Volume 94, Issue 61

Thursday, January 11, 2001


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Spin too much and you'll get sick

Editorial Cartoon

Spin too much and you'll get sick

Being able to spin a potentially harmful story is one of the first thing's any politician must learn. But how the Tory government will find the positive in the recent findings on the state of post-secondary education in Ontario is anyone's guess.

The Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives recently released a report ranking the education systems in each of the 10 provinces. Finishing last, by an extensive margin, was the Tory-run system in the province of Ontario – for the second year in a row.

Ontario had the worst student-to-teacher ratio and the highest tuition levels and actually performed worst this year than last. To defend the province's poor showing the Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities used the old avoid-and-deflect trick.

"Maclean's indicates we have the best universities in the country and we tend to believe them," a spokesperson for the Ministry said.

In other words, Maclean's tells us what we want to hear and therefore we believe them.

While Ontario may be home to universities like Toronto, Waterloo, Queen's and Western, it is also home to universities like Lakehead, Brock, Windsor and Nipissing. The crown jewels of higher education may shine brightly, but the Ministry cannot hang their hat on them alone. You cannot showcase the "haves" and ignore the "have-nots."

To assess the state of post-secondary education in Canada we need context. And the proper perspective is achieved by putting our universities up against those across the country.

To this end, the study by the CCPA must not be ignored. In fact, it must be given as much, if not more credence than the annual countdown brought to us by Maclean's. If Ontario's ivory towers were really so solid such a ranking would be impossible. The country's richest, most populated and politically powerful province finishing dead last is an absolute embarrassment.

And if the province really does wish to use Maclean's as their only indicator of the health of Ontario's universities, maybe they should read the entire magazine – not just gloss over the pretty numbers and graphics.

After publishing this year's annual rankings it was the editor of the special annual edition of Maclean's who made sure to inform readers of the sad state of education in Ontario. The Tory controlled system was in severe decline, she said and the province's universities were beginning to slip behind their counterparts. Maybe Premier Harris and Minister Cunningham missed that part – too busy fighting for a pay raise.

Spin is incredibly important for any government, especially one under fire as often as the provincial Conservatives. But when one spins so often and with such blindness they may find themselves entangled in their own hastily spun web.

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