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April, 2015

  1. Democracy – open to stealth

    April 30, 2015 by Tunya

    [Thoughts on “Democracy”.  Letter to Editor, submitted but not published.]

    Dear Sirs: North Shore News, re editorial “The Biggest Loser” – May 15, 2009

    Having been a candidate in the last three elections in the past 8 months (federal, school board, provincial) I would like to pass on a few observations:

    1. Of the 18 provincial North Shore candidates I scored the lowest number of votes. However much that shows disfavor with my philosophy (minimum government) it does not equal a zero value — to me anyway..

    2. I think people do not equate democracy or even freedom with voting at general elections. I felt that many people did not vote because they accept the status quo – there was no urgent need to switch, especially in mid-stream of serious economic problems.

    3. Though many really do crave a voice in decisions that affect them, STV was not seen to be of immediate benefit. The delay before any real changes could happen was discouraging. Benefits were too far away in the distant future, with no assurance of voice anyway.

    4. Voting, in my opinion, is neither a duty nor a privilege, and non-voting is not a shame. Compulsory, government-mandated voting (under duress of fines) is coercive and unthinkable and shouldn’t even be mentioned in editorials in Canada.

    5. No, democracy is NOT just about elections, with the opportunity to “throw the bums out” from time to time.

    6. BUT, democracy still can be stolen from under our feet by stealth and persistence. Here is one example I am familiar with:

    My long experience with education made me very frustrated about the why’s and wherefore’s of the obstacles to meaningful reform. This was so upsetting until I discovered an incredible expose of our own Ministry of Education which documents the effective takeover by the BC Teachers Federation. Please read the paper easily found on the Internet, “The Decline and Fall of the BC Ministry of Education” by Dr. Thomas Fleming of the University of Victoria. Through assiduous application of “cold war” tactics the teacher union has become a seeming “parallel” de-facto government in education. Regardless of which political party is in Victoria this makes no difference. Since 1972 the militant union pursues its relentless agendas. It is an eye-opener to read this short paper about how parents, public and ministry have acquiesced to this aggressive extra-parliamentary power.

    The newly re-elected government has promised a review into education. This is an opportune time to exercise our democratic rights to present complaints and suggestions.

    If I was active in other fields, I wonder how many other pieces of research I could find where our so-called democratic institutions are eroded or being undermined by stealth, either through organized lobbies, business arrangements, union aggressiveness, or other forces beyond citizen oversight.

    No, apathy is not a threat to democracy when people fail to vote in elections. But democracy is seriously compromised when we, citizens and media, fail to keep our governments accountable or we turn a blind eye to opportunists seizing power behind our backs.

    Sincerely, Tunya Audain,

  2. State of Parent involvement in schools

    April 27, 2015 by Tunya

    The State Of Parent Involvement In Schools

    Today I found my talking notes for a workshop I led at a conference — Stereotyping and Discrimination in Education — Nanaimo, BC, Nov 13, 1976 (39 years ago). It was co-sponsored by the local teachers’ union and Malaspina College, with funding from the Office of the Secretary of State (Ottawa).

    My topic concerned parent involvement in education of their children. We had a handout to aid discussion. These are some of the items:

    Q: Are there conditions in the formal education system that could be detrimental to the education of children, and which parents should know about, and take a part in correcting?

    A: Yes, parents should be concerned about the following:
    – 1) teacher union/school board collective bargaining
    – 2) student suspensions
    – 3) student records, student labeling, mislabeling
    – 4) vandalism, “disrupted” youth, alienated youth
    – 5) stereotyping of parents
    – 6) “innovations”, experiments, psychological and pseudo psychological techniques
    – 7) down-grading of the basic skills
    – 8) absence of meaningful standards, evaluation, assessment
    – 9) lack of parent participation in education
    – 10) teacher education often unrelated to the realities of the classroom
    – 11) poor information services, little two-way communication between the system and consumers (parents, students, public)

    Q: Are there ways that parents can be more involved?

    A: Yes, here are a few suggestions:
    – 1) formation of parent or school advisory councils in every school
    – 2) useful information services, genuine two-way communication

    Q: What is the basic minimum each parent should expect now in their child’s school?

    A: 1) Easy, comfortable access to the child’s school, teacher and principal
    2) All information the school has on the child, all information on the programs child involved in
    3) No negative effect or reprisal to the child because of parent’s involvement

    Are parents any better off now, 40 years later? Seems like parents still have a very shallow role in school affairs generally and with regard to their own children.

    [published as comment on Educhatter, 27 April '15)

  3. Accelerate the transformation !

    April 25, 2015 by Tunya

    Accelerated BC Education Plans
    An education conference in BC, Jan 29th heard David Albury, a UK consultant, proclaim:
    “This is a pivotal moment for BC . . . if we can continue to work together in this way we can build on how far we've got and really accelerate and sustain this — we'll achieve what nobody else has yet achieved and that is to transform the system across the whole province . . . to enable all young people to have the skills and knowledge to be successful in the 21st Century.”

    We’ve noticed the frenetic urgency that seems to permeate so much of the literature and planning for these 21st Century Learning transformations. What’s the rush? Where is the field-testing for these radical imperatives? Shouldn’t we be concerned — since we’re dealing with tender minds and hearts of the young — that proper protocols are in place as safeguards against amateur applications? Just what is this future that is being projected that requires these “competencies” of collaboration and communication for upcoming careers and college? Is there actually some global convergence happening that so many nations have to get on board — US, AU, NZ, UK, Can, etc.?

    Like having a magical cataract operation in both eyes I think I see what’s up! There IS a celebration to happen next year, in Washington, DC, to commemorate 100 years of the “progressive project”. AND, to top it off, it is also the centennial celebration of John Dewey’s 1916 pivotal book, Democracy and Education.

    With 15,000 attendees just wrapping up the 2015 AERA (American Educational Research Association) conference in Chicago here is the ANNOUNCEMENT of the 2016 event —

    The theme will be — “Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies”.
    We know, indubitably, that “peer review” and “research” done by like-minded partisan members should not be taken seriously, nor be considered “evidence-based”. But, it’s disconcerting how “research” and foundation papers are ground out as objective truths and are used to influence policies and programs as proofs of effectiveness or need.

    Well, WE ARE to prepare not only for these centennial celebrations — AERA and Dewey — but also for the positioning of “research to inform civic participation, engagement and organized action.” Pretty presumptuous, eh? Awareness and skepticism should be our response.

  4. usurpers’ remorse

    April 24, 2015 by Tunya


    A very quick history of public education and exclusion of parents from school matters. William Cutler, in his book — Parents and Schools: The 150-year Struggle for Control in American Education — wrote that parents and schools get along well as long as it is on the terms of the system. Never the other way around.

    The same indictment applies in Canada.

    In 1980 Simon Fraser University in BC put on a conference — Family Choice, Schooling and the Public Interest. The brochure had this quote:

    * “It is the business of education in our social democracy to eliminate the influence of parents on the life-chances of the young. “- Professor F. Musgrove, The Family, Education and Society, 1966.

    Even as such conferences play at staging important topics, this one undoubtedly did more as a caution against growing parent assertiveness for choices than for any wide “public interest”. But, of course, as seen entirely from the eyes of the industry, the “public interest” can only happen if the industry is in control.

    The question still remains — Is education a state responsibility or the duty of parents?

    Of course parents, who have been usurped from their primary role in education, still do get lip service and tokenism. Or, the opportunity to fund-raise ! It’s all symbolic use of parents.

    The literature is full of arguments why parents should be involved.. This is why the system continues its overtures and even jacked up efforts from involvement to participation to engagement.

    What parents should really be striving for is more driving the system. The idea of Education Savings Accounts which is now a reality in a number of US states, going far beyond charter schools, is what parents should be promoting. This is where for a lesser than total allocation per child, perhaps 90%, the parent can start an education account from which to draw for selected education offerings and services according to the best interests of the child.

    It’s partly remorse from upstaging parents at every turn, and partly the public relations literature that is propelling more pretenses at welcoming parents. Equity and social justice are not being served by government schools finding busy-work for parents. Nor is the education mission more fulfilled from superficial parent involvement.

  5. Toxic soup of education reform

    April 21, 2015 by Tunya

    Why Should SMART People Enter The Toxic Soup?

    “If you are a talented graduate, bursting with intellectual potential, would you like to work in an intolerant field of research, where new ideas are punished by name calling, ostracism and financial hardship, or would you prefer to apply your talents to a field where new ideas are welcome, and innovation is rewarded? – Eric Worrall commenting on lack of applicants entering climate science.

    When something is considered a “settled science”, especially if there are political/philosophical overtones in the field, opponents and skeptics are treated rather shabbily. This comment about climate “science” reminds me of the experience of one reading expert, Jeanne Chall, who experienced similar insults as described above.

    It was at an AERA (American Educational Research Association) gathering in 1964 that the first “scientific” approach to teaching of reading was proposed by Kenneth Goodman — a psycholinguistic process. He was challenged by Jeanne Chall, a longstanding proponent of the traditional method of phonics teaching, with this question: “How do you explain that your readers sometimes inserted words in their oral reading that weren't in the text?”

    Now, that’s a significant observation. What if the text said: “Cocaine is harmful to people” and the reader was heard to say that cocaine was not harmful — wouldn't that possibly be a dangerous meaning conveyed or understood by the reader?

    Goodman states in his book (On Reading, 1996) that he forgot what he answered.

    Nonetheless, the Reading Wars rage on to this day — some assert that reading must be “taught” (via phonics, Chall) while some claim that the Whole Language (Goodman) approach is superior and that reading is “caught”.

    Anyway, here is the story about Chall’s ostracism:

    Jeanne Chall died in 1999 but in a reissue of her last book a foreword written by Marilyn Jager Adams made these potent observations:

    “ . . .reviewing the research on phonics, Chall told me that if I wrote the truth, I would lose old friends and make new enemies. She warned me that I would never again be fully accepted by my academic colleagues . . . Sadly, however, as the evidence in favor of systematic, explicit phonics instruction for beginners increased, so too did the vehemence and nastiness of the backlash. The goal became one of discrediting not just the research, but the integrity and character of those who had conducted it. Chall was treated most shabbily . . . “ (pg vi , The Academic Achievement Challenge)

    Speaking now for myself, a parent and now a grandparent with grandkids in the system, I can really understand why today’s parents just don't want to engage or be involved in this toxic soup called monopoly public education. I applaud the growing movement of parental choice through Education Savings Accounts where informed choices in the best interests of the child can be made instead of having to fight or get sucked into New Age untested experiments.