greater inequalities in the public system as teachers and students battle for spaces in a few specific schools that get a reputation. Imagine the Edmonton Journal doing a McLean's-style poll on the best Junior High schools in the province, and the resulting rush into the top-ranked few schools, the emptying of the bottom-ranked few, no matter the criteria used to judge those schools.

I am constantly shocked at the right in this province. Free enterprise is a meritocracy only when there is true equality of opportunity. This is important.... let it sink in. Access to education, health care, and social services are the tools to level the entrepreneurial playing field. And of the three, the single greatest weapon to create that equality is education. This is where I cleave from many other New Democrats, who want equality of result, who believe that there can be no true equality of opportunity. Every time the Tories in Alberta trot out some idea to undermine equality of opportunity (and it happens shockingly often), they undermine the line you could once clearly draw between a democratic capitalism allowing smart, hard-working people to succeed, and a feudal generational perpetuation of privilege and economic class. The Socreds understood that when they built schools and hospitals everywhere in this province, and Lougheed and Getty understood this when they paved roads and ran phone lines. "You will not be trapped by your geography, you will not be trapped by your family history, you will not be trapped by your isolation. You can do anything! You can be anything!" Every time Klein's government does something to undermine that faith, every time that government separates Albertans from one another along demarcations of wealth (and vouchers will certainly do that), they chip away at the edifice of a just capitalism. And they send more people into the arms of my more radical left-wing brethren, who believe capitalism and justice are mutually exclusive.

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