I have previously appealed to BC Liberals of conscience to help us to get a fair deal for our public education system. This appeal is addressed to faith leaders from all our faith traditions – Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity to shed some light on this dark chapter of our provincial history.
Premier Christy Clark’s son has begun the new school year at St. George’s, a very expensive private school. She has said that he attends private school for “faith-based” reasons. I am happy that she is able to make this choice for her son but what “faith-based” reasons can there be for denying the right to attend school for the 500 000 children whose parents cannot afford to send their child to a private school for whatever reason?
What “faith-based” reason can there be for insisting that teachers give up their constitutional rights before they can return to their classrooms?
Minister Fassbender also attends church regularly. What does his faith teach about how to treat others, how to treat children?
When it comes to the treatment of children in this province, I am at a loss to understand why nothing is being done by our politicians about the fact that we have the highest childhood poverty rates in Canada. How is it possible that this situation exists, that children go hungry in a rich province like this?
In July this year the governor of Massachusetts successfully appealed to communities of faith to help him to provide shelter for the 1000 migrant children as young as 3 years old who had travelled illegally to the US from countries in Central America. Help for the children was being mired in political debates about immigration and there were 50 000 children who needed to be fed and sheltered. Leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities all offered to help.
The presence of these leaders, shifted the focus away from what was a partisan political debate toward an awareness of the fact that there were real, living children who needed help, immediately. They could not wait for politicians to score ideological points against each other.
Though diverse in philosophy, all faith communities share The Golden Rule which is a version of: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Woven within The Golden Rule is the concept of justice and fairness.
Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, leaders of very different faith traditions, are partners in the fight against injustice and poverty. They lead by example, showing their followers what their words mean. They, like all faith leaders, are also teachers.
Right now political leaders in power in BC are in need of the kind of lessons that faith leaders teach so well. Today, teachers in BC are being asked to give up their Charter Rights in exchange for the government agreeing to provide learning support for students in classrooms. This is unconscionable and demonstrates a significant ethical and moral lapse on the part of the government. Faith communities are well positioned to point this out.
One faith leader, an Anglican Minister, has written the following open letter to the premier:
Letter from Donald Grayston, Anglican Minister and Retired SFU Professor,
AN OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER CHRISTY CLARK
Dear Christy: when you started out you said that your motto was “Families first!” What a joke! What is going to happen to thousands of BC families when school doesn’t open on time? The bribe of $40 a day–because that is what it is, a bribe–if you add it up over a couple of months would come to enough to cover the cost of what the teachers are asking for in relation to class size and composition. Think of your legacy, Christy. Think of what the historians are going to say about your role in all this. Think of your grandchildren reading what the historians say, which will not be pretty. My hunch is that this is ideological for you: that you are still angry that the teachers resisted what you did in 2002 when you were education minister. This is ego at its worst.
My strong recommendation: that your government appoint an arbitrator, Vince Ready or someone similarly respected, and take the issue to binding arbitration. Our society is too complex, too interconnected, for this kind of dislocation. Teachers are suffering, parents are suffering, the students will suffer, and the government’s already tattered reputation will suffer. Action, Christy, decisiveness, involvement: families first, remember? Over to you.
Donald Grayston, once a student, father of a teacher, always a citizen
I was raised in the Christian tradition and so am only familiar with stories from the Bible but I am sure there are variations of those stories in other traditions. The Miracle of the Two Fish and Five loaves of bread is what always comes to mind for me when teachers are being asked to do so much with so little. When we have 8 or more students in a class of 30 students who have various levels of learning difficulties or special needs and there is only one Education Assistant to help, we are being asked in effect to either perform a miracle or to play God and decide who gets the help and who does not.
We do not want to have to make those decisions. We want to be able to provide all students with what they need in order to learn in school.
We are hoping that faith community leaders will help Christy Clark to find her moral compass so that she can do what is right for the 500 000 children who are affected by her decisions. Faith-based or not.