Teacher Union Narrative Sets A Toxic Tone


Every year the teacher union in British Columbia (Canada) mounts a militant protest against standardized testing in public schools.  This year the Principals/Vice-Principals Association has added their support.  Below is the essay I wrote showing that underlying the FSA (Foundation Skills Assessment) protest is the political ambition of the left-wing union to dominate education matters in BC as well as politics generally.  I show a history going back 40 years of the BCTF maneuvering itself into dominance.  


Toxic Political “School Wars” Harm Parents and Children

(by Tunya Audain published Jan 20, 2011 in the blog The Report Card of the Vancouver Sun)

For those people who see themselves as mediators or healers or therapists of some kind or other in this never-ending “School Wars” scenario — I wish they would see the harm they are causing. It’s like saying to a bully, “It’s OK, just don’t do it again.”  “No problem, let’s just get on with our lives.”

The bully won’t stop; in fact will be emboldened.  The victims will continue to suffer.

We really should not be using the idiom of an elephant in the room.  This is too mild! I think the image of the 900 pound gorilla is more fitting.  It seems to fit the BCTF, don’t you think?

Large and powerful that lives by its own set of rules.  A dominant player, an overbearing entity, an unbeatable presence always to be reckoned with whose experience, influence and skill threatens to defeat competitors with little effort.  

Add on top of that a political ideology, a left-wing Marxist agenda, tied to international solidarity movements with other teacher unions in the world, and you have an entity both powerful and committed to persevere in its political victories. Some say the BCTF should be considered a political party.

I’ve noted before that BC generally splits three ways politically: 25% committed left-wing socialist, 25% committed conservative/traditional and 50% uncommitted middle.

Parents and students no doubt split that way too.  Why then should parents and students be badgered by the BCTF and to be under their sway?  This is when the desire for real choices such as vouchers to choose non-BCTF schools comes to the fore.

BC has seen over 40 years of this unrelenting political agenda foisted on them.

The history is there. In BC this goes back to 1972 when we gained our first socialist government (NDP) and the teacher union established a foothold in the Ministry of Education and provincial decision-making in general.  This beachhead has not been relinquished since.

In 1975 the outgoing BCTF President, Jim MacFarlan, said to the Annual General Meeting about his presidency:

“During those four years some of my political opponents both within and without the Federation have called me a militant, a socialist, a Marxist, a radical. Well, although those terms were used by frightened people, I have never attempted to deny those allegations because they are all true.”  (March 27, 1975)

Some of those old teacher unionists from those days are still active, stirring the pot, never forgetting their political agendas.  They have gained positions as trustees on school boards, a number have high positions on staff at BCTF headquarters, while others keep trying to organize parents.

University professors and Deans of Education also get into using the BCTF as the vanguard in pushing for left-wing agendas through the public education system.  Their code word is “neoliberalism” as in “We need to stop neoliberalism in education.”

The best description of neoliberalism comes from a former Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Charles Ungerleider (1998-2001), now a sociology professor at UBC.  In a paper condemning the predominant slant of our media towards conservative/traditional values, he says

“•…Canadian media express predominantly neo-liberal values.  

 • The economic interests of individuals should not be fettered by considerations of social equity.  

 • Choice, as a manifestation of freedom, is a virtue in its own right and the means by which individuals are able to express approval or disapproval in the market.  

 • People are better served through private entrepreneurialism than by public regulation or provision of services.  

 • Productive efficiency is the primary – perhaps singular – criterion by which any public policy should be judged.” 

He goes on to say: “This list is not surprising. A substantial number of Canadians subscribe to neo-

liberal values”  and, he continues to explain how provincial governments and media cater to this value set.  They “extol the virtues of individualism, choice, competition, productive efficiency, and private enterprise.”   

See his essay: Government, Neo-liberal Media, and Education in Canada


If the parents of my grandchildren subscribe to those values: individualism, choice, competition, productive efficiency, and private enterprise, why should my grandchildren have neoMarxist values imposed on them?.

In the current FSA fight another professor has gotten into the fray, Donald Gutstein, communications, SFU.  The Nanaimo Teachers union is using his paper on debunking the neoliberal agenda in their moves to oppose the FSAs.  In his 28 page paper “Reframing Public Education” http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Issues/FSA/Gutstein-ReframingPublicEducation.pdf Gutstein  references the work of a well-know Marxist, David Harvey who has been credited with helping to bring back social class and Marxist methods as serious methodological tools in the criticism of global capitalism. 

Nanaimo story is here http://www2.canada.com/nanaimodailynews/news/story.html?id=e7b01d7a-f55a-4e84-948d-680e772bfd33 

What I’m trying to show is that the BCTF is definitely heavily promoting its Marxist agenda and using neoMarxist literature to do so.  We should not be pussyfooting around and say BCTF is doing its job, helping teachers.  No, they’re also re recruiting people into their agendas and people should be able to say “No”.  

Obviously the Principal/ VP association has now been swayed to join the BCTF in its agenda.  And Stepan Vdovine a young progressive trustee is proud to point to his article where the ex-Dean of Education at SFU, Paul Shaker, is also on board. http://www.vdovine.ca/2010/12/does-education-advocacy-weaken-public-support-for-the-system/

So parents, be aware of the hidden agendas, and the hidden curriculum here in BC politics and education.  And don’t accept those words from people who say, “Let’s just get on with it”.  We need to know when to say “No” and when to retreat to better choices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *