Perceptions by Gerry Warner
Yes, Virginia, it’s that time of the year again when school bells ring and we’re all glad to see our precious children back in school and their eager minds ready for another year of learning. But, Virginia, we live in B.C. – the province of the education wars – and in all honesty many of us will face this next school year with fear and trepidation.
Even though teachers are back in class facing all those sunny faces, executives of their union – the BCTF – have made it clear that the 2012-13 school year is only a truce with no guarantees beyond June 2013. In fact, if it wasn’t for government legislation, classrooms could have been empty when school doors reopened this fall. It was only the law of the land that guaranteed teachers return. Many only returned grudgingly as the ongoing educational wars, that have disgraced this province for years continue unabated.
What better example could there be when students were not issued report cards much of last year unlike the rest of the civilized world? Yes, it’s true that many teachers, bucking the directives of their radical leaders, (good for them I say) got progress reports home to parents by letters, email, phone calls and such. But the fact remains that report cards, as we’ve come to know them for more than 100 years, weren’t sent. And that is a crying shame and a slur against the more than 500,000 students in this province and their parents too.
As well as this, many teachers province-wide, withdrew from extra-curricular activities such as clubs, field trips, coaching, playground supervision (the ones that still do it) and the like. Some of them “worked to rule” from bell-to-bell and no more. Extra help after school for students that really needed it? Not a chance.
And I wonder who was hurt the most by all of this? If you answered the kids, you get an “A.”
And what do you think this has done to the teaching atmosphere in the classroom? It certainly isn’t conducive to students learning. Nor to teachers teaching for that matter. And it shows no sign of ending in the upcoming year. Teachers are only back in the classroom because a legislative gun is being held to their heads. And under the bill that ordered teachers back , the gun is only good for another year. Then what? More of the same. I sincerely hope not, but I fear otherwise given the past year.
Do teachers have some valid complaints? Of course they do. Everyone does. It’s not a perfect world. But do you pursue those complaints by pressuring the students? I should hope not. But apparently the leaders of the BCTF think differently and I’m frankly ashamed of them.
Yes, more money should be spent on education but a line has to be drawn somewhere just like everything else. Should there be more support for special needs students? Certainly. The same for music, arts, school libraries and computers too. But unless you’re prepared to contradict Einstein’s Law of Diminishing Returns (give yourself a “D.”) you know there’s only so much to go around and nobody gets everything they want. Not even teachers.
Yes, there are two sides to every story and the government can’t be considered blameless in the educational horror story that’s been unfolding in the province for years. But the fact remains that education spending in the province has increased all the years the current administration has been in power and this at a time when enrollment is dramatically falling, which is a financial bonus in itself.
Did the BCTF executive bargain in good faith last year? Not that I can see. They demanded a preposterous 15 per cent pay increase and never backed off it. That’s not “bargaining.” That’s bullying and the government – not a government I’m enamored with – said no. Do you blame them?
Surely it’s time the BCTF executive – note I’m saying “executive” and not teachers because I can’t believe the many fine teachers in this province support such a radical executive – fished or cut bait. We can’t go on like this. Our educational warfare is blackening the reputation of the entire province and damaging the future of our children.
It’s time for teachers themselves to look in the mirror and honestly ask themselves is their union doing what’s best for our children. There has to be a better way. Maybe teachers aren’t getting all they want but there’s a remedy for that at the ballot box, not in the classroom.
The kids must come first.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a Cranbrook City councillor. His views are his own and not meant to represent city council.