By: Evan Engering
The plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal,” and that hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws. 
These words, first argued by the legal team of Oliver L. Brown sixty years ago last December and reargued sixty years ago this December, were the central argument in the consolidated landmark US Supreme Court case, Brown v. Education Board of Topeka. The court case, a constitutional challenge to the concept of “separate but equal” established in the 1896 Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson, was a major victory for the civil rights movement in America, as it spelled out the end of segregated school systems, allowing children of all races the chance to integrate and learn together in the same public school system.
As the sixtieth anniversary of the arguing of the case passes by without much reverence, I am reminded of our own segregated public school system in Ontario. In a meeting of the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, participating delegates voted to adopt a policy resolution calling for a single, secular public school system in the province.
By: Chris Burke
Anger is brewing over a recent decision by the administration at the University of Waterloo to raise tuition fees in the middle of the Summer term. Students have expressed frustration over the decision to raise the fees as there was little consultation with the students prior to the decision. Further, the increase comes at a time when the Ontario government is moving to put a cap on tuition increases at 3%, down from the original 5%. The timing of the increase comes off as a cash grab. An effort to increase tuition before the 3% cap comes into effect.
The administration has responded pointing out that an e-mail back at the start of the term indicating this increase would occur was sent. Reactions to this have been mixed as some students I’ve talked to say they recall the e-mails while others have no recollection. I can’t say I remember the e-mail though I don’t always read everything UW sends me. Students will gloss over those e-mails before deleting them, a fact the administration should’ve considered. Increasing the fees the way they did, the administration has argued, was necessary due to the way the budgeting process works and the uncertainty that surrounded the Ontario 2013 budget.
By: Chris Burke
“A higher education is the path to greater things”. Throughout your youth it is likely that you were told something along those lines. With hope in your head and a sparkle in your eye you study hard to get into that school you’ve always dreamed of. Then the day of excitement comes: you’re accepted. The school you’ve had your eyes on will soon be your new home. The next few years are a whirlwind. You enjoyed the good times and made it through the bad. So four (maybe five) years later there are you are gracefully walking across the stage to accept your well-earned degree. Now you’re ready to take on the world, to get the job that’s right for you. Unfortunately, there’s a problem: there’s no job out there for you. Sitting around and waiting for the right job isn’t an option, you’ve got debts to pay off. Something needs to be done so you take the first job you can grab even though you’re completely overqualified for it. This job will offer you very little in the way of skills required to build a future career, and it doesn’t pay well enough to pay down your massive debt so there you are stuck in the job. How did it come to this? Did you do something wrong? Maybe, perhaps your expectations for life right out of post-secondary education were unrealistic though there’s more to it than that. You made the mistake of choosing a degree that was of interest to you, but of little interest to employers.
Lauren Friese, writing for the Globe and Mail, discusses the struggles faced by young Canadians who decided to go to school for an Arts degree rather than the “more practical” degrees of Engineering and Business. Employers often view students with the latter two degrees as having more hands-on experience and an understanding of how the workplace functions. While true, it ignores the fact that skills such as communication and critical thinking (valued by most employers) are part of an Arts education. A student that spent four years studying philosophy could very well come up with a creative solution to a problem because they’ve spent the past four years doing nothing but thinking and communicating what it is they’re thinking.
A few may argue that the students brought this on themselves. I worry about how this attitude is affecting our society. Ask yourself, do you really want to turn schools into factories that pump out student after student with a business or engineering degree every few years and march them straight off into the business world? Or, do we take a step back to see the bigger picture. There is value in an Arts degree no matter how niche it is. Those saying that we need to tailor students to meet the needs of business have it half-right. Of course, students should understand how to conduct themselves in an office, but businesses have to embrace students by the merits of their skills and knowledge, which is not always reflected in the piece of paper they hold. We are not doing the economy any favours by making jobs unavailable to graduates and forcing them into low-paying jobs. For the graduate that situation is both financially and emotionally stressful.
It’s time to take higher education back to what it is: higher education. Increasingly, it feels as though higher education is nothing but job training. That needs to change, and it starts with today’s students demanding that change.