Chris Macdonald: If we value our kids’ futures, we should respect B.C. teachers

To judge a society, look at what it values. We value our kids and their futures. The education system isn’t perfect—what is?—but we send them off to school because we love them and want them to have a better life than we did. In turn, we entrust certain responsibilities upon paid professionals, who perform duties we have become largely blind to.

Teachers are society’s punching bags—asked to perform tasks we can hardly imagine and rarely appreciate thanks to a biased media, while society largely regards them as overpaid, entitled babysitters. Until the 1960s, female teachers were given the pink slip if they chose to marry. I need not elaborate on such backward thinking, but this sort of snobbery and abuse against educators has gone on for decades and desperately needs re-evaluation and an ounce of intellectual honesty. Maybe we need a visit from education advocate Malala Yousafzai to teach this government what is really important.

I know what you are thinking. B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker is no JFK. The man needs an intervention from the Fab Five of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy like few people I have seen on television lately. The ’80s called and they want their hair back! He doesn’t score many points for charisma either. But this isn’t about Iker’s desperate attempt to look like Jon Bon Jovi or what you think about the teachers’ union and its bargaining methods or where you lean on the political spectrum. This is about what we value and respect, and what it is worth to us to have an education system that works: for ourselves, our kids, our province, and our educators. The teacher’s union shouldn’t have to have a charismatic, tough leader in order to achieve fair deals from the government. The public should demand that the government have basic common priorities, and since Christy Clark ran on a platform that revolved around families, I would assume she would understand more than anyone else what is at issue here. Then again, spending money on attack ads against teachers is a bit like sending troops off to war and then leaving them homeless and without health care when they return because they’re “out of money”.

There are good teachers and there are bad teachers, as in any profession. But lumping them all together as an argument for the purpose of slander and broad, inaccurate generalizations, as if they are a government-enabled corporate cancer that feasts upon the masses, displays ignorance and a lack of compassion for children and the people we have entrusted to educate them and give them a decent head start in life. The vast majority of teachers aren’t “Mickey Mousers” who couldn’t find any easier ride in university, but people who genuinely care about their kids. And when they are unable, because of a lack of resources, to do their jobs effectively and educate kids who come with a myriad of unfortunate issues and concerns, that should not reflect badly upon the educators, but on the elected officials who refuse to fund the system with our hard-earned cash in any meaningful way to allow that educator to make a difference in those kids’ lives. The system’s basic goal should be to ensure these kids don’t grow up and mug me in 10 years. At this point, that’s no guarantee. And the blame falls squarely upon a legislative body that has failed in its responsibility to give the educators the tools they require in order to make a difference in young lives.

Here are some examples of the issues I am talking about that teachers deal with on a daily basis: kids sharing textbooks (you can imagine how difficult assigning homework would be); lack of decent seating for the kids to be able to see what is being taught; kids whose English is subpar and require extra help as a result; giant class sizes that preclude the teacher from helping multiple struggling students; and kids who come to school hungry or suffering from psychiatric conditions through no fault of their own, but nevertheless require specialized attention—attention teachers alone are unable to provide, because they are only human. Moreover, when you devalue the work of an educator, you devalue the child they worked hard to prepare for life as an adult. Teachers receive all of the criticism when things go wrong, but none of the praise when they go right.

But what do our premier, Christy Clark, and her corporate fascists insist when we argue that public education is underfunded and lacking in necessary resources to effectively educate B.C.’s kids? That the government has spent so much money on other misadventures that its resources are depleted and the money required to fully fund the education system, an ideal they meekly insist has value in this province, has been spent elsewhere. The cost of the Northern Gateway pipeline when all said and done will be in the neighbourhood of $5 to $6 billion. I can think of far cheaper ways to cause environmental damage and violate property rights, but for the sake of the reader and argument, I will not discuss them here.

Let me ask you, though, since we have come this far together: do the priorities of this B.C. Liberal government reflect your values? To answer this question, one must look at the allocation of monies assigned to another prominent sector of government in this province. Fifteen percent of the total budget in British Columbia goes to fund education. That doesn’t include the inexplicable recent ad spending to trash teachers (monies that could have been part of a settlement with BCTF). Forty-two cents of every tax dollar goes health care and only 27 cents to education. In three years, the latter number will drop 26 percent. B.C.’s education spending is already the second lowest per pupil in the entire country. Meanwhile, the government is focused on giving themselves raises and padding the wallets of fat cats and oil companies with your hard-earned money.

Ultimately, this issue is one of values and respect. If we value our kids more than we do oil company profits and corporate cronyism, we should value the people we have hired to do a job we decided long ago would be a function of government for the benefit of all. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. “One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.” Yes, Malala, we can change the world.

Comments (18) Add New Comment
Reason82
"corporate fascists"

And I bet the author wanted to be taken seriously...
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Greedy cranks and whiners
How much do we value teachers? To find out, pick your district from the list at:

http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/accountability/district/sofi/

Then compare that to how much you make.
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If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all.
The majority of comments on online platforms (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or comment areas on online newspapers) are negative. Why is that? Only sad, lonely, negative individuals have time to comment? Positive, happy individuals must have something better to do.
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Philby
And exactly where is the money coming from?
Take your pick:
1/ Higher taxes
2/some other ministry:health? Social Programs? Policing?
3/Borrowed on the never never and passed onto those very students whom the author purports to be saving.
We have the greedy negotiating with the incompetent and paid for by all the idiots like myself.
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leemac
Chris Macdonald certainly not an unbiased commentary???
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If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all.
@ Philby,

You pose a good question. Our government has a 'family's first' platform but fails in all areas, not just education. Considering that health and social programs are NOT fully supported either (social and health programs SUPPORT education and special needs and it is the lack of them that has helped to create these problems), our government must seek elsewhere. Perhaps by decreasing their own salary increases (what was it, 18%).

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If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all.
@leemac

NOBODY is unbiased.
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Reality check
Greedy cranks, I did check out the list to,see what teachers and administrators make and noted,that the list only included those teachers who make over 75,000 a year and does not include those who make less tha that, which is the majority of teachers who are part time or have less than 10 yrs seniority. So, taking that in to,account and knowing the 50+'hour weeks that some of my teacher friends work, they seem grossly underpaid. I do know a teacher (a really good one) who is becoming a firefighter because of the higher pay and more importantly, the respect for the work. I am not a teacher,but I am an appreciative parent.
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Arthur Vandelay
The most basic thing I'd ask of someone who I'd entrust to educate my child would be to respect those to whom you disagree with and recognize that there are two sides to every story. For me, your "corporate fascists" comment has disqualified you from someone I'd want teaching my child. Its a shame that your passion seems to blind you.

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Hazlit
Hey teacher haters--remember you get what you pay for--go ahead and cut salaries and fire teachers, but then you should expect (demand) bad teaching. You cannot tell people they are worthless, treat them like dirt, and expect them to do a good job. Even if every non teacher in world says a hundred times a day "You are a bunch of lazy, overpaid, coddled layabouts" we will never believe it.

All these negative comments will have a detrimental effect on good teaching.
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RUK
Everyone loves teachers, come on.

If this was a referendum on "do we love teachers" then the BCTF is sitting pretty.

But this dispute, as far as I can tell, is mainly about whether class size should be negotiated in the collective bargaining. The union wants to put class size back on the table, ostensibly to protect the quality of teaching, the government has been keeping it out, presumably for financial flexibility.

There is ongoing litigation on this, with a date in October, so there is no advantage to the government to put it back in until their appeals have run out.

Jim Iker must know this. As a spectator, I wonder how he thinks he can make the government basically abandon its appeal and agree to put class size on the table.

The strike option would not seem to have much more leverage in it. Summer school is done. September rolls around, the government will try to legislate the teachers back to work. If that happens, does Iker wildcat them and maybe they all get fired, or start to split with some crossing and some not? Ehhh you'd hope not, for everyone's sake.

What I would hope for now is that Iker is going to come out and make an irresistable case for class size, period.

AFAIK the union has not done this. They have *asserted* that class size is important, and intuitively yeah it would be important. But since this is the major disagreement with the employer (proposed wages are within 1%/year), the main thing that is keeping people out of work and closing the summer schools, and because the court of public opinion is a thing that the government may heed, the union should be selling the necessity of this bargaining item.

We all know that bargaining class size means hiring more teachers proportionally to the growth of the kiddie segment of BC population, which in turn affects the teacher to administration ratio.

While this is arguably a good thing for teachers, please sell the taxpayer on it. Show examples from other jurisdictions where this results in better teacher retention, better class outcomes, etc.

When the threats don't and frankly can't work, try persuasion!
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Fran
The lack of respect for BC teachers is a result of the BCTF's actions and demands. Its focus on retaining incompetent teachers shows how little students matter. And claims of caring for students are quickly overwhelmed by demands for even more time off, massages, fertility treatments, etc.
Act professionally and the respect will follow.
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HellSlayerAndy
"Jim Iker is no JFK. The man needs an intervention from the Fab Five of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy like few people I have seen on television lately. The ’80s called and they want their hair back!"

This one is astonishingly bad.
If I were the teachers, I might request this be taken down because it much more likely to reverse opinion than build support.
This simple minded partisan dreck really does smack of utter contempt for democracy, the public and the kids.
It also really does crystallize why the NDP is completely unelectable every way over Sunday. They ONLY attract people, high on loyalty and ideology and low on talent or even intelligence. This is the type of guy they hire as a communication director and then when they lose an election spectacularly, the Cult is pretty sure it's 'negative ads' or that rotten Clark or something.
No Virginia, it really is people like Chris Macdonald or Jim Iker.

Suffice it to say real professionals don't strike (ie an industrial tactic from a bygone era) and if the teachers truly cared abut the kids, then they wouldn't treat them as if they were car frames that the boss is forced to pay to stow in warehouses in Wisconsin or something. The kids are only that age one time and one time only and you ONLY get that ONE shot.
BC teachers are utterly contemptible and act like garbage collectors and liquor store employees. No respect.
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Angela Miller
What a great article, I hope all the teachers and politicians read this. Way to go Chris Macdonald!
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anon
If you want your country to be successful the key is education. Other countries realize the importance of this, like Saudi Arabia who bankrolls every student to study overseas.

There's plenty of money available just we don't prioritize education at all. Has anybody seen the obscene amount of money spent on Criminal Justice for petty drug crimes and "Management of public funds and debt". Legions of highly paid technocrats, all cronies of the prime minister making assloads of pensions and benefits as a big dead weight on the economy.

Also, look at the school board. Do we even need it? Can retired teachers fill this role P/T with half the salary? Or working teachers during the end of the school year? Another tower of managers all sucking the system dry. What if we adopted a purely public health approach to narcotics and stopped blowing multi millions to jail these people. Better yet, what if the federal gov legalized them and we started to see the kinds of huge tax revenues Colorado is seeing. Do we need to spend $372 million per year on natural gas development just so we can give the majority of the money away to whatever conglomorate swoops in and starts fracking? Does the office of the premiere need $9 million dollars per year? Do we need to spend $83 million on "Aboriginal reconcilliation" when clearly this government is doing nothing on that front. Huge amounts of money spent on "Social innovation". Seriously, go through the BC Budget and wonder where all this money is being spent.

Also, teachers are going to get it even worse soon. Bill Gates is currently going around the world shilling his meritocracy based, stack ranking Microsoft education platform which every single employee of Microsoft has derided as exploitable and awful. Governments are swallowing this pill and it's coming to a public education system near you soon.
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Martin Dunphy
HellslayerAndy:

I'm worried about you. You really need to loosen your tie. Or go more than five days between buzzcuts.
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sticky
If I don't agree with everything teachers and the BCTF are asking for does that make me a member of society who uses teachers as "punching bags" and/or a "teacher hater?" That seems to be what is implied by the writer and some posters here who sound like martyrs.

I don't agree with all the demands, but I certainly don't hate teachers or demean what they do. The BCTF has scrapped with, and its teacher members have gone on strike against, Liberal, NDP and Socred governments over several decades. And, in spite of different political parties, the common denominator in all those fights and strikes is????

If I'm a hater of anything, it's of this insane perpetuation of failed negotiating tactics. For crying out loud, you're supposed to be an educated group of professionals...innovate already!!!
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Alan Layton
I value our kids futures but not at any cost and not unless the teachers can prove they deserve our respect. Just because they are hired doesn't mean that they should be given the chance to just cruise to retirement. Let's have some sort of yearly review. The BCTF has created a completely bogus crisis in a bid to increase their income, benefits and membership. Let's not forget that although the BCTF does not give political contributions their stances on worldly matters that have nothing to do with BC education means they are in essence a pseudo-political party and need to be given the scrutiny that we demand of real political parties. They can start by investigating what the former and current president did with their strike funds.
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