Yes, this is a movie about American education, but because its theme is the betrayal of public education by teacher unions we should pay attention. Our unions in Canada also seriously oppose education reform and parental and student choice whenever and wherever possible.
The Vancouver International Film Festival has two showings: Mon, Oct 4th 6:20pm, Empire Granville, and Tue, Oct 5th 11:40am. The director is Davis Guggenheim, yes, the same director as for An Inconvenient Truth. A well-credentialed “progressive” he readily admits driving past three public schools on his way to his kids’ private school. The movie gets rave reviews from both liberal and conservative press for the expose it provides. It may be the one most important testimony to show how teacher unions interfere with and block needed reform of public education.
The raw oppressive politics is apparently evident when one commentator said the leader of one of the unions appears like “something of a foaming satanic beast”. Anyone who witnessed the well-orchestrated filibuster by elected BCCT Councilors of the public meeting in January, 2010 — techniques and tactics that would have been ruled “out of order” by any parliamentarian – scripts to read from and notes passed — would fear for their sanity and doubt that this was a “democratic” meeting. The sabotage was successful, and the next meeting, April 1st, had to be held in a much larger venue – a hotel conference room – for the blood sport this was turning into. What a charade!
Unlike the US where teachers are allowed to join professional associations instead of unions and if in a union, to ask for a dispensation from paying for political union actions, we in Canada are hidebound by mandatory union membership for all teachers in public schools and no relief from political use of fees.
There are many good reasons to see the film, mainly because we care for children and their futures. But, also because we have the question before us, of whether the BCTF acts in the public interest through its actions regarding the BC College of Teachers.
In preparation of my paper to the Avison Investigation I found a very interesting statement:
“Unions are under no obligation to act in the public interest.” (Pg 50, Professionalism and Unionism in Teaching, Commissioned Papers for the Royal Commission on Education: Vol 4, J. Tuinman, R. Brayne, June, 1988)
Yes, the point is that anything the union does to assist their members is OK. But, is it OK if the teacher union is seen as hurting the public interest or curtailing children’s life chances? We will wait to see what the Report reveals.
Meanwhile, these issues and the movie are on covers of magazines (Time, Macleans), on Oprah (headline — the movie that could “revolutionize”). The issues are choice, teacher evaluations, and parent involvement. Read how this group, The Parent Revolution, views this movie, they who have achieved legislation in California which allows 51% of parents in a failing school to choose a turnaround option: : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-austin/the-wait-is-over_1_b_736874.html
And, meanwhile in England the NUT (National Union of Teachers) is using the best guerrilla tactics it can to thwart the new government’s (conservative coalition) efforts to bring in needed reform and academies. Tony Blair, a previous Labor Prime Minister has argued that the comprehensive education experiment has failed the poor spectacularly. The NUT in its letters this summer states “for the sake of our members and the children we teach, [we will] do everything we can to stop any school becoming an academy.” http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/6228693/part_3/revealed-the-secret-war-over-englands-schools.thtml
For the average person this is a must-see movie to get a feel for the frustrations parents experience as they advocate for their children in public schools. Is our Canadian education establishment as self-serving as the American?
(by Tunya Audain 100925, comment to blog The Report Card by Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun Education Reporter on post “Update on Don Avison's review of BC College of Teachers”, 100921)