Sunday, August 31, 2014

I'm Afraid for the Future of BC

I haven't written any blog posts about the current situation with public education in BC yet for a few reasons. A lot of other people have produced compelling pieces on the state of education right now, which you may have noticed me sharing almost obsessively on social media. (I Will Hold The Line for BC's Public Education SystemBC Today: Labour Conflict or School Reform?, BC Teachers Strike is Christy Clark's Strike, Why the BCTF and the Liberals are in a current stalemate in their negotiations)These pieces were produced by my teacher friends, fellow parents, writers, people I don't even know personally who believe in public education--so many people. Some of the best of these blog posts, Facebook status updates, news articles, & even tweets were written by my aunt, Cecelia Griffiths, for her blog, Especially About Students. (Go read it. Now.)

Cecelia is someone we should all be listening to in this fight--make no mistake, this is a battle, & we need to win or we're all screwed--because she is in all of the above categories. Cecelia is uniquely qualified in this debate over class size & composition, & what that all means in classrooms now & for BC's future citizens. She is a parent & a grandparent, a Special Education Teacher with a Master's Degree, plus decades of experience in the classroom, & a damn good writer. She knows first hand what underfunding education does to the most vulnerable of our children--the ones with autism, with learning disabilities, with behavioural challenges, with post-traumatic stress disorder--because she was there in the classroom, in the halls, in the hospital, with those kids, dealing with the disasters that result from not getting the help they need until everything explodes.

So in the face of all these eloquently written articles by my aunt & many others, I haven't written anything myself. But I need to say something. I need to write about this, because I'm scared. I understand now what the Liberal government is trying to do to education in this province, & frankly, it scares the shit out of me.

This strike has nothing to do with teacher salaries or benefits. Christy Clark & her party are intent on dismantling what's left of our public education system. I say what's left of it, because they've been underfunding education for twelve years now. Increasing numbers of people who can afford it have picked up their kids & fled to the user pay system of private schools. But I can't afford to do that. Can you?

Thankfully, the teachers have decided that enough is enough. Teachers like my aunt Cecelia, like my friends Dan, Lisa, Gina, Bryn, Chloe, Genny, are all saying NO. No more cuts to special education funding. No more jacking up class sizes. No more ignoring Supreme Court decisions that uphold our children's Charter rights to education. The teachers have put their livelihoods on the line here, with no pay for months now, to fight for our kids. Now we need to get off our asses & stand with them.

I support this strike because I have a stake in the future of public education--obviously, I have two little kids. But even if I didn't, supporting the teachers would still be in my interests. Everyone in BC has an interest in maintaining a decent public education system, because without it, we produce fewer trained, competent workers, fewer university educated people like doctors, judges, engineers, teachers, librarians, social workers. What we'll have more of, is criminals, addicts, traumatized & broken people. (If you think I'm being alarmist, you read The Terrible Trajectory of the Undesignated Child & then think about it again. Don't worry, I'll wait.) Besides the compassion we need to have for others to prevent their lives from becoming shit, let's speak in language the Liberal government can understand: it's outside the affordability zone. Those addicts, criminals, & illiterate people that we will produce by shafting them from age five right till they drop out of high school will cost our system millions in extra policing, hospital funding, prisons, property damage...

Without a decent public education system, the majority of people who will end up at university will be kids whose parents could afford a good education for them. The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer. Notice I didn't mention a middle class there--because there won't be one. You shouldn't be angry just because your kindergartener's going to miss their first day of school this week, or even because your grade twelve kid is going to have difficulty catching up after missing what might be weeks of school. You should be furious because this fight is about the future of public education in this province. It's not about me, it's not about you, it's not about your kid(s). It's about all of us.

If we don't stand up, stand together with the teachers, & fight Christy Clark on this, we're all screwed. & by stand up, I mean literally stand up. Together. Just like our great grandmothers did to get the vote. Liking, sharing, +1ing & tweeting is not enough. We need bodies. So if you can, bring your kids & go to your MLA's office on Tuesday at 10am. Or at 5pm at Fassbender's office in Surrey--details on MLAplaydate. Go stand beside your teachers on the picket lines at your local schools, if only for twenty minutes on the way to work. Come to the BC Federation of Labour rally at Canada Place on Friday, September 5, 5pm. I'll see you there!


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, I've been obsessively sharing on social media too. We need more 'spokesmamas' and 'spokeseveryones'.


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