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It’s all about ideology in BC Education

April 2, 2014 by Tunya

posted in Society for Quality Education blog, Ap 02, 2014


It’s All About IDEOLOGY In BC 

Ideology is not just about politics and power and who wins in periodic elections.  It’s about “worldviews” and “mindsets”.  What gets “embedded” into the mind.  And this embedding goes on — not episodically as in elections — but continuously in and through our public schools. 

The teachers’ union, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, believes in “vanguardism”  — being at the forefront of methodical change.  The BCTF casts itself as a “social justice union”.  Each of the 60 plus locals has a social justice committee and this is where the activists, as arms of Headquarters agendas, do their reconnaissance, expansion and enforcement.  Sounds like war?  Well, it is equivalent.  “School Wars” is the title of a book that aptly describes the tone of our history of insurrection and turmoil on the education battle field. 

Collective bargaining in BC education is not just about bread-and-butter and working conditions issues.  It’s also about who is in charge of the minds of the young in BC.  For you see, professional development is a big issue in the demands at negotiations. 

This issue of PD is “telling” — because one just cannot get straight answers here.  Just how much PD is organized by the BCTF and how much by the employer?  Perhaps Geoff Johnson, being an insider, could give us a report? And, the content?  I’ve seen in listings where labor unions bring in prepared packets as take-aways.

The BCTF is not your ordinary militant teacher union as so many others are.  It does not belong to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.  They belong to Education International (EI) — an activist left organization.

There are factions within the BCTF and it’s always the most militant faction that gets to dominate the executive.

BC historically has experienced “frontier characteristics” in its development.  It provided opportunity for pioneers of all sorts as well as for militant labor organizers. Hosts of communist unionists from Scotland and England started to dominate the resource industries. (1) In this climate, when the socialists (New Democratic Party) finally gained electoral power in 1972, the “radical Marxist” Jim MacFarlan, BCTF president, was there to assert influence. (2)

It is from those days — 4 decades ago — when the ideology of “worker control of the workplace” became embedded in BC politics.  This division remains strong to this day, especially in public education, with the “irresistible force” coming from the BCTF and the “immovable object” being the government of the day.  Governments of every stripe — socialist, liberal or conservative (Social Credit) — have struggled hard to maintain “management rights” against this barrage. (3)

I suspect that “management rights” is the reason for the Liberal government’s appeal of a recent court decision that interpreted that it was in violation of fair bargaining.  Twice the same judge made that interpretation. And that’s why we have courts of appeal.  It’s the interpretation that’s in question.  That’s my guess.  In other words, just who governs BC education anyway?

It’s not that BCTF sees itself as “above the law” in pursuing its ideological agenda for the minds and hearts of the young of this province. But it does display resourcefulness and cunning that’s astonishing. From the days of the 70s we still have some warriors still ensconced in BCTF HQ — pre-eminently Larry Kuehn, ex-president and now head of Research and Technology. This is one strategy he relayed to a labor researcher — “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.” (4)

It’s not just in BC that this militancy and incursion into policy is being challenged.  Australia, which had a recent changeover of government from Labor to Conservative Coalition, is presently undergoing two Reviews:  a) Curriculum Review, and b) Teacher Training Review.  An issue in the election was whether there was undue political left influence on the curriculum.

While I’m hoping for a better interpretation from the courts about who rules BC education I am now even more worried and suspicious of what Geoff Johnson has disclosed — “the professional arm of the BCTF is champing at the bit to move alongside government with the careful implementation of some of the ideas in the government’s B.C. Education Plan”.  THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL.  There’s a lot about “critical thinking” and from what I see that’s mainly about who’s oppressing whom.

Just what is in store for our children and grandchildren in BC?  If the “transformation” is anything like the Common Core in the US we do have a lot to be worried about.  And, this post by Tara Houle and the mathematics cause she is involved with is just one example of parents being concerned about a “dumbing-down” of the curriculum.

On this topic of departures from standard math this debate has gone across Canada.  A Math professor, Robert Craigen, U of Manitoba, did examine some of the proposals for the BC Ed Plan, and I am aghast as his pronouncement —  “What possessed the Ministry to give the BCTF full control over design and content of the curriculum? I’ve seen some of their modules and sample course plans, lessons . . . If I lived there and had small children I’d be seriously thinking about leaving the province, for their sake.” (5)

And let me close by saying there has not been even ONE invitation by the BC Ministry of Education for the general public to know or be involved in this radical shift.

NO — I am not looking forward to the continuing ideological warfare in BC, whether it’s in the body politic or in the classrooms of BC.  CHOICE — Oh, Blessed Choice — When Will That Come To BC?

(1) Militant Minority: British Columbia Workers and the Rise of a New Left, Benjamin Isitt, 2011

(2) From Educational Government to the Government of Education: The Decline and Fall of the British Columbia Ministry of Education, 1972-1996, Thomas Fleming,

(3) Worlds Apart: British Columbia schools, politics, and labour relations, before and after 1972, Thomas Fleming

(4) Structuring Reality So That the Law Will Follow: British Columbia Teachers’ Quest for Collective Bargaining Rights, Sarah Slinn, 2011…-a0274699540

(5) Teaching Elementary Math: Why is Teaching the Basics Making a Resurgence? October 6, 2013 by Paul W. Bennett

[UPDATE:  23 August, 2014.  Teacher union still on strike.  School Start Sept 02 in doubt.  Minister of Finance promised parents will receive $40 day that schools are unavailable.  No negotiations since 08 Aug. I’ve heard that another bargaining chip is that union wants 50% involvement in hiring of new teachers.  My concern about ideology transmission is heightened if this is true, and on top of PD being a big issue — is this another methoid to ensure the “desired” mindset through hires and continuing training? TA]

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