Thursday, October 13, 2005

breaking the law

Here is my take on the BC teachers strike situation:

I was wondering why the BCTF has $14 million at their disposal. Apparently it is for strike pay. But why do they have so much money? Perhaps it is to justify the union's existence. In order to do that, it needs to create cohesion. The best way to create cohesion is to create some sort of scapegoat; something that the union can rally behind.

In this case, the BCTF is uniting around the idea that a) the government is unjustly imposing a contract on them b) that "enough is enough" when it comes to education quality. The union, like any union, needs to, for the sake of its existence, go on strike occasionally so that people do not question the need for a union. Otherwise people may think the union is extraneous, something not necessary. They may question why a dollar an hour is going to a "union."

Thus, the union needs to "pick a fight" with someone in order to survive as a cohesive body.

And that is my Rene Girardesque theory on union scapegoating.

-----------------------------------------


Is an illegal strike by necessary? No. Teachers could have chosen
legal means to negotiate or to protest. They could have chosen to
work within the law, like so many other government unions. Instead,
they have willingly disregarded the law; the same system of laws which
gives teachers the right to free speech.

BCTF President Jinny Sims could not be more wrong when she implied
that teachers are as oppressed as people of colour in the southern
USA. Sims erroneously compared the civil disobedience of teachers to
the conscientious objection of Rosa Parks last Thursday on CKNW's
Billy Good Show. The teacher's illegal strike and Rosa Parks' actions
are not in the least analogous.

Rosa Parks' disregard for the law was grounded in the principle of
imago dei, that all people are created equally in the image of God.
The BCTF's disregard for the law is not grounded in any comparable
principle of justice. They have not, to this point, fulfilled Martin
Luther King's conditions for what constitutes justified civil
disobedience, that governmental policies are "degrading to human
personality." The BCTF is relying on a rhetorical hyperbole to
justify their contempt for the law.

The BCTF's actions must be seen for what they are: blatant contempt
for the law, not a courageous plight against "injustice." If
"teachers have the utmost respect for the law and judiciary," as Sims
claims, why do they so openly defy them? More importantly, the BCTF's
paradoxical actions of defiance of the law and statements of "utmost
respect" for the law virtually render the word "respect" into the
abyss of meaninglessness.

The teacher's demands may indeed by reasonable; but disregarding the
law so blatantly is not.

36 comments:

Peter said...

I would have to disagree with your thought that the Union needs to pick a fight every so often just to cause a stink. After talking to some family members who work in both the public and private school system here are my reasons. a) All teachers I have talked to say that the class room sizes are to large this comes from the teachers own mouths. The BCTF says this is true and is asking for about a 1.3 student decrease per room or something along those lines. b) Teachers get payed crap, and all they are asking is for a 15% pay increase over 3 years to match with inflation. c)Teachers want the right to have a say, and that comes from personal sources, plus there has been an imposed contract since January 2002 which means the teachers have had no say in defining their job. d)Talking to a parent or two about what they think, they agree with the teachers although they say they do not exactly enjoy the inconvience they want their kids to get the best education in the public system.

Now my next point is to say that unions are not useless. I worked in a union for the last 6 years. Although I may not always agree with what unions have to say, and unions sometimes step outside their bounds the BCTF in my opinion seems to be in the right. The reason for the 14 million is unknown to me. Although the fact that you pay dues to a union means that the money goes somewhere, which in my eyes seems fit that the union had some money put a way for a rainy day. This money is to help pay court fees, plus until today help their striking members out.

Jonathan said...

Let me just address your well articulated concerns.

I don't think I said unions are all useless. I just meant to say that perhaps the BCTF is a bit more useless than is thought. For instance, why does it collect union dues at all for strike pay when a strike is illegal in itself? If you are going to say that the teachers get paid crap, then why does the BCTF have millions and millions of dollars it can't use? Why is there so much bureaucracy within the union itself?

Anyway, let me address your points.

a) Large classrooms. The average class size has increased only by 0.6 children in the last four years. It is a statistical fact in the Province today. Further, there is no scientific evidence that class size hurts the performance of children. With these "bloated" sizes, our math students are still ranking with the best in the world. So are our science and reading proficiency.

B) Teachers do get paid great. But they by no means get paid nothing. There are plenty of jobs that are difficult that do not pay well. If they don't like the pay, don't work as a teacher. The pay situation will not dramatically increase to that of a lawyer or a doctor. Teachers get paid the 3rd highest in the country. That means there are 7 provinces with lower average wages. Can the teachers really complain that they are done in by? 15% over 3 years does not match inflation. Inflation is about 1.5% a year, not 5 or even 15%.

None of these issues give them the right to strike illegally. There is no "injustice" or moral issue here. The only moral issue is the immorality of breaking the law. And I have seen no compelling argument as to why their actions are justified.

C) When 131 public sector unions sucessfully negotiate with the government for a contract and the teachers have not been able to for he past 15 years, you have to wonder about the reasonableness of the union. What makes the needs of 1 union greater than the needs of 131 other unions? I am sorry, but I do not see how the teachers are automatically at the top of the pile. They are only achieving public notice because they are disobeying the law and inconveniencing thousands of people all over the province. Secondly, the imposed contract of 2002 gave them a 7.5% increase in pay. Even though they had no say in the terms, they were not the victims by any means.

D) On the other side, my Mom is a teacher and does not agree with the BCTF at all. They have reasonable qualms perhaps, but none enough to break the law.

Nathan said...

While it may not be right for teachers to "break the law," I think that there is a problem with the fact that teachers cannot strike. Education is not an essential service. Essential services are those required for survival in an emergency. Education is important, but should not be labelled as essential.

In point B you say class sizes don't effect student performance, but what about teacher performance. Should we not try to move forward and make a better work environment and better experience?

I think point B is poorly worded, but if I understand you correctly, you are saying that teachers are paid great - the third highest in the country. If teaching is "essential," maybe they should be paid more than lawyers and as much as doctors. You say that BC teachers are paid the third most in the country, and you point out that there seven provinces that make less. The problem with this argument is that BC is one of, if not the most, expensive places to live in Canada.

Maybe they should not be "illegally striking." Maybe there are other ways. But maybe we should also look at how the government could be handling the negotiations in a better manner.

Finally, as far as inconvience, school is not babysitting. Personally, I remember and still love every break I got from school because of a teacher strike.

Jonathan said...

I think we have a fundamental difference of striking theory. My theory is that the government is allowed to decide who can strike and who can not. For instance, it gives many unions the right to strike. But not all. Likewise, non-unions have zero right to strike. This is the fault of the law too. If I was on strike from my past employment positions, I would be fired. The teachers are not. But only by the grace of the government. It could, if it wanted, fire every teacher and therefore "break the union." But it isn't. As far as "essential services" go, they may not be. However, the government also passed Bill 12, 'forcing' them to go back to work. It is not in the best interest of the state that children suffer from a strike that goes on indefinately. There are major economic reprucusions.

As for teacher performance....it might make sense for younger classsizes to be smaller, but older ones? I honestly don't see the difference. As a student, I honestly haven't seen the difference between large classes and small ones. I've been in both and haven't felt robbed by either one.

"If teaching is "essential," maybe they should be paid more than lawyers and as much as doctors."

- This is a non-starter.

"The problem with this argument is that BC is one of, if not the most, expensive places to live in Canada."

The lower mainland maybe. But there are teachers all over the province that are not under the most expensive living conditions. Perhaps there should be scaled wages. What other profession gives its works raises EVERY YEAR regardless of performance, but based merely on an extra year of experience?

As far as handling negotiations....I think it is suspicious that the BCTF hasn't negotiated an agreement for the past 15 years, while 131 other gov't unions have all been able to.

$$$ > Students said...

never bite the hand that feeds you..... the silent majority gave Gordo a huge victory in his first election due to a large part to his promises of essential services for education. Next election thanks to 5 mil from BCTF and the west coast socialists redfoundland republic AKA as Vancouver Island. They reduced thier numbers and put a scare into them this present action has insured the Libs a huge victory in three years as the majority numbers of parents and private sector will not forget this..... so Gordo will open the 2010 Olympics. The BCTF has already said your rules, no schools make the kids pay!!! why not comply with LAW and if they fail to negotiate directly and give you a bump(yeah it's about the buck get real) you walk out again (wildcat) you have already shown no respect for the courts so what do lesser rules matter ? Where is James why wasn't she speaking at red square on Monday velly interesting maybe BCTF should give next 5 mil to the green party or perhaps a donation for special needs kids.

Ashley said...

Jon, I agree that the strike is illegal and shouldn't be happening for that reason. Yet, I do agree with their principles. I disagree with the government's actions as well. As someone fully affected by the strike, I think it's sad that both sides are entrenched.

I have a problem with your thinking that classroom sizes when students are older doesn't affect the teachers or the students learning. Once students hit Grade 4, class sizes don't have a cap. So, I'm in a classroom with 17 "labelled" learning needs. That's right...17 out of 27. It's too much, the students hardly ever learn. This is a bit extreme, but with behaviour disorders, special needs, esl...learning is impaired by serious distractions and the teacher can not meet all the students needs. Especially when there is only one TA for one of the specific needs, and that is for half the day. Classroom sizes, with today's dynamics in the classroom, are far too large for a teacher to be effective.

kd said...

Just some random comments. My mom is also a teacher in BC, so I've heard direct stories from her.

"The average class size has increased only by 0.6 children in the last four years. It is a statistical fact in the Province today."

This may be true, but you have to take into account the fact that averages are averages and that included in that calculation there might be quite a few classrooms falling through the cracks. I heard about a science class in a Surrey high school that has so many kids that completing their lab assignments is actually impossible, given the time, space, and equipment available. I also agree with what Ashley said about the dynamics in the classroom. The demographics and learning needs of a typical class of kids must be taken into account. We may still have some high-ranking exam scores out there, but that does not justify us allowing so many others to fall through the cracks. I would rather the teachers strike now, whether illegal or not, and pay the price economically for a couple weeks out of school, than have an entire generation of kids who didn't get the attention they needed in the classroom.

Jonathan said...

I think our generation has become a bunch of attention-sucks. Generations ago, we would have multiple grades in one classroom with one teacher. Are we so depraved today? I've grown up with big classrooms in Alberta. Quite honestly I would not say that I suffered from it. I did not. Some children truly have special needs. However, why does the numbers of special needs kids keep rising?

Let me make a final point. The teachers are not the ones who should be determining education in this province. Education belongs to the students, which is decided upon by parents, elected trustees and the government. To support this strike is to support breaking the law for frivilous reasons and to support the role of teachers over that of parents and the government - the proper source of policy options.

The education of the students is the perogative of the government, not the teachers. If the teachers want to control classroom education in every sense, they ought to start a private school system.

Ashley said...

First of all, yes, it is true, classrooms way back in the day were compiled of different grade levels. Yet, hasn't this has changed for a reason? Hasn't the quality of education improved? More people are graduating, heck, women are able to graduate. Most parents argue that back when they were in highschool they only sat in rows, there were more students in the classrooms, etc...I'm sure you've heard it before. This is another shift of education theories, and I think we're getting on the right track.

The reason why there are more special needs students in the classroom is because public schools were forced into full inclusion of these students. There are many pros and cons to this, but more and more students with varying special needs that usually wouldn't be allowed into the public system are in. Also, we're a lot more knowledgeable about psychological and even physical needs now, and we're more equiped to meet them instead of having children not graduate from grade 12. I don't think too many teachers are willing to give up on these students, so many go the extra mile, which is a lot of work developing modified curriculum for various learning types.

The teachers are not the ones who should be determining education in this province? How can this be said, when they are the professionals in this field. Some Joe politician who got a degree in business and went into law is not. What do they know about the public education system besides graduating from grade 12. They don't know anything about teaching children...and teaching children correctly while keeping BC standards of excellence in mind. I believe education has improved, and I believe these improvements has come as a result of teacher input, which is given to the administration, which is then given to the school board, etc..

It's sad to say that most people think they experts about what goes on in the public education system because they went from kindergarden to grade 12. This is the hardest thing for teachers, because they are professionals, and should be treated as so.

Jonathan said...

"There are many pros and cons to this, but more and more students with varying special needs that usually wouldn't be allowed into the public system are in."

Are you saying these kids were not in school to begin with? That they sat at home all day long?

"I don't think too many teachers are willing to give up on these students, so many go the extra mile, which is a lot of work developing modified curriculum for various learning types."

Unfortunately, I don't agree with you here. I do not think modified curriculum is preferable to standardized curriculum. And if it is modified, how come it is never modified to challenge the best of the best students? If it was, there would be complaints up the wazzoo from parents and students for making school harder than it needed to be. With a standardized program, the education is the same for everybody. You know what they say: if you aim low, you will land lower, if you aim high, you will still and lower, but higher than if you aimed low.

"The teachers are not the ones who should be determining education in this province? How can this be said, when they are the professionals in this field."

Any company operates with the premise that the head of the company, the shareholders, set policy. The professionals, the workers, do not. They essentially are employees. They are the servants.

Likewise with teachers. They are the professionals, but they are servants of the government, teachers, trustees, and students. THEY ARE THE ONES PAYING THE TEACHER'S' BILLS. When the teachers begin to pay their own bills, perhaps they can run the show.

Some "Joe politician"... "don't know anything about teaching children" - that may or not be true. But neither do many owners of businesses. Yet it is still their right AS DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED LEADERS to determine policy. To put an example forward, it would be like a TWUSA club determining TWUSA's club policy. It just doesn't work like that. TWUSA, like the government, is elected by the majority to make policy decisions. The only way to change that policy is to persuade the government or elect another government next elections. An insurrection or illegal action is not the proper way to do that.

"It's sad to say that most people think they experts about what goes on in the public education system because they went from kindergarden to grade 12."

Well that is me. I lived through public, private, Catholic systems. Why should I not have an opinion?? Besides, I hardly think that most people consider themselves "experts." But I think it is elitist to say that teachers are the only ones who can determine what works and what doesn't in the classroom.

I have teaching experience before - but apparently since I am not a teaching professional, I can not have a say? When we were all in first year educational philosophy courses, we were allowed to have an opinion. Why can't anyone who has lived through the system or has read the quandary we are in have one too?

Jonathan said...

Oh yes. Not only do the teachers have no legal support, but they have ZERO political support from any party.

Jonathan said...

"Some Joe politician who got a degree in business and went into law is not. What do they know about the public education system besides graduating from grade 12. They don't know anything about teaching children"

Actually, it just occured to me that the Premier of BC is a former secondary school teacher and gym coach. Just a thought.

Ashley said...

I'll address the children with special needs. Prior to being included in the public school system, they were sent to special schools for children with disabilities. They are still around, but not as popular, because parents want their children to be "normal citizens" and feel that their children should be included in a "normal school." These children with special needs are also included in independent schools, as I witnessed last week at Pacific Academy. So, the special schools that they used to attend were full of students with only psychological, learning, or physical needs. The cons to this were that they were treated as low intellectual students. We know this isn't the case, a child with a physical disability does not mean that they are mentally slower. A child with dyslexia has trouble with language arts, etc... A child down syndrome is lower intellectually.

But...children with learning needs do need modified curriculum. A child with dyslexia in grade 4, will not be at the grade 4 reading level. They need a modified curriculum that will help them achieve at the level they are at. If we push children to a frustration level by forcing them to be at the grade 4 reading level, they will not learn at all. Therefore, it is a proven fact, that modified curriculum is necessary to equip children to achieve so that they can graduate and be successful.

Children who are gifted, also need modified curriculum. This is accepted by parents. If they are done their math, they can do an extra assignment, they can be pushed a little harder. This is accepted and encouraged. I was just talking about this with Kim Frankllin yesterday (she's in charge of Trinity's PDP program), and how children who are quite bright need a push.

Ashley said...

I have also come from a family where they have sent their children to a private, public, and even homeschooled their children. Personally, I have a hard time listening to people, even my parents, who say what teachers need and don't need. I personally feel like I am a little more knowledgeable about the classroom because i have taken 4 years of classes, done 6 practicums, and am working in the school right now. Because I am not a full time teacher, and do not have that much experience, I don't even think I can have as much as a say as they do.

I can even say this about the premier. That's great that he was a former teacher, but does he know what is going on day to day in the classrooms today? It seems to me that he has forgotten what it is to act in the best interests of the students, and instead is acting solely on the letter of the law (and the law is good), which in turn, isn't going to help out the situation due to the fact that both sides are entrenched. It seems to me that because the government slapped the teachers in the face first by imposing a contract on them and by removing their right to negotiate, it is their turn to make the first move.

An HR standpoint, the employees are the experts not the shareholders. Even the shareholders have the best interest of the company at hand, the experts are the employees. Even in TWUSA, we are required to listen to the students needs, and to meet them. I remember in Exec last year, that we did a number of student surveys, I sat and listened to a number of different students from different organizations and I remember us pretty much bending over backwards to try and give the students the results they wanted.

kd said...

"To support this strike is to support breaking the law for frivilous reasons and to support the role of teachers over that of parents and the government - the proper source of policy options."

Actually, there seems to be a large body of parental support for this strike. Sure, many of them are inconvenienced by having to find childcare for the time being, but from what I've heard most people would rather suffer now than pay the price overall in their kids' education. The teachers are acting very much in response to the complaints of the parents, using what power they can as a union.

Also, the government may be in control of how education is done in our province and that is fine, but part of being in leadership of any kind is being held accountable to those you lead. That is one of the purposes of a union. To tie the hands of the BCTF the way that they have is undermining that system of accountability.

To say that teachers should have no say in how education is done in our province is like throwing some theologians in a room to perform a heart transplant. Would you trust them with your life? Maybe if they had watched enough episodes of ER?

I'm not saying that people without an education in educating shouldn't have an opinion, I'm just saying it is far more valuable when it comes from those in the trenches.

Blair said...

"Actually, there seems to be a large body of parental support for this strike. Sure, many of them are inconvenienced by having to find childcare for the time being, but from what I've heard most people would rather suffer now than pay the price overall in their kids' education."

Did not Jonathan say: "To support this strike is to support breaking the law for frivilous reasons and to support the role of teachers over that of parents and the GOVERNMENT - the proper source of policy options"? Parents are not a source of justification for an illegal strike--neither are they sources of policy, besides their role as civilian participants in the democratic process... The government is what Jonathan was referring to here, not parents. Therefore the argument is null.

"It seems to me that [the premier] has forgotten what it is to act in the best interests of the students, and instead is acting solely on the letter of the law (and the law is good), which in turn, isn't going to help out the situation due to the fact that both sides are entrenched."

First, there is no legal argument against the legal power (i.e. the court/government) that they should not abide FULLY according to the letter of the law. For people, governments, and legal practitioners to be governed by the law is called "the rule of law". I much prefer principled judicial administration following the rule of law than whimsical judiciary discretion (which is parallel to totalitarian rule). It is a basic principle of the foundation of our legal system that Judges are bound by rules and are not permitted to entertain 'other factors' (the rule of law). This protects our system from becoming infested with judicial bias. To call on the government, or the courts, to put aside principles of legality for 'the interest of the students' misses the point of the law. Furthermore, to justify an illegal strike on the basis that the legal practitioners are not taking into consideration 'the students'--which, by the way, is not the only interst at stake--does nothing more than support a view of the law which stands against the rule of law, promoting an 'anit-legal' and purely 'discretional' and 'undemocratic' system.

"...the government may be in control of how education is done in our province and that is fine, but part of being in leadership of any kind is being held accountable to those you lead."

I agree in part, but not in whole. a democratic government is not only accountable to those it governs (i.e. the parents in this case), but it is also accountable to the legal history on which our democratic nation is based. If there is a difference in 'opinion' between the public and the court (i.e. to allow the strike, or to not allow the strike) the government should follow the decision of the court EVERY TIME. Why? Because the court is (sometimes poorly, sometimes excellently) the embodiment of our legal history--which to derivate from would be pernicious to justice and 'democracy' as a whole.

"To say that teachers should have no say in how education is done in our province is like..."

I don't think that anyone is saying that teachers should have NO say in the processes of education. The real debate here is how much power should they be given, legally speaking, to dictate the process of education. The system we have is that the government determines policy, the courts give that policy meaning and principle by using those policies to administer justice, and those under the law and the government are bound to comply. Democracy permits those bound to comply the right to entreat those above them to consider whatever is of concern to them. In some cases civil disobedience is justified (incidentally Martin Luther King did not object to going to jail for his civil disobedience because he supported the concept of Law--he obeyed Law, but disagreed with some rules. Also, MLK's justification for civil disobedience was rooted in the concept of Natural Law, which seems consipcuously absent from the BCTF's cause). But typically, once entreatment is made and the legal democratic process is exhausted, people are obliged to remain under the rules established by the government and given force by the court.

"...like throwing some theologians in a room to perform a heart transplant. Would you trust them with your life? Maybe if they had watched enough episodes of ER?"

I'm sorry to say it, but this is about as far away from an accurate analogy/metaphor/similie/etc. as is humanly possible. Basically this statement aboslutely condemns any attempts of homeschooling (unless the parent has proper 'credentials'). It seems to me that the difference in 'professional competency' between lay people and 'experts' are exceedingly different when considering heart surgery versus education. Perhaps there would be an argument here when comparing education held at the Phd level with heart surgery; but grade school? Let's be serious (something which this comparison obviously is not).

By way of entertaining a personal thought: if classroom size is such an issue, why aren't universities (which are the ultimate places of education) rallying for the smaller classroom sizes? I'm sure that the distinction between young children needing more direct attention from a teacher than an adult is valid. But then the issue is not unilateral (i.e. class size), but should also consider age and intellectual ability.

In the end, my sentiments lie with Jonathan's arguments, notwithstanding some of the valid points made by his opposition.

Ashley said...

First of all, I have agreed the whole time that teachers should not be striking because it is disobeying the government. If I was a teacher at the moment I would not be on the picket lines.

"Jon, I agree that the strike is illegal and shouldn't be happening for that reason. Yet, I do agree with their principles. I disagree with the government's actions as well. As someone fully affected by the strike, I think it's sad that both sides are entrenched."

Yet, I do believe that the teachers needs are justified. I'm not saying that the strike was a right step, but I wish the government didn't impose a contract on them, because it made the teachers think that striking was a necessary step.

What I had a problem with were some views on the public education system and the disregard for teachers needs and rights.

Ashley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jonathan said...

Blair is absolutely on the ball when it comes to the rule of law business. He correctly interpreted all my positions and strengthened them immensely.

Ashley, a contract was imposed only because they could not settle. The BCTF has not negotiated one agreement in the past 15 years. Do you not stop for a minute and think of why this may be so? The last contract was imposed, but it still gave a 7.5% increase over 3 years. The fact is, even a mediator can't even negotiate a settlement.

Now, fault is either with the gov't, BCTF, or both. Personally, I think it is nearly all the BCTF's stubborness to agree to anything. I have to say this based on the evidence: 131 unions negotiated successfully with the government in the past year. The BCTF is the ONLY one who has not.

Thus, even though it may seem disturbing at first that the gov't imposed a contract, it was only because the BCTF would have left the job illegally, leaving students in limbo, had they not.

I fully agree with Blair's analogy of university classrooms. He says that there is a lack of people complaining about the size of uni classrooms. I agree. I would even take it one step further and say this: why can't grade 12 and uni class sizes be comparable? That is, why can't grade 12 have big classrooms.

HERE is another point to consider. Today, I read in the newspaper that class sizes are being reported in a way that is MUCH different than one thinks. For instance, kids that need more help from the teacher are actually counted as 2 or even 7 students in statistics. That is, there may be a statistical number of students of 35. This seems like a big class. However, there are actually only 20 students in there, since there are a few "needy" students with mathematical equivelants of say 3, 5, 6, bringing the class sizes up. It is disturbing to me that the BCTF does not even address this. It really does question the premise of class size statistics really. If you want the full story, read today's (Saturday) Vancouver Sun, on the Westcoast section (B1).

Jonathan said...

As far as disobeying the law out of conscience goes, I think there is no right. As far as I know, there is freedom of conscience, but a narrower freedom of action based on that conscience. Any appeals to natural law or natural rights to disobey a union law are ridiculous. Yet this is exactly what the BCTF is doing, comparing themselves to the Americans in the Tea revolution, or Rosa Parks, or other civil rights movements.

As I explained in this post, I would say that these are legitimate (ie. Lockean) interferences with the law. The government is unjust. Sure. However, there is nothing here that degrades personality in the government's actions. There is no inequality. There is no prejudice. Instead, there is contempt of court and no supra-legal principles to appeal to I am afraid.

Here is an interesting thought I will leave you with. Imagine students striking? Yea, that's right. Imagine students striking because they felt like the teachers were not giving them a quality education or were cutting corners?

Think it is impossible? Actually, it was the status quo in the early university. The "university" actually means "universitas", which means "corporation" or a legal entity. In other words, there was a union of students.

Why isn't there a similar union now?

kd said...

"kids that need more help from the teacher are actually counted as 2 or even 7 students in statistics"

I was just talking about this with my mom the other day, but the way she explained is sounded different. For example, in a place where the class cap was 25, they could have 21 "average" learners and perhaps 2 kids who needed some extra help counting as 2 each (hypothetical total of 25). It was a way to keep things balanced under the classroom cap system. They actually don't count kids that way anymore, at least not in my mom's district, and their schools are still bursting at the seams.

As far as the growth problem goes, here is a very common situation, one that has/is happening in Cloverdale now: an small school is built a decade or so ago for the needs of that moment - about 300 students - and fills up immediately. The area is now growing like wildfire. 3-4 large townhouse complexes go up with 100+ units each, meaning an easy 200 new kids coming from each townhouse complex, each looking for a placement in a school. The government makes a law saying that the schools have to accept them, regardless of whether they have room or not. "The kids should have a right to go to school in their own neighbourhood." The government also promises to build new schools to meet the needs of the families in those areas. Townhouses are built, new families moved in, new school is NOT built on time, and the older schools are subsequently overloaded with kids. Everyone suffers.

Also, on the whole legal/non-legal side of this debate...I think that there is much more at stake than purely the fact that this strike is illegal. I believe that sometimes Christ calls us to fight against injustice, which sometimes means going against those in power. That doesn't mean you jump straight to what is illegal. The fact is that the government is not listening to what teachers have been saying for years about the needs of the kids, just brushing them off as money grabbers. This is SO far from the truth. Call me a heretic if you like, but when I hear the stories of kids slipping through the cracks all the time and my mom in tears about how she works so hard and still feels like she has let those kids down in the end, this is the conclusion I come to.

Peter said...

First off on the whole legality of the strike. Is it illegal? Yes. If I were the Liberal government would I refuse to back off? No because that would be anarchy in a way. However if I were the teachers would I be slightly ticked? Yes. Would I strike as a last choice? I do not know to be honest. So incase you think I am arguing over whether the strike is illgal or not allow me to make my point here quite clear. I believe that the strike is illegal.

My first point is regarding classroom size. I dare anybody who says that classroom size is not an issue to walk into any public school and go to a classroom above the grade 4 level. You will most likely discover that the classroom has 25 - 30 or over students. Take a look at the actual physical size of the classroom. Look at the resources they have. Ask how many TA’s there are? And for what need the TA is there for. Ask how many learning needs, behaviour needs and special needs children are in the classroom. Then, ask the teacher how long they are at the school each day? If you can go into that room and not say that their is a problem after this point then all the power to you in sending your child through the public school system.

Furthermore on this point in addressing classroom size at the secondary level or at the post-secondary level. I go to TWU, one reason why I go there is because of class size. The classrooms I have learned the most in have been small classrooms. Being in a classroom with some 100 - 200 of my fellow class mates sucks. Smaller classroom size means more access to the teacher which means a better learning environment and more physical space to move around.

After talking with a student today who is in her final year of highschool I became further convinced that classroom sizes have to be capped. The reason for this being is she told me about her teacher who has to teach a grade 8 class where the teacher has a possible 6 or 8 kids who have A.D.D. Try and teach a classroom of 30 students where almost a third of them are A.D.D.

Now once again I agree that the strike is illegal and I don't know what I would do if I were in the teachers shoes. The fact that there has been no agreement between the two sides says one thing to me, someone is not listening. Being a business major there is one thing I know and that is the employees are the experts. The teachers are not striking because they want to milk the government for everything they are worth, they are striking because they are unhappy with their work conditions. If you were placed in horrible working conditions, but loved your job what would you do?

The way the school system is now I would be appalled to send my kids through it. Not because the teachers do not care but becasue they would not be able to get the attention they need. I would rather send my kids to a private school.

Now on the matter of the "lack" of complaining from students in university classrooms, I would have to agree with you. As I mentioned before I prefer a small classroom sizes in my unversity level courses and I think large classrooms suck. However I am a mature student who has decided to attend university. Most people in my class are also there by choice and want to pay attention. Therefore the teacher who is teaching the course is in an optimal learning enviroment since the students who are there all want to learn and so the teacher does not need work on getting all the students to pay attention.

The government has also been digging themselves into a hole for sometime now. By this I mean creating new laws that in affect elminate the accuracy of classroom sizes. For example the Liberal government stripped the teachers from being able to make provisions to classroom sizes in their collective agreements. The courts disagreed with this stripping and so the Liberal government created a law to override the courts. The Liberals then stopped the system that gave an actual count on the amount of students in every class, the number of special needs students, and the grade level of all students. Instead all that is given now is an average from each district. This is the reason why the actual size of classrooms is not known.

I am sorry to say that I will have to disagree with Blair and Jon on the matter of classroom size. The government has to stop making laws to get around the school system and start paying attention. Although I agree that the strike is illegal, I also believe that we should be investing into our future. This involves giving students the attention they need at a younger age so that they may get the education they need.

Jonathan said...

First of all, Ashley, you say the teachers are striking against injustice. But what moral principle or natural law is the government violating? Here is the kicker though. You say that "Christ calls us to fight injustice" which means "sometimes breaking the law."

But that is not his example. Name one instance where he broke the law or incited others to do so. There is not ONE INSTANCE. In fact, he was tried by the authorities, BOTH PILATE AND HEROD and was found to be an innocent man by any sort of legal standards. Hence the term innocent as a lamb. Following the logic, it would seem like Christ's example would be to follow the law, not fight injustice by breaking it. Jesus says to Pilate, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would fight to prevent me being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But now my kingdom is not from here." It is quite clear, to me anyway, that Jesus sought to do his work peacefully and in the system he was in, rather than arouse the authorities. The BCTF mission is hardly a crusade.

The second point I want to make is that I think we are forgetting that Education is a privledge NOT A RIGHT. It is a privledge to have eyes to see and ears to hear. Likewise, it is a privledge to go to school. The government, some time ago, did not even provide public education. I think it is reasonable to expect that all kids will be put in a school. I do not think it is always feasible that there be optimum conditions for every child. It is the reality of bureaucracy.

kd said...

Just to clarify...I acknowledge that the strike is illegal. The teachers are breaking the law. I just think that in this case, the law is not the final say because those who are making the law are abusing their power to do so.

Jonathan said...

One more thing about their working conditions. What other job gets a full year salary for less than 9 months worth of work?

Sure they may have to work extra hours marking assignments at home. But its not like they don't get a sweet deal that compensates for it.

kd said...

"What other job gets a full year salary for less than 9 months worth of work?
Sure they may have to work extra hours marking assignments at home. But its not like they don't get a sweet deal that compensates for it."

Are you even from here? Have you even ever met a quality teacher? That comment is so completely ignorant I don't even know where to start, but hey, I'll try anyways.

a. Our public school year in BC goes from the first week in September through to the last week in June. That's 10 months of being in the classroom.

b. The teachers are there in the schools working sometimes for weeks before and after the kids are there. Pretty much every August I can remember, I have been in the classroom with my mom helping her put up new bulletin boards and setting things up for the new school year.

c. "extra hours marking assignments"...Do you honestly think that this is all that needs to be done outside of the actual school day? What about prep time before and after school? My mom often goes to work for 7am, stays there until 5pm, only to come home and work on yet more stuff. What about day planning? What about putting together field trips? It's more than just the permission slips. It's itineraries, parent drivers/supervisors, checking locations, etc etc etc. What about designing curriculum? My mom has spent a huge amount of her time throughout her career helping design the French as a Second Language program. What about dealing with parents? They are not all nice, you know. What about coaching school sports teams? Conducting choirs? Directing school plays? Did you know that the teachers don't even have to do these extra-curricular things, and yet they do because they want the kids to have a decently rounded education? What about report cards? At my mom's school they require her to have a first and second draft of the reports, including extensive comments on each individual child. These come out a few times a year, and often require at least a week or two of intense work at home, that is, if you are lucky enough to own the computer program on which it needs to be done. If you don't own it, you can count on having to stay in the school's computer lab well into the night.

Teachers work harder than most people do in their professions, they often use their own personal finances to fund their classroom supplies (go into any elementary school and ask a teacher where they got all the silent reading novels lying on their shelves), they go way beyond the call of duty, and you're saying that they get a "sweet deal" because they get the summers off? That is so incredibly belittling. Anyone who is going into education for this "sweet deal" won't even last a year. They will be torn to shreds.

Ashley said...

Their salary is SPREAD out over the year. They don't just get paid extra during the summer. And, teachers don't exactly have a sweet deal...especially beginning teachers (and by beginning teachers, I mean the first 5 years, or any time they switch teaching a grade). Most teachers get to school before 8, leave at 5 or 6, also do extra-curricular so maybe get home at 7 or 9, and then go mark at home. Fun times.

Second of all, I hear you on the injustice thing. It wasn't me who said that, but thank's for addressing me. We have talked about the strike in my PDP for the past 2 weeks. (That's where a lot of my stuff is coming from as I'm working through this). I don't know if I said that I agree with the teachers striking for their injustices. Maybe you took me out of context. I said something about it's too bad the government failed to listen to their needs, and it's too bad the teachers saw no other alternative but to strike. If I said something otherwise...that's what I meant. I definitely stand by my belief that both sides have failed to see that their stubborness has not been in compassion for the students. I think this is in corinthians too, where love is about rights and law (I'll find that verse for you). I'm glad to see that they are coming to resolution.

I agree with Peter on the classroom sizes at a University level. In primary or intermediate schools many students are not intrinsically motivated. They do their school work for the teacher or their parents. Where as at University, most are extremely self-motivated, and we're doing it for ourselves. It's a bit different, we can see the value in our education.
Professors don't have to deal (with a few exceptions) with behaviour problems and classroom discipline.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter said...

"Education is a privilege NOT A RIGHT."

Jon I would have to disagree with you on this statement. A long time ago education was a privilege, and not a right. However in our society today we have made it a right to go to school. If there was a child who was not allowed to attend a public school, our society would retaliate. So yes maybe at one time education was a privilege, but now it has become a right. So wouldn't it be elitist thinking to say that education is only for the privileged?

Jonathan said...

"Are you even from here? Have you even ever met a quality teacher? That comment is so completely ignorant I don't even know where to start, but hey, I'll try anyways."

Ashley, my mom is a teacher too. Don't pretent my comments are completely ignorant or that I have never met a quality teacher.


And that three month figure comes from having every holiday, spring break and winter break off, which is roughly to at least a month.

kd said...

Jonathan, that wasn't Ashley who said that, it was me. I'm sorry if I hurt you by calling you ignorant. That wasn't fair of me to say.

Also, I've been thinking about some of your points. Just a thought to consider about your application of Rene Girard's theory: what if the government is trying to scapegoat the teachers just as much as they are trying to scapegoat the government? The way that they went about trying to take away the union's power definitely looks like that. If you're going to argue Girard's theory in this matter, you've got to look at the motivation of all involved, including the government, wouldn't you say? And in a Christian light, I'm not so sure Christ would have taken either side in this matter (even if one side is more legal), because all issues aside, it just became a muscle fight. I still stand beside the issues I have stated previously (i.e. the needs of the kids in the classroom, the everyday struggles of the teachers, etc.), but I think that this whole conflict became something that it wasn't even about to begin with. I think that everyone involved could have acted with more tact.

I will include myself in that too, if at any point in this discussion I have simply pointed a finger for the sake of placing blame and joining in the process of scapegoating. I apologize for that, and ask your forgiveness.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter said...

Jon just a friendly reminder. Before quoting people make sure you quote the right person. That is a second time you have misquoted.

Ashley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ashley said...

Jon, I would never call you ignorant, and thanks to KD for clarifying :)

Even though that comment wasn't necessarily directed at me, I hope there's no hard feelings. I think you have gained many insights into the teaching profession from your Mother and I would never want to negate that. In every profession there are different experiences, and from being in a public school since September, and being at TWU for PDP workshops, I have had perhaps, different insights to the teaching profession. The struggles are genuine, and I think it's hard to speak in generalities, which standardized education often does. The thing is, I'm going into the teaching profession for the rest of my life, and I have just found that I disagree with many of the comments you have made about the classroom and education system. Please note, not about whether the strike is legal. Oh, and that verse I was talking about is in 1st Corinthians.

I'm kind of sick of debating you on this blog...so if you ever want to talk about this instead of misquoting me and making me sound foolish and ignorant, that would be fun.

Jonathan said...

It was a good run. I think it is time for a new post and new topic!