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Limbo Is Normal For BC Education — Chapter TWO

March 2, 2014 by Tunya

Continuing to develop and prove that outright collusion between our two warring parties in BC education — BCTF vs government-of-the-day — is the norm and a DESIRED state for the reasons of mutual dependence by the two parties on a relatively stable monopoly system.  We can track when this contest started. A contest, which I keep reminding readers, leaves the consumer — students, parents, and taxpaying public — sidelined and forsaken — in limbo.

Our BC education historian, Prof Thomas Fleming, wrote an article that lays out the scenario.  As in his book, Worlds Apart, this article goes to 1972 when BC voted in its first socialist government, the NDP. BC has a rather exacting bi-political demographic — 25 % committed socialist, 25% committed conservatives, and 50% floaters. Teachers, with the aid of their unions, generally rally to the left and in this case helped bring in the new government.  Quote from the section Teacher Power:

“The BCTF executive was by now firmly in the hands of militants, notably supporters of the “radical Marxist” Jim McFarlan, to use historian F. Henry Johnson’s description, who was twice voted Federation president in the early 1970s. McFarlan and his group within the Federation believed schools should be used as instruments of social change, a view earlier espoused by American educational reconstructionists in the 1930s. McFarlan was not at all shy about exercising his political clout.”

Radical unions, including teacher unions, believe in worker control of the workplace.  It was from 1972 that our perennial school wars started which carry on to this day. 

Despite all their feuding, the BCTF and government-of-the-day remain an exclusive club to this day.  How independent schools began to thrive in this climate is an untold story.  Perhaps there was some backroom deal to obtain the acquiescence of the union.  Whatever, canny intelligence within Headquarters has usually succeeded in calling the shots, yet helping retain the institutional status quo.

Literature pays tribute to the sophistication of the BCTF in their struggles.  Lois Weiner in her book, “The Future of Our Schools”, says, “The British Columbia Teachers Federation is a fine example of how to organize for a successful strike, even when defying the courts.”

Use of psychological warfare and propaganda techniques is also employed.  In the article,  “Structuring reality so that the law will follow”, Sara Slinn quotes Larry Kuehn, ex BCTF president, as saying: “The key to our strategy was to restructure ourselves in a way which assumed that we had the right to bargain the whole range of things and then to try to take that into the bargaining arena … the strategic view was that if we did that for a period of time and we have restructured the reality then the law would follow. “…-a0274699540

Sure, today we again see the saber-rattling, but looks like the two parties are still playing footsie.  Yesterday’s Globe and Mail article on the topic of Math in Canada produced this precious comment:  “In BC, the worst math teacher I know, the one who confused my kid so much we had to hire a tutor, is now part of the panel developing the math curriculum. Why? Not because of any math knowledge, but because he’s high-up in the union.”  So even while teachers and parents are having “misgivings” about a new curriculum being developed behind closed doors, by this comment it may seem that unionists are getting spots on plum committees as a method to gain union cooperation and forestall obstacles.

Producer capture reigns supreme.  Consumers get shorted as these two parties do faux battles to again manufacture “labour peace”.  Trust us! 

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