Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Canada's income inequality

The Globe and Mail: Income inequality affects
every Canadian.
Income inequality is not just a made-in-America problem.

The Globe and Mail ran a piece featuring how income inequality hurts every Canadian's chance of building a better life.

This must-read is a part of The Globe and Mail's Wealth Paradox series which takes a look into how the income gap and inequality is shaping Canada. The question: How income in income inequality affects you? The answers are broken down into four categories: the wage gap, healthcare, education, recreation.

Here are a couple highlights:


  • Canada's top earners have been getting richer with increasing speed while average incomes remain stagnant.
  • In 2002, the average CEO-to-worker pay ration was 84:1. In 2012, its 122:1
  • What if more companies ensured that the highest-paid worker never makes more than 10 times the wage of the lowest-paid worker?
  • What if more companies engaged in profit-sharing with it's employees?


  • Inequality is linked to poorer health outcomes. 
  • The income gap is perhaps the most pronounced in mental health care. An estimated 1.2 million young Canadians are affected by mental illness. Only 1 in 4 gets appropriate treatment.
  • "What we have today in Canada is a two-tier mental health system in which kids are the victim." Michael Kirby


  • High income areas are primarily home to high-achieving schools while lower income areas have a higher number of lower-scoring schools.
  • We need to stop pretending that education can lift people out of poverty on its own.
  • Great teachers make great schools, but great teachers can't do it alone - they require the support of an equitable society.
  • If we are not careful, we risk misinterpreting standardized test scores, and instead of waging war on poverty and inequity, we end up waging war on teachers and schools.
  • Highly-educated and affluent parents can give their kids opportunities their lower-income peers simply don't have. 


  • Median incomes haven't budged in 30 years, but leisure activities, the pleasure in life, some of which have become too expensive for the majority of Canadians.
  • Parents of current minor hockey players spent an average of $2,898 on hockey-related items during the 2011/2012 season. The parents surveyed earned 15% more than the Canadian average. 


At the end of the Globe and Mail's piece is a poll that asks Which solution would best reduce the effects of income inequality in Canada? The options include:

Restore Fairness in our Tax System

Enhance Early Childhood Education

Emulate Germany's Approach to Skills Training

Create a New "Social Contract"

Boost Support for the Working Poor

Do Nothing - There's No Major Problem

Monday, November 11, 2013

Making change in Alberta schools

Education in Alberta is changing.

The Alberta Government and the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) are spearheading change with Inspiring Action on Education and A Great School for All: Transforming Education in Alberta

I see Alberta a little like this: 

At the top is The Government and the ATA trying to lead change by lifting the system into the 21st Century.

At the bottom are individual teachers, students, parents, administrators and trustees who are innovators and early adopters of change. These people do the heavy lifting because they are the ones actually doing the everyday work of school while simultaneously making change.

In the middle is everyone else who makes up the system. This includes teachers, students, parents, administrators and trustees who are busy everyday making Alberta's education system work. This group is made up of the early majority, late majority and late mass.

Geoffrey Moore defined the gap between Early Adopters and the Early Majority as "The Chasm". In my picture above, the chasm can be found between the heavy lifters at the bottom and the rest of the system.

Making change in Alberta schools requires Inspring Education to cross the chasm to what Malcolm Gladwell defined as "The Tipping Point", where a majority of schools start to adopt ideas and change their practices. Inspiring Education has not yet crossed the chasm. 

Innovators and early adopters know that navigating across the chasm brings both crisis and opportunity. While the Government and ATA lift from the safety of above, it's the innovators and early adopters in the schools (at the bottom) that risk getting squished by the weight of the system. 

On one side of the chasm, innovators and early adopters are driven by research that others don't know about so that they can do things differently and better. 

On the other side of the chasm, the early majority, late majority and late mass are driven by social proof which is to say that they want what many others have and are talking about. The status quo, regardless of quality, lives comfortably on this side of the chasm.

Teachers who are interested in crossing the chasm will always find more support in schools and school districts that are also interested in crossing the chasm.

Teachers who are interested in crossing the chasm but find themselves working in schools and school districts that are not as interested in crossing the chasm will likely not find the support they need and risk being labelled as outcasts, rebels, troublemakers and crazy.

What responsibility does the Alberta Government and the Alberta Teachers' Association have in supporting innovative teachers who work in schools and school districts that are not innovative?