Following up on Joseph's last post, I remember a discussion about careers I had with a group of friends including Joseph a few years ago. I was looking to make a change and Joseph asked if I'd considered the Canadian term for substitute teaching. I looked at him as though he had suggested I apply for a job scraping roadkill. It took several minutes for him to convince me that where he came from, substitute teaching was actually a sought-after career.
This is consistent with Canada's approach toward teaching in general. Canadians have long worked under the assumption that, if you give teachers security, respect and good salaries, you will attract good teachers. This is just one of the ways that Canada has done the opposite of what education reformers have recommended in this country. Here advocates like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee insist that without charter schools and the option of mass firings the education system is doomed and yet, by the reformers' own favorite metrics, our northern neighbor consistently kicks our ass.
Demographically, economically, culturally and historically, Canada would seem to be the obvious country to look to when trying to determine the effectiveness of potential U.S. policies but it has been conspicuously absent from a number of debates. Before we start looking across half the world to countries with radically different situations and backgrounds, isn't it possible that we can learn something from a spot closer to home?