Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The meek shall inherit, my ass

This was certainly an interesting way to start my day.

The thing is, I had an opportunity to go to Loyola when I was young. Or, to be more precise, my folks were considering applying on my behalf.

But, family legend has it, they were distinctly nonplussed by the application documents, which sought a great deal of historical minutiae of my father's lineage, and my mother's...maiden name.

More generally, I was loathe to go. I I did spend one miserable month of Grade 8 in what was at the time known as Sir Winston Churchill High School (to this day I wonder, are there so few great Canadians that they had to name the place after a British Prime Minister?) before returning to my natural home of Father McDonald High School, at the time the only remaining English Catholic high school in the Ste-Croix school board.

I am a living witness to the opportunity cost of choosing public school over private, and a poor school over a booming one. When I got to CEGEP and enrolled in the natural sciences stream, I was stunned to discover how much I'd missed out on, particularly in terms of opportunities for enriched math classes. Our dying little school could do little more than prepare us to meet appropriate provincial standards (and they did that very well, I hasten to add), but they simply lacked the resources of the private schools and even some of the larger, well-endowed public schools in the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. As a result, I was one maybe 3 out of 30+ kids enrolled in the enriched natural sciences stream at Vanier in 1995 without prior instruction in college-level calculus. I didn't die, but I sure as hell didn't end up as an engineer inventing a better lightbulb, either.

But that's the point, actually. I wasn't cut out for high sciences and engineering, but the economic imperatives of the time, the messaging to kids, was always, "go into the sciences, go into engineering, go into computer programming," or what have you.

My public school offered me plenty of opportunities to develop the skills that suited my heart and interests - particularly with regard to writing. I certainly don't feel as if my life was sent permanently astray by the fact I didn't go to Loyola.

So I have no regrets. And I don't resent Mr. Flaherty for his pride; there's certainly something to be said for the story of a little Irish scruff from Lachine growing up to become Minister of Finance.

Instead I'll simply remind him and Mr. Macdonald that, notwithstanding their delusions of grandeur, Loyola grads don't "run the country." Canadian voters - including in particular the 94% of Canadians - have a considerably bigger say.

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