There’s trouble in paradise, and it turns out trouble’s name is CEGEP. At the Quebec Liberal Party Youth Wing’s annual convention in Sherbrooke this Saturday, Phillip Couillard gave the youth’s dream of ditching the CEGEP system a failing grade.
The younger generation views CEGEP with a sense of dread and discouragement. After five grueling years spent learning things they will never use again (tell me when I’ll ever use the quadratic formula outside of an academic setting and I’ll give you a cookie), students probably don’t believe that CEGEP will be any different. After all, CEGEP (crudely pronounced SEE-jepp) doesn’t sound nearly as inviting as université.
An older generation remembers CEGEP as a private tutor in the art of skipping class, playing cards, and drinking games (gin rummy isn’t too far off from a gin and rum, after all). Except, if you look at Couillard himself, you’ll find that he started University at 16, going through the French system. That’s why his opinion is the one that counts. Because, not having gone to CEGEP, he is far more impartial in his judgment of it. Duh.
At the convention, 400 young people came to cast their ballot in a very close vote regarding the matter of repurposing the 48 CEGEPs in Quebec. The young liberals’ plan is well thought out. In exchange for the elimination of CEGEP, an extra year would be added to both high school and university (sorry kiddies, you’re not getting off easy). The youth wing’s president, Nicolas Perrino, also stated that they want to reform Quebec’s educational system by converting these colleges to technical schools, which is, technically, a good idea. Except we don’t talk about technical schools. We prefer to talk about “general education.” Bring on the humanities! Who needs practicality and job training, let’s talk about knowledge!
Couillard believes that the education system is meant to “prepare young people for employment, but also to offer them a pretty solid general culture” (don’t tell me we have to look forward to that new Quebec-washed history program after all). He does, however, admit that reforms may be needed to align the education system to the labour market. Then again, the last educational Reform I experience asked me to write about my feelings for long division on my final exam—competency 3: expresses mathematical understanding through words.
Apparently, Couillard downplayed the discrepancies between his views and those of his young liberals, and is reported to have said that such a disagreement “shows the party is healthy and alive.” That doesn’t mean he has to listen to them though. He followed this statement by another, which reads, “I already said what I had to say on CEGEPs. My opinion has not changed,” but sounds a lot like, “I don’t care how many times you say please and thank you at the dinner table, you’re still grounded.”
The education issue isn’t the only point on which Couillard found himself disagreeing with his politically inclined youngsters. The conference also addressed immigration rules. The youth want to shift the focus away from selecting immigrants who already know French to focus instead on skills and knowledge—you know, the things that can benefit society. This suggestion was also shot down. Couillard’s reasoning is that one of the three objectives of the immigration policy is to allow French to flourish in North America. I mean, come on guys, get with the program. Where are these immigrants supposed to learn French, CEGEP?
The liberal youth also brought forth a proposal to privatize the SAQ to raise money and pay off some debt. In the true spirit of democracy, Couillard also shot down that one. Couilard: 3, young people: 0.
When you look at it all laid out in front of you, it’s obvious why Couillard shuts down all the young liberals’ suggestions. It’s because they’re just bad suggestions! I mean, clearly, they just don’t know enough about politics and how things work. Maybe they should go back to CEGEP.