A Green Dream

environment piece
http://www.gratisography.com/

I have asthma and so I’m always acutely aware of my dependence on air to keep me alive.  The curse of asthma is also a gift in that way as it is a constant reminder to me that I do not live in the environment, that the environment is in me.  That everything that is in the environment will eventually find its way into my body through the air I breathe, the food I eat and the water I drink. Which is why I think about the environment a lot.

Lately those thoughts have been focused on the changes that are happening in the environment as a result of climate change.  As though in a demonstration of the scientific evidence of this change, fish are moving to colder waters,  birds are showing up in areas that they have never lived,  and insects are moving away from the tropics toward the poles.

But this is not about the mountain of evidence that climate change is happening. This is about the fact that we citizens are at a historic moment when we not only have the understanding and the tools to mitigate the effects of climate change but we also have the opportunity to do so in a way that will simultaneously address other intractable societal problems.

Premier Christy Clark’s BC Jobs Blueprint has a few worthy goals  that, if achieved, will go a long way toward addressing both societal injustices and economic needs:   a dramatic increase in the number of young people entering the trades,  support for students who want to enter trades while they are still in high school, the provision of  training opportunities for Aboriginal students  and  support for education and training for people with disabilities.

But where the plan falls apart is that it focuses on an industry that not only spews vast amounts of chemicals into our waterways but also speeds up global warming, the driver of climate change.

There is now serious doubt that a BC LNG industry will provide one million, good paying  jobs as the Blueprint promises.

There are also serious concerns about the environmental damage that fracking causes to land, water and air.

Every minute that we are breathing, oil and gas wells are leaking deadly methane gas into the atmosphere.  Methane gas is 30 times more potent than carbon when it comes to warming the atmosphere.

Thirty times more potent…

Should this fact not give us pause?

Gordon Campbell, Christy Clark’s predecessor,  had a  “road to Damascus” moment in November 2006 when he went to Beijing to see the preparations for the  Olympics. Instead of being in awe of the amazing architecture, he was instead struck by the quality of the air there.  On sunny days when one should be able to see far off into the horizon, it’s possible to only see a few feet in front of you because of the smog.

Campbell’s experience of Beijing smog was what led to several actions by the then BC Liberal government to address pollution and climate change.  Did you know that the BC government has had an Air Quality Action Plan since 2008?

What would it take for Christy Clark to have her own “road to Damascus”  moment?  More Mount Polleys?

Or perhaps she needs to take a helicopter flight over the Skeena Watershed, an area that she has targeted for fracking.

Wade Davis recalls that Gordon Campbell had another moment of environmental destruction awareness when he took a helicopter flight over the Sacred Headwaters, the area where the Red Chris mine is planned.  Campbell was stunned by the beauty of the land that was soon going to be deforested and exploded in the pursuit of profit. It’s too bad that this experience  did not stop the plans for development of the mine. Is this when the the Green Dream the BC Liberals used to have turned into the fracking nightmare?

What happened to our leadership that lead to our current situation when we  are allowing ourselves to be blackmailed by a multinational corporation into giving up a pristine environment  in exchange for the equivalent of  relative pennies?

The current BC  government already has all the means it needs to take advantage of this historic moment.   All it has to do is to implement the environmental  plans that have already been  published by previous BC Liberal governments.

Did you know that our government has a Climate Action Plan for the 21st century that calls for an increase in renewable energy use?

All that is needed for Today’s BC Liberals to leave an ethical legacy is the willingness to put children, not corporations,  first.

That legacy would include ensuring that our children are  prepared for a world of wild weather as climate change speeds up.

Our children should be learning more about the environment, not less.  One of the major flaws in the new curriculum proposed by the BC Liberal government  is that  it decreases the focus on environmental studies at precisely the time we should be increasing awareness of our impact on the environment.

If our children do not receive a good foundation in environmental literacy, how will they have meaningful discussions and debates,  as citizens in a democracy,  about what they will be witnessing in a dramatically changing environment?

Post-secondary institutions have already recognized the need for more environmental education with SFU just recently announcing the new Bachelor of Environment, the only such degree in Canada.   A search on EducationPlanner.ca reveals 53 post-secondary environmental programs. These are what should receive the money earmarked for post-secondary education in the BC Jobs Blueprint.

We need to turn the Blueprint green.

We need to turn away from seeing environmental destruction and low wages as the only way to build an economy.

One of the most significant aspects of a green economy is that there is an added benefit, apart from jobs and a return on investments, of ensuring that we also have a healthy environment. A goal that our current economy does not even recognize as necessary.

We can transform our economy into one that provides good paying  jobs with benefits, an economy  that does not place people in an invidious position of having to choose between feeding their families and polluting the land, water and air on which we all survive.

If Germany can turn its economy around, so can we.

We have the means and the knowledge to create an economy that will not cost us clean air to breathe, does not cost us the chemical death of fish and fowl and does not cost us the earth.

We owe it to our children to turn away from the Faustian bargain that we are being offered by the LNG industry.

We can do better.

We must.

For the love of our children…

mother and child
http://www.imcreator.com/free/people/mother-and-daughter

You know Christy sometimes I think you must just not love children, your election promise of Families First notwithstanding. I don’t know how else to understand your government’s policies when it comes to future taxpayers, the children of our province.

On Friday we citizens learned from Mary Ellen Turpel-LaFond  that there are 93 000 children living in poverty in this province.  93 000 children who are hungry most days of the week, whose development is being affected by their not having their basic needs met. 93 000 children who should be looking forward to a fulfilling future in one of the richest countries in the world but who are instead caught in a poverty trap.

How many Malalas are there among that 93 000?  How many brilliant children whose minds could hold creative ideas for solutions to our most intractable problems are instead focused on when their next meal will come from?

Is it that you simply don’t think about children at all when you make the choices you do?

How is it possible that you continue to ignore the fact that BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada? Why do you continue to ignore calls for a poverty reduction plan?

Do you manage to do that by simply changing the definition of poverty like your MLA Mark Dalton did?

Your attacks on children and the people who work with them started in 2002 when you first began to fight teachers’ rights to have class size and composition issues part of collective bargaining. In your attack on teachers did you not consider that teachers’ working conditions are children’s learning conditions? That when teachers insist on support for students with special needs, it’s for the benefit of children? Instead your government’s PR machine tried to portray support for students as a salary benefit for teachers when you argued that you could not “afford” to support students.

How do you sleep at night knowing that many children attend schools where there are rat infestations, where there is mould and asbestos and where a lack of custodial staff means that vomit is not cleaned up for 3 hours sometimes?

Not only do you attack the people who work with children but you make life difficult for their parents too. Why did you choose to not provide daycare subsidies? If Quebec can find a way to subsidize daycare so that parents only pay $7per day, why did you ignore the calls for a $10-per-day cost for daycare in BC?

You said that you needed “balance the budget” but why do children have to continue to pay for your balanced budget and not corporations who enjoy one of the lowest tax rates in the country? How many  daycare subsidies could have been provided by the $750 million sent to California in the Powerex deal? How many could have been provided with the money you spent on BC Place stadium’s roof?  Why are those things affordable but not what children need?

I’m sorry that there are so many questions but I am desperately trying to understand the rationality of your actions as a leader.

You have so many opportunities to leave an amazing legacy since you are Premier at a turning point in history.

Right now we are at a climate change crossroads.  We are either going to choose to ignore the growing evidence that climate change is affecting the very foundations of our way of life or we can choose to make the necessary changes to mitigate the effects.

In other words, we can choose to leave a world that our children will find habitable or we can choose to continue to increase the amount of greenhouse gases we spew into the atmosphere and watch as extreme droughts and devastating floods and wildfires render any economic predictions precarious.

There are no jobs on a dead planet.

There is no economy without a healthy environment.

You have the opportunity to provide both a healthy environment and a healthy economy if you would simply “green” your BC Jobs Blueprint so that instead of a focus on LNG, on fracking and increasing the pollution of our waterways, the  focus would be  on careers in the green technology sector.

Why not invest in education and training in careers in clean energy technology like solar power, wind and wave energy?

Why not  provide scholarships for environmental courses like the brand new course at SFU: Bachelor of Environment?

Why not provide lots more seats  at BCIT for Environmental Technology?

Why not follow the lead of countries like Germany that have dramatically increased the use of renewable energy?

Instead of getting rid of environmental education in schools as is the plan in your BC Jobs Blueprint, why not  increase the focus on environmental issues since students today are the citizens of tomorrow who will have to deal with the consequences of climate change in a world of extreme heat, frequent droughts and widespread floods?

Why not do this? Why not leave a province for our children that has water uncontaminated by the undisclosed chemicals from fracking?

Why not leave a province for our children where they do not have to make a choice between protecting the environment and earning a living?

In the 1980’s the musician Sting had a song that suggested that a mutually destructive  nuclear war between the two super powers would be impossible   “if the Russians loved their children too“.

Do you love the children of this province Christy?

I desperately hope you do.

Families First?

father carrying boy
http://www.imcreator.com/free/people/father-carrying-his-boy

Jill and Joe Public live in Abbotsford. They have two children, Charlie (11)  and Cindy (3).  Jill’s parents live on Saltspring and Joe’s parents live in Kelowna.

Charlie attends a local elementary school where he has been on a list for the past two years waiting  to be diagnosed for a suspected learning disability.  Jill and Joe talk frequently about what they would need to cut out of their household budget to find the $3000 it would cost to get him diagnosed privately. They worry that he’s falling too far behind in school without the help he clearly needs. His teacher does what she can but in a class of 30 students, she’s overwhelmed. She too would like to know how to help Charlie and hopes he’ll be diagnosed so that he can be designated soon.

Each year the family is involved in several fundraising campaigns to raise money for various needs at the school.  The school’s PAC raises about $10 000 per year with all the money going to purchase items for the library or for classrooms.  The family spends about $200 buying the fundraising items from chocolates to plants and magazine subscriptions, coupon books, etc.  They also spend about $60 on school supplies each year for Charlie.

Joe’s brother who lives in Saskatchewan doesn’t understand why the PAC has to spend so much time fundraising instead of time discussing other education issues in schools as happens where he lives.  He brings up this point whenever Charlie asks him to buy one fundraising item or another.

Cindy is in daycare at a cost of $1600 per month.  (Jill’s sister, who lives in Montreal pays $7 per day ( $140/month) for her son’s daycare.) This is often a point of discussion during the sisters’  phone calls.

Joe works in the Information Technology industry in Vancouver and commutes daily to his non-union job. He spends about $200 per month on bridge tolls which takes a chunk out of this pre-tax income of $65 000.

Jill is a student of the University of the Fraser Valley working on a Bachelors degree in Child and Youth Care. She is grateful for the extended health benefits she can access as a student ( since Joe’s work does not provide this)  but is worried about the $30 000 loan she will have to start to repay soon after she graduates.

Jill’s parents, Martha and Mark, are in good health and live active lives on Saltspring Island. Jill would like to take the children to see them more often but the $220 round trip cost of the ferry has meant that they only visit on special occasions. 

Joe’s parents, George and Grace, are both in poor health and rely on medications to get through each day.  Recently the provincial government announced that George’s  brand name medication would no longer be covered under Pharmacare and that he would have to purchase the generic version instead. George wonders if the generic version is as powerful as the brand name medication even though he has friends who have had good experiences with generic versions.  Grace has had to switch back to the brand name medication for her asthma as she was not able to sleep when she took the generic version. The extra expense of the brand name medication for Grace meant less money for things like trips with the senior’s club.

Joe has heard rumours at his workplace that the company will soon be bringing in Temporary Foreign Workers. He wonders if he too will be replaced by someone from another country who will do the work for a lower salary.  He remembers that news story about the people who had to train the very people who would be taking over their jobs.

Jill and Joe often talk (and sometimes argue)  about their household budget.  Jill has noticed that lately the amount she spends at the supermarket keeps climbing and she can’t figure out what more she can cut from the shopping list. The family hardly ever eats out and if they do, it’s at a place that has a special deal for children. The Hydro bill keeps going up and they wonder why they don’t get a refund from ICBC given the huge surplus that the crown corporation has.  A refund would certainly put a dent in the  Port Mann Bridge tolls that Joe has to pay each month.

Their plans for a family holiday to Disneyland have been shelved for now but they keep buying lottery tickets in the hope that one day …

This is  a composite portrait of a typical middle class family in BC and was created from characteristics of many families trying to make it  since the BC Liberal Party formed government in 2001.

Thank you Christy!

Democracy

Dear Christy,

Just wanted to send a quick thank you! Thank you so much for creating the conditions that injected new life into our democracy when your unethical actions galvanized citizens out of apathy. Many citizens have reacted as I imagine a spouse would when they discover that their partner has been cheating. They are enraged now that the scales of media obfuscation have been removed from their eyes and they have discovered what lies behind your smile.

Thank you also for creating the conditions that strengthened our union of teachers. Before this many of us paid lip service to the concept of ‘union’ but now, thanks to your repeated attacks and the unconscionable way you have treated us, we have connected with each other in ways we could not before. Now teachers all across the province know each other’s names, and know each other’s concerns and the names of each other’s children. We now know who we mean when we say ‘we’.

Thank you for also for providing the conditions for a summer long course, Public Education. It was taught mostly on social media but also at farmer’s markets and at coffee shops and sometimes even on the Skytrain! In fact, it was the kind of course that would have fulfilled at least two of the key elements of your new BC ED plan since it involved a lot of ‘personalized learning’ on personal computers.

In the Public Education course we studied topics such as Public Policy, Fiscal Policy, Media Literacy, etc. We learned so much! Thank you! We are going to be such great conversationalists at parties now!

Most of all, thank you for creating the conditions that led to conversations with parents in ways that are not possible during the very busy school year, or even on Parent-Teacher nights. Thank you especially for ensuring that class size and composition is now part of what parents notice when they look at their child’s classroom.

We’re  feeling extremely appreciated after hearing from many parents that they value what we do for their children. We know that they now know that we have their children’s best interests at heart and nothing you say can change that ever again.

Sorry! Didn’t mean to go on for so long! I know you must be really busy getting ready for your trip to India so I’ll end now.

Gratefully,
Lizanne

Personalized Learning

kid playing video games

Personalized learning has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Conjures up images of one-to-one attention, customized curricula, and care and concern for the needs of each child. It suggests that the child’s learning experiences are uniquely designed, taking into account where the child is developmentally.

But in the landscape of the new B.C. Education plan, personalized learning is nothing like you imagine. What you think is “personalized” actually means “technologized.” The personal aspect is related to having a PC (personal computer). We’ve forgotten, haven’t we, that that’s what they were first called back in the 1980s: personal computers…

Personalized learning will mean that more often than not your child will be interacting with his/her personal computer while completing courses online.

It makes so much sense to try to sell this doublespeak version of “personalized” to parents. It’s so much cheaper to buy a new computer than to pay a teacher’s salary year after year.

When you are a politician who believes that all that government should do is to save “taxpayers” money, this would be very attractive. It’s much cheaper to buy 100 new computers for a school than to pay the salaries of learning specialist teachers.

Given that the B.C. Education Plan includes the decategorization of students with special needs, an action that would render null and void the B.C. Teachers’ Federation argument about class composition, one must wonder if personalized learning is more about accounting than it is about what students need.

It’s not just children with special needs who will suffer when a cold computer replaces a teacher’s care and attention. Children who have no identified problem with learning but who do not have the ability to manage time will also struggle with the impersonal aspect of personalized learning.

It’s easy to miss this impersonal aspect when you look at the B.C. ED plan website. One would think that the B.C. government had suddenly changed its mind and finally agreed with teachers about student needs. But if you look closely at the key elements of the plan, you will notice that technology plays a significant role.

The key elements of the new B.C. Education plan are:

  1. Personalized learning for every student
  2. Quality teaching and learning
  3. Flexibility and choice
  4. High standards
  5. Learning-empowered technology.

A careful analysis of the plan reveals that elements #1 and #5 are closely intertwined. It is the technology that will create the personalized aspect of the plan. Is is the technology that will provide the “choice” as students can choose to complete some courses online.

How many children do you know who can successfully focus on school work for hours at a time when in front of a computer?

What about those families who can’t afford to provide computers or iPads for their children?

Remember reading about how wonderful Distributed Learning was going to be? What happened instead was a high failure rate and students returning to school to take courses they could not complete alone at home in front of their personal computers.

There is nothing truly personal about personalized learning, unless you count the personal profits that will be made through the continual sale to school districts of computers that will need to be regularly updated.

One would think that this digital generation, those born into a world with the Internet already in existence, would welcome spending more time on computers. But they don’t. They know that a computer cannot replace the attention of a teacher.

If the B.C. Liberal government truly wanted to introduce personalized learning into B.C. public schools, they would provide enough funding so that public schools can have what private schools frequently advertise: small classes and full support for students with special needs.

Providing enough funding so that public schools can offer truly personalized learning would require an investment in the public education system that the current B.C. Liberal government is ideologically opposed to, given its track record over the past 14 years.

Personally, I’m not holding my breath that that investment will happen any time soon.

Connecting the Dots ?

connect

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
business

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?

You don’t get to say NO!

children go to school

I’m sorry but you don’t get to say no. You don’t get to hold 500 000 children hostage without consequences. You don’t get to ignore the law. You don’t get to spend millions of dollars of public funds on the spewing of lies and distortions and misinformation without being called to account.

Does the echo chamber you live in prevent you from hearing the sounds of the widespread dissent to your actions?  How much longer do you plan to ignore the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who provide the money that pays your salary?

You are public servant.

You are supposed to serve the people.  You are especially supposed to act on behalf the most vulnerable people in society, our children.

What have you done for children lately?

You have done nothing about childhood poverty. You have denied parents help with daycare. You have instead chosen to spend millions keeping children out of school.

I cannot understand how anyone would want that to be part of their legacy: that they kept children out of school deliberately.

Do you remember what you learned in Socials 11?

Did you not study the role of citizens in a democracy?  Do you understand your teacher explaining to you  that the very thing that separates a democracy from other kinds of governance is precisely that citizens have a say in the way they are governed?

Did you not write an essay or do a project on “How Citizens Can Influence Government” If you need a refresher the question and the answer key is available on the MoE website under Past Provincial exams.

Here’s your cheat: Citizens should participate in a democracy and also influence government by voting in elections, by responding to public opinion polls, by joining a political party, by joining a pressure group, by writing letters to the editor and sometimes by engaging in civil disobedience.

Those are the things that ordinary citizens can do but some citizens are more powerful than others. These citizens can hire lobbyists to do this work for them. These lobbyists are usually former members of government who know the ins and outs of how government works. They have an important list of phone numbers. They have drinks with the people that “matter”. They get paid millions of dollars for this work. Amounts of money that ordinary citizens can’t afford but corporations can.

How much influence on this government have lobbyists for mining corporations had? How much influence have they bought through election campaign donations? Through paying lobbyists to convince a politician to vote a certain way? Through publishing “reports from “think tanks”

We may not have millions of dollars but there are millions of us who you ignore and we are tired of it.

We are tired you allowing mining companies to treat our province as a dumping ground for their waste after they have extracted resources that hardly contribute anything to our collective wealth.

We are tired of you readily finding money for corporations while hundreds of thousands of children starve.

We are tired of being told that we just don’t understand fiscal policy and that the only way we can pay for a quality education for our children is through the raising of taxes.

This is yet another of your many outright blatant lies and distortions as many have continually pointed out.

I realize that Plato gave politicians permission to lie because he said that ordinary people would just not understand why things had to be done in certain ways.  I bet he did not have 41 000 educated teachers in mind  back then.

We understand quite clearly that you have distorted democracy. Your government is not representative of the people it governs. Your government behaves as though the only people it is responsible to are corporations or the affluent. Your government acts as though it is above the law.

You are not.

You don’t get to just say no.

Message from Future Taxpayers

future voters
https://www.flickr.com/photos/waagsociety/8864977481/sizes/z/

 

We are future taxpayers. We are also future paramedics, nurses, electricians, firefighters, lawyers and doctors, but we notice that you appear to only be concerned about taxpayers and so we have adopted your language to help you to understand.

We are citizens. We have learned about the Magna Carta. We have learned about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We are quite confused about how what we learned in school about representative government, about responsible government looks so very different in the world outside our classrooms in BC today. We do not understand how our families are being represented when MLAs refuse to meet with our parents or ignore the letters our parents send.

We have learned about our rights to an education and we know you are violating those rights.

We are future voters. We will remember this summer of 2014 when 500 000 of us were held hostage by the BC Liberal party. We will remember that your government refused to give us what we needed in our schools and in our classrooms.

We will remember how much you spent on the roof for BC Place stadium and yet pleaded poverty when our public education system needed a fraction of the amount you had spent.

We will remember how you refused to do anything about the high numbers of children living in actual poverty.

We will remember how you refused to do anything about rising post-secondary tuition costs.

We will remember how our school year was abruptly shortened while you bullied our teachers. We will forever remember them eating their lunch on the sidewalks.

We will be part of the electorate in 2017.

We will carry out our responsibilities of citizenship and we will vote for a government that truly does put families first, that represents the needs of all citizens, that considers what future generations need and not just what corporations want to pay in taxes.

Privatization dressed up in School Choice clothing

privatization-schools_0

Privatization… what images come to mind when you read that word? Do you get flashes of dirty rooms in hospitals? Do you think about the loss of ferry routes? Are you reminded of all those tolls you pay when you cross bridges these days? Do the faces of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher come to mind?

Today’s neo-liberals know that you have all these bad images of privatization in your minds. That the word strikes fear into your heart. And so they have a new term they will use when they sell the idea of privatizing  BC public education to you.

School Choice.

Has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The idea of having a choice? That you have control? That you have a say?

Trouble is you have to pay for that say. 

Your choice is going to cost you at least $4000 per child per year.

It would have been at least $10 000 but,   denials notwithstanding, it’s still possible that sometime in the near future you’re going to be offered a $6000 education voucher so that you can exercise your choice of where to spend it.

Except they may not call it that – an education voucher. They know that word has negative connotations now so expect to be told about “opportunity scholarships” for your child.  Also expect to be told that the government only has your best interests in mind because now the “money follows the child” while you exercise your choice.

They will omit to mention where the money comes from and the impact of this “moving money”.   They will omit to mention that the money will come from the public education budget and that moving money away from it  will lead to further starvation of already struggling public school districts.

Expect to be told that the government is making all these changes because the public education system is broken, PISA scores notwithstanding.

Expect to be told that taxpayers cannot afford to pay for public education while at the same time taxpayers can apparently afford to pay $750million to California to make a lawsuit against Powerex go away.

The BC Liberals love to exercise all the choices they have available to them for how to spend public funds. They love that they can choose not to fund BC students to the Canadian average of $9000 per student per year. Since 2002 they have chosen to provide only $8200 per student per year for the education of future citizens/taxpayers in BC.

They have also chosen not to be guided by two Supreme Court Rulings.

They have chosen not to negotiate with teachers, not to mediate with teachers and not to accept arbitration either. 

They have chosen to put the education of 500 000 students on hold while they blackmail teachers into giving up their constitutional rights in exchange for better learning conditions for students.

Choices.

We all have them.

We can all choose.

What will citizens choose to do about a government that is unresponsive to calls to end the public education crisis that they created?

What will citizens choose to do about the commodification of a public good?

Will citizens choose to inform themselves about the corporate interest in the “education sector”

Will citizens choose to learn the lessons that others have experienced when their public schools were privatized?

Are choices in lottery numbers going to be the only choice a child growing up in poverty will have to get a quality education?

What kind of democracy will citizens choose to defend?

Back to school sales should not include the sale of public education and the BC Liberal’s version of government making a choice about who gets a quality education and who does not.

If not the rule of law, then what instead?

Charter

Perhaps it’s because I was born without constitutional rights and that I was 32 before I even had the RIGHT to vote but  when Premier Christy Clark declared my Charter Rights invalid with regards to my working conditions, something in me rose up in fierce objection.

I came to Canada because of its democracy, its constitution, its civil rights. I am stunned to note the complacency of citizens as those rights unravel right before our eyes.

It took Canadians over 150 years before we gained all the political structures that underpin a democracy but it has taken the BC Liberals just 12 years to undermine the very foundations of  democracy in this province.

Are we citizens going to watch the unravelling of all the work that was done so that future generations (that would be us) would benefit from having a representative, responsible government? Are we going to simply forget that our autonomy from Britain was hastened by the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers at Vimy Ridge?

Are our memories so fragile that we have forgotten that it was just  32 years ago that we got the Charter of Rights and Freedoms after a long struggle to repatriate the constitution?  Do we take those fundamental rights for granted and just allow the current government to do as it will, regardless of what the Charter guarantees?

Twelve years ago Christy Clark, then Minister of Education, used the Legislature to strip teachers of their Charter Rights. It took 12 years of legal struggles before teachers’ rights were confirmed by the Supreme Court of BC. Twice.

And now the government is essentially blackmailing teachers to give up their Supreme Court wins in exchange for a promise of better learning conditions for students in classrooms. It is behaving as though it is above the law.

Remember that the very cornerstone of a true democracy is the rule of law, that the law applies to all citizens equally. Can you imagine if all criminals in BC had a “get out of jail” card like the E80 clause Christy Clark is insisting the teachers agree to?

Today the BC government holds 500 000 students hostage while it waits for teachers to capitulate to its blackmail. MLAs, the representatives of the people, have closed their doors and have been instructed to not meet with their constituents.

Yes, BC is where representative government has come to die.

This death could have been foretold given the fact that MLAs meet only 36 days a year to discuss what can be done about the needs of BC citizens.

It seems though that the only “needs” that the representatives are concerned about are those of taxpayers, a strange new creature in BC that is everyone who is not a parent, not a lawyer, not a ferry user,  is not concerned about the environment/climate change, does not want subsidized daycare, does not care about poverty, does not mind the oil pipelines, is not worried about the loss of agricultural land, is not a trucker or a midwife or a nurse or a paramedic or a teacher.  Not sure how many citizens are left after that. Perhaps 1%?

These taxpayers, the ones represented by this government also seem to be okay with the millions being spent on an intense public relations campaign aimed at discrediting teachers who are in the invidious position of having their union dues used for paying for the lawyers fighting to protect their Charter Rights and their taxes being used by the government to attack those Charter Rights.

Are we so easily distracted by false claims of $3000 massages that we don’t notice what actually is at stake in the dispute between the teachers and the government?

Do the citizens of British Columbia know that if the government gets away with undermining all that was fought for to build a strong democracy then no citizen is safe. No contract is safe if the government can get away with ripping up a contract with teachers.

If we don’t honour the rule of law, then what will we honour instead?