Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/4/2012 (3559 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
RICHMOND -- The B.C. government has passed a law that prohibits teachers from striking and imposes fines of $475 per day for teachers who strike, and $1.3 million per day for the B.C. Teachers Federation if it calls a strike.
B.C. teachers mulled over their options and have voted 73 per cent in favour of stopping all extracurricular "voluntary" activities, it was announced Friday. Starting Monday, there will be no more sports events or drama plays, and no graduation ceremonies.
My granddaughter is glum. She's in Grade 10 and was looking forward to a school trip in May, which now has been cancelled. She is annoyed at her teachers for ruining her Grade 10 experience. Personally, I don't think it will get any better in Grade 11.
The BCTF -- arguably Canada's most militant union -- has been at war with various B.C. governments for more than a decade. The union has shown it is not afraid to call an illegal strike -- it did so in 2005 and kept kids out of school for two weeks.
There are teachers who want to continue with their extracurricular activities. Some have spoken with passion on the editorial pages of local papers about how these extra activities are the life blood of their jobs, the part that gives them the greatest job satisfaction. Some brave ones have said they will continue to perform even in the face of a union order to cease and desist. They will defy their own union.
This is where it gets ugly. There have already been threats and name calling.
It also puts the union in an absurd logical conundrum. If these extra activities are indeed unpaid and voluntary, how can the union tell their member teachers what they can or can't do on their own personal time?
But being logical has never been the BCTF's strong suit. Union head Susan Lambert insists teachers have been "on strike" since school started last September. Always with an eye to public opinion, teachers have been in the classroom, teaching but no "administrative" or "bureaucratic" duties will be done. Ergo, there have been no student assemblies, no staff meetings, no communications with parents, no report cards and, of course, no supervision of standardized tests.
Lambert claims these vexatious and tiresome tasks have been "added to the teaching job" over the years and her members will have none of it. For clarity, she declared report cards are "absolutely unnecessary" anyhow, so what's all the fuss about?
Teachers meanwhile have been collecting full salary and benefits, despite being "on strike." It is a worker's utopia -- on strike and still getting paid!
Lambert was recently re-elected to a third term at the BCTF's annual general meeting in March. Keynote speaker Sandra Mathison, a UBC professor of education, railed against the free-market capitalistic system espoused by the evil neo-liberal B.C. government, which does nothing but "blame teachers" for all that's wrong with the system.
In her speech, titled Narrative of Accountability, Mathison said she is all in favour of accountability -- but it must be "multi-dimensional."
Right. But somehow I doubt if any of her "dimensions" would include the noxious Fraser Institute or standardized testing. She claims accountability can't possibly exist in a neo-liberal atmosphere overtaken with free-market "ideology."
As an "alternate narrative of accountability," she encourages teachers to "resist" Bill 22. She suggests they conduct "teach-ins" to "educate" the kids, parents and the public on how tough teaching really is. These teach-ins would be held during regular classroom hours, so the teachers would still be "teaching" -- reasoning, I guess, they wouldn't have to worry about the $475 fine.
For high school students, she recommends teachers focus "on neo-liberal conditions that create the current conditions." Um, isn't that what we used to call brainwashing? It's OK to teach kids what to think, politically? I thought we were trying to teach them how to think, critically.
If "resistance" fails, Mathison suggests "militant and direct action to disrupt the neo-liberal ideology."
She cites examples of wildcat strikes, including the BCTF 2005 illegal strike. They didn't call it a strike then. They called it a "political protest." But the kids still lost two weeks of instruction, parents had to find two weeks of support for their children, and at the end of it all, the people still voted the same government back in.
My granddaughter wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She loves kids and would be a fantastic teacher. When told there is an oversupply of teachers in B.C., she was disappointed. She hasn't yet had the benefit of a political "teach-in" on how to defy unpleasant free-market ideas such as supply-and-demand economics.
She is really good at math and perked up when told there are very few math teachers. The BCTF could use a few.
Marilyn Baker is a freelance
writer in Richmond, B.C.