Firstly, thank you for being here. I have appreciated all the responses to my writing since I started this blog in April 2014 at a time when the relationship between public school teachers and the provincial government in British Columbia was quite fractured.
Between then and May 2017, my writing focus was mainly on concerns about public education in our province although I occasionally explored ideas about the education project itself.
Now that we have a new government, one that does not see public education as a burden on the public purse, I intend to focus a bit more on the “life” part of the “essays on education and on life” in the sub-title for this blog. I’m doing so because I am not only a teacher.
I am also a daughter of a mother who has dementia.
I am someone who lives in co-housing, continually learning what it means to live in community.
I am also quite concerned about climate change and the kind of future we are creating for our children.
And in all these spaces in my life, there are ideas to explore. I’d like to do that more.
But, I will also continue to use writing to untangle the questions that come with being a teacher of teens from whom I learn so much.
I hope you continue to read what I write because without your presence all this will be an empty echo.
If Christy Clark wins the provincial election on Tuesday, what shall I tell my students? When corruption and callous disregard for the marginalized can be so richly rewarded, what incentive do my students have for being good? When cheating does not preclude you from occupying the highest office in the province, why should they listen to my warnings about plagiarism?
What happens to our society when what we teach about ethics and citizenship inside our schools is not reflected in the reality outside our classrooms?
We’re all familiar with the adage that children learn what they live, that they don’t pay as much attention to what we say but they’re always watching what we do.
What are we doing, British Columbia?
Are we really going to reward 16 years of malgovernance on Tuesday?
My students will be graduating soon in a province that has the “worst-performing economy” for young people and some of the highest tuition fees in Canada. They’re more than likely to join the increasing numbers of post-secondary students using food banks. They’re also unlikely to be able to afford a home and will have to seriously consider whether they can afford to have a family, daycare costs being what they are.
And while they’re dealing with all that, they’ll also soon be responsible for the massive debt that the BC Liberals have accrued over the past 16 years to say nothing about the huge contractual obligations they’ll be saddled with, courtesy of Christy Clark’s pay-for-play politics.
Are we collectively going to say that that’s all okay on Tuesday 9th May?
When the NDP were last in power, we did not have young people leaving the province in mass numbers for a better life somewhere else. We did not wait 6 hours in emergency rooms. We did not pay tolls to cross bridges. And we did not have 3-year waits for psychometric assessments for students with special needs.
Imagine you and your family of 12 live in a home meant for a family of 5.
Imagine that you win a government grant that will allow you to build a bigger home.
But you can only get the money under certain conditions.
You will have to provide documented proof that your house is over-crowded by showing that every room, including the bathroom, the kitchen, and all the closets, are always in use, 24/7.
You will have to guarantee that none of the 12 family members will move out in the next 5 years.
And you will also have to guarantee that the new house will be ready for occupancy within 3 months despite the builders telling you that they need 9 months to build the home.
Given these conditions, would you believe that the government had any intention of actually providing the grant in the first place?
Well, imagine how teachers feel because this analogy describes how the Ministry of Education is going about implementing the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in at least two districts with overcrowded schools.
The Ministry says they’ll provide more classroom space in the form of portables but only if the District can prove the overcrowding by 28 April and also if the District can guarantee that the portables will be ready on 1 September.
They demand that all these conditions be met despite knowing full well that in order for portables to be ready by September, they should have been ordered by February this year.
Yes, the Ministry is complying with the Supreme Court ruling.
Just not in a way that will actually work for students in overcrowded classrooms.
The B.C. Liberals want voters to believe their promise of a future so bright they’ve got to wear shades, but all I can think about are the 331 children who have died in government care since Christy Clark was elected in 2013. There is certainly no bright future for them.
In the 2013 election we were promised “families first” but we soon discovered that it was only the families of the very wealthy, the ones who could afford $10 000 a plate dinners, whose concerns would be heard by the premier.
The newspaper wraparound election ads promise us a “strong” B.C. but on what foundation is the future of our province being built?
Conventional wisdom has it that a society’s future is predicated on the strengths, skills and knowledge of the youth but if we look at the way young people in this province have been treated by the B.C. Liberals since 2001, our future has a shaky foundation.
Unlike older generations who enjoyed steady employment, younger people will have to get used to a world of precarious employment: temporary, casual and seasonal work that make up the bulk of the jobs that the B.C. Liberals boast about.
And while they’re struggling to make a living, our younger generations will have to find a way to manage the burden of all the contractual obligations made by the B.C. Liberals when B.C. Hydro and I.C.B.C have been completed plundered in the cause of a “balanced budget”.
As if that’s not enough, they will also have to pay for the clean-up costs of environmental disasters, like the $40 000 000 for Mount Polley spill, since one of the advantages of those corporate donations is the deregulation that allows mining companies to siphon profits from our natural resources without concern for environmental destruction.
She’s excited about our Supreme Court win. Premier Christy Clark, who as Minister of Education in 2002, introduced legislation that violated teachers’ constitutional rights, and set in motion 14 years of students’ suffering, is excited that the Supreme Court of Canada has said that she was wrong.
What I wish she would feel is remorse.
What I feel is grief.
My elation at hearing the news of the end of a very long struggle for teachers, was followed by anger and then sadness about all that has been lost over the past 14 years.
We also will have no idea how many students with mental health issues could have been helped before they became one more statistic.
I won’t speak for the losses experienced by parents. I’m sure they will. What I do know is that when fundraising activities increased dramatically in an attempt to compensate for the drastic funding cuts, parents had to adjust their household budgets. They also found themselves purchasing more fundraiser chocolate, wrapping paper and calendars than they really needed. After more than a decade of family time spent on fundraising, I know they are exhausted but I wonder how they feel about Christy Clark blaming them for the legislation that created the situation?
As for us teachers, we were in the invidious position of having to pay for both sides of the battle to restore our rights. We paid for our defence through our union dues, and we also paid for the government’s attack on those rights through our taxes.
In addition, since 2002, we have lost significant amounts of salary whenever we engaged in actions to alert the public about what the government was doing to our students. During the most bitter of these in 2014, some of us lost our homes as a result of five weeks of holding the line for public education in this province.