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Ontario colleges want to turn your McJob into a McDiploma

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Ontario colleges are often credited with driving forward the trend of precarious work in Ontario's public sector. With more than 50 per cent of its workforce comprised of part-time, non-unionized, contract professors, the system has become the worst example of "McJobs" in the public sector.

It perhaps makes sense then that the newest partnership that Ontario's colleges have struck is with the original purveyor of McJobs: McDonald's. McDonald's employees will soon be able to get business credits for the time they spend working at McDonald's.

It's a match made in asshole heaven, (aka hell).

According to the Canadian Press, McDonald's managers who take two McDonald's on-the-job training modules, and who have some level of work experience, can be eligible to bypass two years of education for a business or business administration diploma.

It's a confusing offer, considering that most business diploma programs at Ontario colleges are four semesters long (effectively, two years). If the Canadian Press is accurate, it's possible that McDonald's workers will be handed a degree without spending any time in a classroom.

For McDonald's, Colleges Ontario and students, it's a win-win-win, according to Alan C. Middleton, the executive director of York University's Schulich school of business. Perhaps he missed a fourth win, which is for business schools like his. There's little doubt that such a program will further distance the quality of a college diploma from a university degree, and convince serious students to go to York rather than Seneca via McDonald's.

Two McDonald's courses and some management experience might teach you some of what you'd learn in the two management courses that you must take for a college business diploma, but what these students will miss in the classroom isn't likely to be taught at the burger counter.

Courses related to writing, global citizenship, math, accounting and economics would fall by the wayside. And forget the intangibles of college student life, like actually going to class, taking interesting electives and living in residence.

The daily grind of picking burger meat out of the treads of your shoes would replace a mentor relationship with a prof.

There's a fundamental problem with this partnership, and it exposes how dangerous Linda Franklin, CEO of Colleges Ontario is for the college sector. Surely, she can't honestly think that work experience at McDonald's is equivalent to her colleges' business curricula.

Education is supposed to prepare people for the workplace, but not directly. You should come to work armed with basic skills that you then expand as you become better at your job. It doesn't work in the inverse.

If Colleges Ontario and McDonald's wanted to give McDonald's workers access to higher education in good faith, they would have offered paid leave to study, or reduced or free tuition fees. Indeed, all fast food workers should have access to free college education, should they want to go.

The program begs an infinite number of ridiculous questions. Like, why stop at McDonald's? Burger King, Wendy's and Arby's must offer similar standards of management training as McDonald's, unless their management tactics are a kind of HR secret sauce.

What about Tim Horton's? There's a workplace that can teach you about deconstructing the Canadian Identity, the sociology of retirees who gather around warm drinks, all the possible permutations of nickels and dimes that can comprise the cost of a double-double, and the psychology of the man who purchases four Timbits every Thursday. It's all you need for a philosophy diploma.

Why not encourage 17-year-olds to just go right to work, and then, when they hit 24, apply through Colleges Ontario to be grandfathered into a college diploma of their choice?

Hell, we could even open Humber College branch-plants at Etobicoke's finest Taco Bells.

Maybe we should target children. They need to be primed for our changing economy as soon as possible. Surely we can find a win-win solution, where their little fingers can help clean out deepfryers while at the same time, teaching them how to market Happy Meals to their peers?

The possibilities are so endless that maybe I should ask Franklin for a job: Chief No-Idea-Too-Outrageous Officer of Colleges Ontario. I'll liase with McDonald's Chief People Officer and develop schemes of increasingly dangerous harebrained quality!

Like: why have a college system at all? Why not outsource all of Ontario's college education to the professionals who are doing that work every day? After all, can you really learn how to write by taking only two college courses on technical communication?

Bonus: Franklin must know that it's easier to crush a unionization drive when professors are all freelancers.

When we outsource college education to McDonald's, we're saying that there's literally no difference between what a college professor can teach you, and what the daily grind of serving McNuggets can teach you. Sure, you'll learn about Taylorism in a very direct way. You might feel social isolation, alienation, the grind of low-wage work, the camaraderie of oppression and disrespect by a system that doesn't actually care about you, and it might be the equivalent of studying Marx's Communist Manifesto, but a diploma cannot be granted on experiencing Marx alone.

The reality is that the cost of college tuition fees means that you'll experience these things anyway in the jobs you need work just to survive.

In the university sector, faculty must be at the core of developing curricula, under the banner of academic freedom. It's unlikely that serious professors would view a program like this as a good idea.

But in the college sector, professors don’t have these rights. They're subject to the whims of their management while also trying to cobble together a stable life with unstable employment.

College faculty have been fighting for unionization, better job security, academic freedom and full-time work for years. This partnership is a slap in their faces: both professionally by saying that their skills can be replaced by minimal corporate training courses, but also personally, by finding one of the worst examples of corporate culture and handing them the keys to their curriculum.

Maybe it's time for a student-worker, college-McDonald's joint unionization effort.

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