Archive for February, 2012

February 21, 2012

Harper Chooses Prisons Over People

Bill C-10 – The Harper Government Omnibus Crime Bill

A great video explaining why public sector employees and their unions need to be concerned about the implications of Harper’s omnibus crime bill C-10.

To contact the Canadian Senate, go to:

February 16, 2012

Ruth Rosenfield and the MTA Memory Hole

By Robert Green

In his classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell describes an authoritarian society constantly in the process of rewriting its own history. As an employee of this government’s propaganda department (ironically named The Ministry of Truth), the novel’s main character Winston is responsible for removing any information that might be seen as “inconvenient” to the regime. He and the other employees of the Ministry of Truth spend their days snipping such inconvenient information from news reports and tossing the snippings down pneumatic tubes, known as “memory holes”, where the information is never to be seen again.

The novel is ultimately a critique of the way political leaders attempt to manipulate information as a means of controlling people and maintaining their own power.

Members of the Montreal Teachers Association (MTA) might be surprised to learn that a similar process occurs within their own union.

Anyone who compares what transpires at a typical meeting of the MTA Reps Assembly with what appears in the minutes of these meetings will quickly notice that there is a major difference between the two. Namely, the minutes have been purged of any questions, discussions or debate that could in any way reflect negatively on the MTA’s leadership. The statements of those expressing critical opinions are all too often reduced to, “[Teacher X] spoke to the motion”. Meanwhile questions, discussions or debate that reflect positively on the MTA’s leadership are given disproportionate space within the minutes.

read more »

February 16, 2012

Rethinking Schools Editorial: Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Illustration by Seth Tobacman

“The more that schools—and now individual teachers—are assessed, rewarded, and fired on the basis of student test scores, the more incentive there is to push out students who bring down those scores. And the more schools become test-prep academies as opposed to communities committed to everyone’s success, the more hostile and regimented the atmosphere becomes—the more like prison. (This school-as-prison culture is considerably more common in schools populated by children of color in poor communities as opposed to majority-white, middle-class schools, creating what Jonathan Kozol calls “educational apartheid.”) The rigid focus on test prep and scripted curriculum means that teachers need students to be compliant, quiet, in their seats, and willing to learn by rote for long periods of time. Security guards, cops in the hall, and score-conscious administrations suspend and expel “problem learners.”

Schools without compassion or understanding occupy communities instead of serve them. As our society accelerates punishment as a central paradigm—from death penalty executions to drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen—the regimentation and criminalization of our children, particularly children of color, can only be seen as training for the future.

But the movement to end the school-to-prison pipeline and the movement to defend and transform public education are too often separate. This must be one movement—for social justice education—that encompasses both an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and the fight to save and transform public education. We cannot build safe, creative, nurturing schools and criminalize our children at the same time.

Teachers, students, parents, and administrators have begun to fight back against zero tolerance policies—pushing to get rid of zero tolerance laws, and creating alternative approaches to safe school communities that rely on restorative justice and community building instead of criminalization. (See Haga.) A critical piece of that struggle is defying the regimen of scripted curriculum and standardized tests, and building in its place creative, empowering school cultures centered on the lives and needs of our students and their families.”

Read the entire editorial:

February 8, 2012

CBC’s ReCivilization on ‘Open Source’ Education Reform

Open-Source Knowledge – Episode 2

“Don Tapscott looks at the transformation of education and science, and how the sharing of knowledge is moving from the industrial-age model of a one-way broadcast from teacher to student to collaborative, discovery-driven learning, enabled by the web. He also examines a new model for science that favours open data over isolated, patent-driven research.”

Click here for the podcast

February 1, 2012

The “education crisis” myth

Ignore the media spin. Wages and working conditions — not skills — are the real reasons jobs get outsourced

“The fact is, while our cash-starved schools would obviously benefit from more resources, and while better schools clearly couldn’t hurt our society, there’s no empirical, data-based reason to believe that improving our schools would reverse the trend of America losing high-tech jobs to slave-labor nations like China. Without a change in tax and tariff-free trade policies that economically incentivize companies like Apple to keep moving production to cheap labor havens overseas, the only “education” that will bring those jobs back is the kind that indoctrinates high-tech American workers to compete with Chinese workers by accepting the horrific labor conditions those Chinese workers experience. Based on the New York Times’ own reporting on Apple, that means an education system in America that teaches our workers to simply accept being paid $17 a day, to work six days a week in 12-hour shifts and to live in crowded dormitories so that they can be stampeded into the factory at any hour of the day. It means, in short, an education system that tells Eric Saragoza to shut up and accept the employer’s draconian demands.

Not surprisingly, the curriculum for this new education system is already being championed by the very political and media realms that originally constructed the Great Education Myth. In Congress, a group of senators is proposing to eliminate overtime protections for vast swaths of the America’s high-tech workforce in the name of competing with China. In state legislatures, lawmakers are looking to weaken child labor statutes, also in the name of competition. And on the New York Times Op-Ed page, Thomas Friedman implies that Americans are lazy and declares that “average is over” and that “everyone needs to find their extra” — elite-speak for the notion that Americans, who already log some of the longest workdays in the world and who are already among the planet’s most productive laborers, must work even harder than they already do.”

Read More: