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OP/ED: In defense of our teachers

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
May 21st, 2014

I originally started to write this as a straight news story, then realized my personal opinions on the matter are too strong to allow me to be certain of balanced reporting, so instead I’m going for an opinion/editorial piece.

The issue at hand is current BCTF job action, and the way teachers are getting blamed for greed and selfishness and using kids as bargaining chips.

First off, I want to speak to the ‘bargaining chip’ issue. Not one person who has made that argument to me has been able to show me a realistic alternative for them to stand up for themselves, and I think they’ve bent over backward to minimize impact to students. The removal of 15-minute recesses recently was an SD 20 decision, NOT the teachers – and it was made because administration said it simply couldn’t manage to do the job it demands of its teachers. Should that not tell you something? I also think it was a sleazy, underhanded move to inconvenience parents, thus making making them angry at teachers, despite the fact that teachers had no say in the decision. The part of that which slays me is, it didn’t seem to occur to anyone to be mad at the school district who made the call.

Duh.

Perhaps some of us would have benefited from better-funded education and higher-paid teachers, so we could see the forest for the trees.

There’s no other field, of which I’m aware, that requires university degrees but refuses even cost-of-living increases, sometimes for decades – most of the people I’ve heard complain about teachers would jump up and down and scream and yell if they were treated likewise.

Demanding teachers give up any hope of cost-of-living increases and hand them over to the school district instead? Okay. You first.

Oh wait, no, proponents of this tripe would NEVER do that – in fact, their greater argument for supporting the government in this is that it … wait for it … saves them money. (Oh, those greedy, greedy teachers).

Perhaps a better education would leave them with a stronger understanding of the word ‘hypocrisy’.

And is the government really saving you money? Again, a better grounding in long-term planning and critical thinking (both the products of quality teaching) would help the people who spew such nonsense be less short-sighted, and open their eyes to the fact that quality education is critical to a thriving economy – especially in a technological age when intellectual work product has become as, if not more, important as physical work product. Quality education is also critical to competent self-governance, finding cures for disease, environmental remediation advances – literally everything we claim, collectively, to want … while at the same time we elect a government that drives both the highest and lowest IQ students out of the system, while strong-arming any teacher wanting to be treated with value into the private sector.

Saving money, in this case, costs us not just our social future, but also our economic one … and even if it didn’t, how can anyone support the dramatic decrease in corporate taxes we’ve seen in recent years, but say in the same breath that their kids’ education isn’t worth top dollar? As a parent, I just don’t get that.

I was speaking to Linda Harwood, mother of an almost-10-year-old in Fourth Grade at Twin Rivers, and she agrees that you simply can’t divorce social development from economic development.

“One without the other would be monstrous, disastrous,” she said. “It would never work – but that seems to be getting lost in the debate.”

She suggested the province has an ultimate agenda – privatization.

“It’s part of a larger strategy … to get people begging for private schools and private hospitals,” she said, explaining chronic underfunding damages the system, then officials can point to a broken system and say it simply doesn’t work. Talk about a venal sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

“The pot of money starts to shrink, and everybody starts fighting because there’s not enough,” she said, adding one of the worst side effects is that people forget who made the pot start shrinking in the first place (you can bet it wasn’t the teachers).

“Teachers are taking a stand through the only avenue open to them, trying to let people know what the real issues are: class size, class composition, specialist teachers. Those are all going in the wrong direction. They are standing up for quality education in this province.”

She said cuts all through K-12 and extending into post-secondary aren’t just threatening our education system – they’re threatening our economy, our lifestyle, our very country.

I agree, and we both agree that blaming the teachers makes a person part of the problem, not part of the solution. Their pay scales are low, compared to others with similar educations, and the good ones (the ones who cost too much) spend their evenings grading, their weekends supervising extracurricular activities, and their summers developing lesson plans.

If you have teachers who don’t, look in your own backyard – you get what you pay for, no?

Demoralizing, devaluing and demonizing those in whose hands we’re placing our children’s days – and their futures – is perfect proof that we need to increase our education expenditures, not decrease them.

Because it’s just plain stupid.

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