Wednesday 11 June 2014

Freddie Walks the Picket Line

Freddie is a citizen of the world and prefers to remain apolitical, but today he had no choice: to show our solidarity in this latest version of the Provincial Government vs. Teachers, Students, and the Foundations of Social Democracy, he and I joined Leah on the picket line outside the groovy Vancouver high school where she teaches.

We first walked to BCTF Headquarters at 6th and Cambie to pick up some buttons and (I hoped) a T-shirt, but they were all out of the latter.

I was a member of the BC Teachers' Federation for thirteen years. I taught Grade 6 and 7 French Immersion, then K-7 ESL, before veering off into the world of post-secondary education in the early 2000s. The reasons for this slight career change were varied, but one of those reasons was the steady decline in support for public education on the part of British Columbia's increasingly neo-conservative, corporate-butt-licking, social-service-slashing provincial governments (not a uniquely British Columbian phenomenon, I realize).

This is Ken, the guy charged with the thankless task of fielding some pretty obnoxious phone calls and messages (these days, anyway). I heard him take a couple of (innocuous-sounding) calls while I was there, and his tone was entirely pleasant and professional. I don't know that mine would be!

More students per classroom, ever fewer resources and programs, stagnant salaries, a relentless and ridiculous demonizing of teachers ... all with the aim (I'm now convinced) of strangling public education into nonexistence. Because, hey — people whose kids really deserve an education can afford to pay for it out of their own pockets, right?

After our stop-off, Freddie and I walked on to our destination on the east side of town.

Of course, that's not what the BC (Not-At-All) Liberal bean counters say. They say times are tough; belts must be tightened. They say — OK, they imply (unless they've had a few drinks) — that teachers are greedy and combative and unreasonably self-serving. Sometimes they even dare to claim that cutbacks will result in a better, more efficient system.

To which I say: bullshit.

The legal/political manipulations this current government has gone through to rob teachers of their collective-bargaining rights and strip away classroom conditions already contractually guaranteed have been shameless and downright jaw-dropping.
Some of the sins teachers have been accused of (left)

Even if our province were barely scraping by economically (ha), and even if all teachers in the province were "negligently" working only those hours for which they're being paid (yeah, right), I can think of a crapload of costs that should be lined up at the chopping block way ahead of public education (and healthcare). Starting with the Minister of Education's expense account, perhaps?

I'm trying to show off my solidarity buttons here. They say "A fair deal for teachers / Better support for kids."

We did several laps of the school grounds. In the trafficky stretch along E. 25th, the support from drivers was fantastic — loads of honking and waving and thumbs-up. Only two obvious expressions of disapproval the whole three hours.

Anyway, I got out of the business — maybe chickened out. But my ties to elementary and secondary education remain strong. Arguably, everyone's ties to education are strong. After all, those kiddies being sardine-packed in under-funded classrooms today are, in the not-too-distant future, going to be running the joint. And while the idea of a 90-year-old Christy Clark languishing in the care of some illiterate day nurse who can't tell time has a certain appeal, I really don't want things to be that way.

Playing Behind the Picket Line

So. For all my teaching friends and family members, for my former colleagues, for my former students who've since become educators themselves, for the friendly and dedicated folks at Tupper Secondary School ... most of all, for all the students currently in our ailing system — from those who still believe in Santa Claus to the ones who'll be eligible to vote in the next federal election — Freddie and I walked the line this afternoon.

Leah's program: Tupper Young Parents Services (TYPS)

Their garden grows beets, and I got to take some home.
Solidarity forever!


  1. Thanks for your post and support!

  2. Amen, sister! It's strange to note you're having the same issues there as do we. And, oddly, the politicians never seem to suffer financially even when there's a drought of funding....Hmmmmmm! Thank you for the post!


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