August 21, 2014

Dear (White) Teachers

By Michael Doyle | Published August 16, 2014 by Michael Doyle’s Science Teacher blog

Excerpt:

Those of us who teach in public schools, who earn our living using public dollars, are obligated as civil servants, and more importantly, as human beings, to carry the discussion of what it means to be public. For us to be people.

I teach young adults in a public space. Their space. My space. Our space.
Race has been criminalized in our public spaces.
Has been for a long, long time.
That’s our problem.

I have long lost hope that I can much change private discourse of folks of privilege, though I bark enough that some conversations get shorted when I’m around. But silencing private conversations will not change a damn thing, despite the ooh-goody-goody dopamine dose of self-righteousness you might feel.

Let’s talk about our roles as public teachers in public spaces publicly.
Let’s remind our students (and ourselves) that the public belongs to all of us.
Let’s remember that abstractions, as powerful as they are, are not real.

Read more: doyle-scienceteach.blogspot.it/2014/08/deat-white-teachers.html

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August 20, 2014

WHY I’M ON THE PICKET LINE

By Tara Ehrcke | Published by Our Times

Excerpt:

Yes, I believe I deserve a raise. But, just like other teachers, that isn’t the main reason I voted yes to strike. A society is measured by how it treats everyone. This includes the poor, the disenfranchised, the “ordinary.” In British Columbia, children of poor and working-class families get overcrowded in underfunded schools. The children who need the most from education — the hungry, the hurt, the struggling ones — get the least. In contrast, the ones whose parents can pay get the most.

The “public” in public school shouldn’t mean just providing a building, with some tired teachers to deliver a curriculum, the success of which is measured by standardized tests. A good public school system should provide high quality opportunities to every single child. While our public schools have many wonderful programs and many dedicated teachers, the sad truth is that there are also overcrowded classrooms, children falling behind, and a workforce exhausted from trying to fill in the gaps.

Read more: http://ourtimes.ca/Between_Times/article_356.php

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August 13, 2014

Why we shouldn’t avoid the word “white”

By Ben Sichel | Published August 8 by no need to raise your hand

Many years ago, many people had no qualms about calling themselves “white.”

Today, more people seem to be squeamish about it. Students in class have occasionally asked me if we can use another word in place of “white” to describe people – “technically we’re pinkish”, one once said. In casual conversation people sometimes take pains to avoid the word, substituting terms like “Caucasian” or “of European descent.”

What is “Whiteness” anyway? Like race generally, it’s important to remember that Whiteness is a social construct, not something biological; and one that was deliberately created to categorize people into superior and inferior castes.

The history of racial classification is often quite absurd. In the United States, the infamous One-Drop rule categorized anyone with a trace of Sub-Saharan African ancestry as “black,” no matter their skin tone. Even today, the U.S. census lists five rather arbitrary racial categories: White, Black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (with Hispanic/Latino falling under a separate “ethnicity” delineation). Considering how most people’s intuitive idea of “race” relates foremost to physical appearance, it’ll surprise some to learn that while two people with light skin and blue eyes could be categorized in different racial groups (say, White and American Indian), a person from Pakistan and a person from Korea could be lumped together under “Asian.” (Check out this on-line exercise to illustrate this absurdity.)

Read more: http://noneedtoraiseyourhand.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/why-we-shouldnt-avoid-the-word-white/

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August 12, 2014

Dear Canadian taxpayer: I love you

I have come to realize just how important taxpayer-funded social programs have been for me and my family

By Katharine Cukier | Published August 10, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Dear Canadian Taxpayer:

I know this may seem rather sudden, and I barely know you, but I have a burning desire to tell you that I love you.

As I consider my half-century of life, I realize that it is you, dear taxpayer, who has made much of that life possible.

And yes, at this very Wordsworthian-Keynesian moment of powerful fiscal feeling, I am overlooking your imperfections. But oh please let me sing your praises while this feeling, sincere and true, sweeps me off my feet.

Like all love affairs, there is a dose of narcissism at play here, because I, too am a taxpayer. When I see, you, I see a reflection of me. I identify with your grumbling skepticism over losing half or more of your earnings to several levels of government. I know too well the frustration of crumbling infrastructure, car-busting potholes, health-care waiting lists, or an inaccessible justice system. There’s a long way to go to improve the lives of aboriginal people, and our policies on climate change. And as a Montrealer, I have writhed with moral disgust that our taxes have been lining the silk pockets of the Mob.

And yet, in spite of all of these heartbreaking betrayals, I still see your goodness shining through.

For I have understood that without you, beloved Canadian taxpayer, there could be no me.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Dear+Canadian+taxpayer+love/10106439/story.html

August 11, 2014

The Hypocricy of Austerity

By Robert Green | Published August 9, 2014 by Ricochet

In a move that seems perfectly symbolic of the sort of politics his government represents, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this week that the five members of the government commission charged with reviewing government programs and recommending where to make cuts will be paid the tidy sum of $1.03 million for about eight months of work. Commission President and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard will take home $265,000 for explaining to average Quebecers where they must make sacrifices.

The message being sent here is unmistakable: Tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not Quebec’s elites.

rich_get_richerThough his government has been in power only a short time, this is not the first time it has sent such a message. The government’s first budget contained cuts to school boards that are likely to seriously affect the services provided by already underfunded public schools, while leaving the subsidies wealthy families receive to send their children to private schools untouched. Apparently it is for the children of Little Burgundy to shoulder the burden of repairing Quebec’s public finances, not the privileged children who live up the hill in Westmount.

In fact this message is nothing new. From the PQ’s “deficit zero” politics of the late nineties to the Charest government’s attempts to “re-engineer the state” in the 2000s, Quebec’s political leaders have for years been saying that average Quebecers need to make do with less, that government spending is “out of control” and that we as a society are “living beyond our means.”

In 2010, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand called for a “cultural revolution” of austerity. This revolution led directly to the longest student strike in Canadian history and the defeat of Bachand’s government. Now back from exile, and sporting a new leader, the Liberals are set for round 2.

However, a cursory examination of Quebec’s recent spending trends shows a very different picture. With the exception of a spike in stimulus spending following the 2008 economic downturn, Quebec’s expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been trending downward since the early nineties. Even at the height of stimulus spending in 2009-2010 Quebec was spending significantly less as a percentage of GDP than it was in the early nineties. This is hardly a picture of out-of-control spending.

So if spending is not the cause of our current economic predicament, what is? The answer lies on the other side of the balance sheet, in revenues rather than expenditures. Continue reading

August 8, 2014

CJAD’s Gang of Four discusses Liberal youth-wing proposal to abolish CEGEPS

Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Dino Mazzone discuss the Liberal youth-wing proposal to abolish CEGEPS with Tommy Schnurmacher. Click here for the podcast.

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August 6, 2014

Who should pay for Quebec’s deficit, the rich or the rest? CJAD’s Gang of Four debates the politics of austerity

austerityAnne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Matt Gurney discuss the politics of austerity in Quebec with Tommy Shnurmacher. Click here for the podcast

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July 21, 2014

The case against asbestos: Accidental exposure, entirely preventable

By KAT SIENIUC | Published Jul. 20 2014 by The Globe and Mail

Excerpt:

It’s still regularly found in older schools and universities across Canada, wrapped around pipes, above ceilings and behind walls.

Though asbestos is the biggest workplace killer in the country, Health Canada is committed to the position that it’s only an issue when fibres become airborne and “significant quantities” are inhaled or ingested. While the Canadian government maintains it has “consistently acted to protect Canadians from the health risks of asbestos,” dozens of countries – including Britain, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Germany and Denmark – have banned it outright in recognition of the fact that exposure to fibres can cause various diseases, including mesothelioma and other cancers.

The World Health Organization has declared all forms of asbestos carcinogenic and recommends its use be eliminated; the International Agency for Research on Cancer has said there is no safe form of asbestos, nor is there a threshold level of exposure that is risk-free.

In Canada, many cash-strapped schools and universities follow Health Canada’s position that asbestos is safe if contained – abatement is wrapped into other renovation and repair projects, and teachers and staff are taught how to prevent accidental exposure. But despite the best of intentions, accidental exposure happens.

Read more:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/the-case-against-asbestos-accidental-exposure-entirely-preventable/article19677984/

July 3, 2014

Privatized Education Steals From the Poor, Gives to the Rich

By PAUL BUCHHEIT | Published June 30, 2014 by Truthout

Free-market capitalists view education in terms of products and profits. The products, to them, are our children. The profits go to savvy businesspeople who use a “freedom to choose” rallying cry to convince parents that they’re somehow being cheated by an equal-opportunity public school system.

Education reformers focus on privatization, public program cutbacks, and plenty of revenue-producing testing. There are at least five truths about education reform that suggest ignorance or delusion among its adherents.

1. Privatized Education Steals from the Poor, Gives to the Rich

Eva Moskowitz makes $72 per student as CEO of the private Success Academy in New York City.

Carmen Farina makes 19 cents per student as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

More salary shock: The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year.

A McKinsey report estimates that education can be a $1.1 trillion business in the United States. Forbes notes: “The charter school movement [is] quickly becoming a backdoor for corporate profit.” The big-money people are ready to pounce, like Rupert Murdoch, who called K-12 “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

Meanwhile, Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history. Arts funding overall is lower than ever, with a National Endowment for the Arts budget barely accounting for 2 percent of the National Science Foundation budget. Spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago.

Read more:http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/privatized-education-steals-from-the-poor-gives-to-the-rich

July 2, 2014

British Columbia teachers’ strike – Let’s keep our eyes on the prize

By Tara Ehrcke | Published June 28 by rankandfile.ca

Two weeks into a full scale strike and teachers in BC are holding the line. In fact, the resolve at the pickets is stronger than ever. Teachers know that after 12 years, we cannot return to a contract that doesn’t address class size and class composition–meaning also teachers’ working conditions.

Teachers are also increasingly frustrated with the blatant hypocrisy of the government.

Since the strike was announced two weeks ago, the government has continued to prevaricate and frustrate. First, it went to the Labour Relations Board to have the marking of Grade 12 exams deemed an essential service. It was successful with this application. Secondary teachers are required to try and produce marks despite the disruption caused by the lockout and strike. Many teachers are angered that they did not have sufficient time to properly mark and assess student work.

Next, the government went back to the LRB to seek a declaration that grade 10 and 11 marks are essential. What they got was an order that school administrators would produce these marks and teachers would have 48 hours to “verify” them. In some districts, only the marks from the pre-strike term will be used. In others, term marks were averaged. And in one district, marks were “bumped up” to the next grade level for certain grade ranges. So, for example, any student with a 40 – 49% would receive a 50% passing grade. The government also announced that the English 10 and Social Studies 11 provincial exams would be modified to remove most of the written answers. This was done to appease the administrators who have been called in to mark the exams in place of striking teachers. Secondary teachers were rightly angered at a government that made such a mockery of assessing student performance and would hence undermine the credibility of our education system.

Read more:http://rankandfile.ca/2014/06/28/bc-teachers-keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize/

June 28, 2014

Teacher Strikes Make British Columbia Better

By Michael Stewart | Published by Rabble.ca June 20, 2014

Excerpt:

All enemies of labour would like to colour contract negotiations in the crassest terms: how much? This impulse even impacts how unions enter into bargaining — over-emphasizing how wage increases are not the real issue (even though they often are — and why not?) and governing much of the public relations battle large unions are now tasked with in a public increasingly hostile to collective bargaining rights.

But teachers — teachers are different. It’s okay to say it. Or maybe it’s better to say that things are different when it comes to teachers. First of all, the notion that teachers are only in it for the money just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. This is particularly true in B.C. where a whole generation of teachers have only known underfunding and job precarity. Teachers undergo six years of schooling, sometimes more, to enter a workforce where annual layoffs are commonplace while mainstream media derides them and their profession on a daily basis — all this for a starting salary $3000 less than the national average in Canada’s most expensive province. Yeah, they’re probably not in it for the money.

Read more:http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/michael-stewart/2014/06/teacher-strikes-make-british-columbia-better

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June 26, 2014

Why are BC teachers so angry? Watch this video!

June 21, 2014

The disconnect between economic growth and teachers’ wages

By | Published June 19, 2014 by The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

A number of recent articles on the BC teachers’ strike have suggested that teachers could get the wage increases they want to see, as well as the needed investments in reducing class size and improving class composition, if only they supported resource development.

Jordan Bateman of the BC Taxpayers Federation summed up the line of argument (and took a jab at teachers’ math skills) in his recent blog post title “Simple math for teachers: economic growth = higher wages”.

The theory is indeed very simple: resource development would lead to economic growth and economic growth would lead to higher wages for everyone, including teachers.

But does it actually work in practice?

Let’s take a look at what has happened to economic growth and teachers wages post-recession.

Read more:http://www.policynote.ca/the-disconnect-between-economic-growth-and-teachers-wages/

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June 20, 2014

Teachers deserve public’s support

BY MARK LEMSTRA | Published JUNE 19, 2014 by THE STARPHOENIX

Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.

Teachers are stressed out today. On the one hand, they have a government that recently has unilaterally imposed multiple changes on their working conditions. The latest contract offer was rejected not only because it included insufficient remuneration, but because all other components essential to working and learning conditions would be negotiated at a later date.

On the other hand, teachers are represented by a federation that is having problems communicating the incredible challenges that face learning environments.

Some of the unilateral decisions by government include reducing the number of educational assistants, attempting to introduce standardized testing with no evidence to support it, and making top-down changes to curriculum by ministry officials who are too far removed from the classroom. In the media, however, the main discussion point is wages. Teachers’ recently refused a four-year offer with a 7.3 per cent increase, but this needs more explanation.

Their previous contract was for 985 hours of total assigned time for teaching as well as other duties such as preparation and staff development. Last year, the government unilaterally mandated a minimum 950 hour instruction time. Assuming teachers only worked this minimum, that would leave just 35 hours a year for all other duties.

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/touch/story.html?id=9953324

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June 17, 2014

Support B.C. teachers’ battle against unlawful education cuts