This paper addresses the sweeping neoliberal reforms implemented in Ontario’s schools in 2000, and conceptualises them within the terms of ‘millennial capitalism’ (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2000). A close reading of secondary school curriculum documents and the umbrella policies that shape education from ages 5 to 18 years reveals how students are groomed to identify themselves as workers under construction. This is accomplished by mandating career education that defines lived experience as a ‘career’, articulates an identity for students as workers/producers, and dictates a direct relationship between education and the health of the economy. For students the professed advantages of millennial capitalism come from freedom and choice to navigate a post-secondary future in an abstract market that rewards those who respond to its highs and lows. Despite the drop-out ‘crisis’ that followed the initial reforms, and the next government’s efforts to remediate the damage done, ultimately corporatist/careerist mantras continue to haunt classrooms, shape education, and its aims and goals in Ontario. The analysis offered in this paper aims to help us better understand the resilience of the neoliberal agenda in the current global economic ‘crisis’, in light of ongoing calls for ‘value-for-money’ in delivering public services and overall competitiveness. Ontario’s education system has a reputation internationally as a high-level performer; this positioning in light of the anomalies presented by its policy and curriculum serves as a cautionary tale to countries that connect growth in GDP with the results of its children and youth on standardised tests. Further, it reveals the disparity between statistics at the macro level and life at the level of the classroom.
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