The Case of Alberta Education: Retooling Through Deschooling
Kachur, Jerrold L.
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Until the recent election of Mike Harris’s conservatives in Ontario, the siege mentality of economic crisis in Canada was nowhere more apparent than in Alberta. Haunted by the costly limitations of diversification strategies undertaken during the 1980s, Alberta’s conservatives have rejected the statist conservatism of the Lougheed and Getty years in favour of a new form of neoliberal conservatism under premier Ralph Klein. This neoliberal conservatism, otherwise known as New Right politics, combines laissez-faire economics with cultural and political conservatism.1 Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives are committed to both a dis- and re-mantling of government. In keeping with the tenets of neoliberalism, their call is for a smaller, noninterventionist state when it comes to economic policy, but at the same time, in keeping with the tenets of conservatism, they call for a stronger state when it comes to issues of social control and cultural regulation. Consequently, Klein and Alberta’s new breed of conservatives have committed themselves to a process of “reinventing government” in order to establish an “Alberta Advantage” in the world market. The result: a transformation of the Province’s public sector according to a logic Osborne and Gaebler refer to as an American perestroika.2 Klein's initiatives have won praise from The Wall Street Journal and support from the foremost promoters of neoliberal state policy in Canada: the Fraser Institute and Canada West Foundation.3 But Klein’s predecessors—Peter Lougheed and Don Getty—have publicly criticized Alberta’s new breed of conservatives for divesting themselves of traditional Tory social obligation. Such criticisms are confirmed by more comprehensive reviews that describe Klein’s social and education reform in Alberta as a revolution, a deepening Americanization of Canada, and a corporate assault on Canadian schools.4