Connecting the Dots ?


Dear Journalist,

We are wondering if you can help us to understand why Cisco Systems shows up whenever we look behind the curtain to find out what has been going on in the Ministry of Education since 2001? And, can you tell us whether it’s just a coincidence that the Premier’s upcoming trade visit to India includes a stop in Bangalore, home of Cisco’s Global Development Centre?

We  are hoping that your access and your knowledge of how to gain information in various ways can shed some light on something many of us are puzzled about.  It’s like we’ve been looking at one of those Magic Eye images where an image is hidden in plain sight behind the weird dots and shapes.

We don’t believe, as some do, that the Premier woke up one morning in 2002 and just got mad at teachers and so she decided to strip them of their rights in their collective agreement. No one can survive as long as she has in politics without having at least some level of control of their emotions. So we don’t believe it’s emotional or that it has anything to do with her relationship with her father.

We think that something else has been unfolding or being built over the past 13 years.

Like those dots in the Magic Eye images we have noticed little dots of circumstances and information that seem to form a picture of the privatization of public education in BC. We are really hoping that you and your colleagues can disabuse us of this notion.

We have pieced together a timeline of what we see as a road to privatization. We are wondering if Cisco was involved in any way with Premier Gordon Campbell’s  Premier’s Technology Council that was formed in 2001. We notice the presence of Microsoft on the Council and are curious if Cisco was involved as well.  We also notice that there were many members of the business community and relatively few members of the education community who participated in the publication of the Council’s  Vision for 21st century education report in 2010.

The next date we have on the timeline is when Christy Clark as Minister of Education in 2002 introduced Bill 28 which stripped teachers of their rights to bargain their working conditions. Why was this necessary?

When Bill 28 was struck down in 2011, Bill 22, a replica,  was introduced, to replace it. It again was struck down in the courts, a judgement that is being appealed. Why so much time and public money spent on attempting to violate teachers’ constitutional rights?

But, I digress.  Let’s get back to talking about Cisco’s involvement. In 2005 Cisco hosted Cisco Public Services Summit. What we find particularly interesting about this meeting is this sentence in the document:

Increasing Private Sector involvement in the delivery of
services, allowing Government to focus on its core

We’re curious to know what this means. What is government’s “core business” if not to ensure the delivery of services to its citizens?  Why would it abdicate this responsibility to the private sector, where the main objective is profit?

The next time we notice Cisco’s involvement in education is through the three White Papers they published in 2008. The first one, Equipping Every Learner for the 21st century seems to have been the “cheat sheet” for our own BC Education Plan that was launched in 2011.  So many similar terms: flexibility, blended learning, choice, technology.

The focus on technology confuses us since the technology we currently have in most public schools  is extremely outdated and rarely maintained so is the government planning to invest millions into new technology for schools? Will this be within the “affordability zone”?

The second of Cisco’s papers is Learning from the Extremes where this paragraph strikes us as being quite interesting since it mentions Charter schools.  Should BC parents expect Charter schools to be a choice for their children soon?

Reinventing School: Cracking the Code
Different kinds of schools are needed to teach new skills in new ways. Around the world, innovators such as the Lumiar Institute in Brazil, charter schools in the U.S., and independent schools in Sweden are reinventing school by using technology more creatively and providing more personalized, collaborative, creative, and problem-solving learning, in schools that have many informal spaces for learning as well as classrooms.

The third of Cisco’s papers is  The Learning Society where this paragraph is particularly interesting:

Despite reform and investment, advanced education systems still fail too many people: they often reproduce inequality, and they are too inefficient. Because of their industrial scale, they also tend to crush disruptive innovations that would help solve some of their problems but that challenge the way established education systems work. 

On first reading it seems that the author can see nothing innovative happening in schools which is in complete contrast to our experiences as teachers. We are aware of numerous ways teachers have not only embraced new teaching methods such as project based learning but have also  integrated the latest research in neuroscience into their teaching practices. So this makes no sense to us.

Is it possible that the paragraph can be read as blaming unions for resistance to change and innovation in public education? What are “disruptive innovations” anyway?

Is this why the BCTF seems to be in the line of fire with the BC Liberal government?  Is BCTF seen to be an obstacle on the road to “disruptive innovations”?

When we consider that the government is spending $12million a day to keep children out of school and is spending millions on litigation in its appeal of Judge Griffin’s ruling and on social media ads that attack the BCTF, it makes us wonder what the payoff is for all that expenditure. Who is set to gain the most when 500 000 children are being kept out of public schools while private school enrolment is booming?

Can you help us to understand please?

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