Who Should Rule Education — The Government or Teacher Union?

Who Should Rule Education — The Government or Teacher Union?

This question arises because in British Columbia, Canada, the BC Teachers' Union has successfully, over a number of years, undermined the value of standardized testing — the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA).

The national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, had its columnist, Gary Mason, weigh in on the matter with his position: "BC, not the union, should run education"

Comments now number over 130 and the debate continues to rage.


These are four of my comments to the G&M online discussion:

1. Who is calling the shots in BC education?

Since 1972, when the NDP swept into government in BC, the teachers’ union has ruled the roost in matters education. They gained a foothold into the corridors of power, learned the in’s and out’s of influence, and have never relinquished their beachhead since.

Gary Mason now asks the crucial question: BC or BCTF to rule education? Looks like a showdown at the Victoria corral is imminent regardless of who the premier will be.

We are a laughing stock to the rest of the world if we continue to follow the BCTF script.

What bothers me the most is how the BCTF gets others to do their dirty work for them. Gary Mason mentions how parents have now been recruited to withdraw their children from the tests.

Yes, it took two years, but that script has now borne fruit. It was their October 2008 newsmagazine that published the call: “We need a parent boycott”. The article considers the reasons why teacher insubordination or a boycott would not work:

Divisive of teachers – pits activists against dissidents

Political suicide – the public doesn’t really understand

Legal suicide – teacher boycott would be ruled an illegal strike

Therefore, VOILA, the paper goes on, “we must strengthen and refine our existing efforts to undermine the tests and support a powerful parent boycott.” http://bctf.ca/publications/NewsmagArticle.aspx?id=16804

Of course, on top of past successes with parents, more “tweaking” must go on. “Our job is to empower them in that task” that is, get MORE parents than ever to withdraw.

As a grandparent I deeply resent the way teacher unions have contemptuously treated parents in the past, and I’m ever more distressed how current parents are being co-opted and exploited to fulfill the BCTF agenda.

I urge Gary Mason to do a follow-up story on the many ways in which the BCTF has been recruiting parents – the YouTubes, the parent conferences, the advocacy organizations they fund and expedite, the capture of school boards, the research papers, etc. It would blow your mind!

It’s wrong, and very unfair to parents, to students, and society as a whole.

2.  Parent and Student Choice Desired

("Give the unions a choice – get with the program – or everything goes on a voucher system." [bigred85] This was a response by a reader.  I agreed as below:)

I agree. We need a voucher or tuition tax credit program so that people can choose their preferences in education styles. If people choose progressive schools with progressive teachers that don't like testing they would still have to recognize that taxpayer dollars have to be accounted for. There would still be government monitoring of the effectiveness of dollars spent — to see if the job expected was being done.

3.  Parents and Community Did Not Forfeit, They Were Usurped

(Another reader felt it was the parents and community who should run education, but observes that "that basic right" has been forfeited a long time ago. [rbairos]  My reply below)

Yes, parents and community and media may have been sleeping, dozing, or turning a blind eye while the teacher unions gained more and more power and benefits.

But, because the BCTF has such tremendous funds at their disposal — far superior to any other lobby group in BC — they can mount very sophisticated propaganda and promotional campaigns. They readily promote coalitions and quickly sponsor advocacy groups at the drop of a hat.

The very concept of a lay public school board has been substantially compromised by educators in BC. Because we have no conflict of interest rules governing, we see many teachers, ex-teacher union officials, public service union officials, etc. being elected as trustees. We’ve even seen candidates offered teacher union electoral support if they signed pledges to support teacher union agendas.

How does this picture sit with you? Teachers on both sides of the bargaining table?

The teacher union, furthermore, is quick to issue C&D (Cease and Desist) letters to those who criticize a bit strongly and it doesn’t hesitate to use SLAPP (Strategic lawsuit against public participation) processes to have a court decide if a person has defamed or just spoken too pointedly.

This is not unique to BC. Teacher unions internationally are a factor in cowing people into acquiescence and compliance with their projects – undermining of standardized testing being just one such campaign.

In BC they are so successful because they have been politically, militantly active since early 70s.

4. The Debate Rages

I have consolidated my comments on this debate and placed them in a logical order on my blog — Genuine Education Reform Today.

Who Should Rule Education — The Government or Teacher Union?

Who Should Rule Education — The Government or Teacher Union?

Who is calling the shots in BC education?

Parent and Student Choice Desired

Parents and Community Did Not Forfeit, They Were Usurped

I’m not doing this to bolster my views, but as background for what comes next.

I want to highlight the importance of what our columnist, Gary Mason, has been able to achieve. His article has flushed out a critical player not yet heard from.

While the debate is urgent it has remained at a rather local level, the teacher unions, the ministry of education, the parents, etc. What has remained hidden till now are the Masters of the Game, the university people behind the scenes. And, there are many – professors, deans, departments, programs, foundations, etc.

Please read today’s letter to the editor on this issue from Heather Lotherington, Professor, Multilingual Education, Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Education, York University, Toronto. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/letters-to-the-editor/jan-28-letters-to-the-editor/article1885541/

The letter is titled “Testing, testing”, written in educational jargon and conceptual convolutions that I find difficult to follow. I do get some of the sarcasm lobbed at “aging politicians who support standardized tests.” In other words, she is for “contemporary literacies” which invalidate such old fashioned tests as those that check for the 3Rs.

Lotherington and the whole linguistic industry seem to have an agenda which needs huge public attention. Why is there such a resistance to teach reading anyway? How will people decipher history? Twitter won’t do it?

The progressives who talk like this are responsible for dumbing-down and it’s very costly, to our children, our future, and to our wallets.

Has anyone every calculated how much taxpayer money goes to these high falutin, pompous and pretentious studies going on in our universities? And the cost to our civil society?

One thought on “Who Should Rule Education — The Government or Teacher Union?

  1. Who should rule education- Government or Teacher Union?
    This is the same as asking- Who should rule education, those who have never set foot in a classroom, or taught a day of their lives, or those who have a clear understanding of how our public education system continues to crumble?
    I cannot believe how people can even begin to justify what is happening to our public school system. Classroom composition and access to quality learning tools continues to dissipate. Four years ago, students had one to one laptops. Every student had a computer so that they could learn in a 21 century environment. Now, once again, more computers have been removed from classrooms. Students, in 2011/2012 will have 1 laptop for every 3 or 4 students; if they are lucky.  The government also insists and cramming more and more designated students (students with learning difficulties) into a classroom. This takes away from every other child in that classroom. Way to improve learning conditions, government. Just shows, once again, how disconnected the government is with students and learning. IT IS NOT A BUSINESS, it is our children's learning! We need to stand up for our public education system, stop funding private schools and create fair learning and teaching environments for everyone involved in the classroom. The ones that really lose out in all of this are the children.
    The Minister of Education, Abbotte said on CBC, “For classes like band, the more students you have, the better, because you are dealing with an orchestra.” Really, Mr, Abbotte, an orchestra??? Actually, band teachers are dealing with 30 plus students, who are all trying to learn a different musical instrument. Did I mention they are between 11 and 17 years of age. Orchestra, hmmmmmm. Just another example of how those fighting the BCTF have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Let’s make this about the kids and the type of environment  you want them to learn in.
    N. Elliott

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