Textbook Techniques Used to Subvert BCSTA

 (This is essay #1 in the series Cockeyed BC Education.)

TEXTBOOK TECHNIQUES USED TO SUBVERT BCSTA (BC School Trustees Association)

(by Tunya Audain, comment to blog, The Report Card, by Janet Steffenhagen, Education Reporter, Vancouver Sun on story: “BC School Trustee Association Elections” 090424)

The idea or notion of school trusteeship is simple and generally well-understood. In the one-room-schoolhouse days it was the parent board that hired and fired the teacher and made sure an expected curriculum was followed.  In later days the board was supposed to be elected citizens from the community to oversee this task. 

IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE THAT SCHOOL BOARDS WERE TO BE RUN BY TEACHERS THEMSELVES!

In British Columbia school trusteeship is shaping up to be a colossal farce.

1.  Many teachers get elected to school boards. Some are from neighboring school districts.

2.  Many of these candidates do not declare that they have teaching backgrounds in their election campaigns.

3.  A number of current trustees have actually been executive members or staffs members of the BC Teachers Federation.

4.  There are no conflict of interest restrictions in the statutes that prevent this.  It could be entirely possible for 100% of trustees of the public education system in BC to be teachers or ex-teachers or parachuted BCTF ex staff members.

5.  That the speed with which the parallel, or mini BCSTA within the larger major BCSTA — called TAG, Trustee Action Group – has been formed points to certain questionable strategies being used:

    a)  An ex-BCTF staff member, now a trustee, is providing the initiative and organizational tools and perhaps funding or wherewithal (in-kind assistance).
    b)  The campaign by teacher unions in the earlier school board elections in November to obtain supportive candidates through pledge sign-ups has laid the groundwork for current organizational momentum.
    c) Worker control of the workplace is a common belief held by militant teacher unionists.  100% control of school boards would actually be desirable.

6.  Teacher unionism itself is now to become a profession in BC with the new Masters of Education program being assembled at the Simon Fraser University to start this fall of 2009.  Two members of the BCTF staff have already been designated as professors who will be contributing to the lesson plans and textbooks in this field.

7.  In these constraining economic times it is very likely that teacher layoffs would be a reality in “normal” school boards.  However, teacher-dominated or teacher-sympathetic boards will continue to use any cost-cutting measures aside from layoffs – at the same time as they will continue to agitate about government underfunding even amidst declining enrollments. 

8.  The coalescing of left-wing and “progressive” groups for fast voter activation and opposition to other feared moves is another aim of TAG besides thwarting layoffs. Such coalitions are springing up all over BC on top of other BCTF-led groups already in existence. Such issues as the following are bound to arise and probably be subject to legislation in the future:  more school choice through charters; tuition tax credits for education provision outside public schools; private scholarships; conflict of interest legislation for school boards; professional designation opportunities for teachers; stricter oversight over university departments of education; school-based management;, teacher incompetence rules.

9.  It is hilarious to see a motion to the BCSTA convention regarding the need to stimulate the economy through school construction and repairs and renovations to schools.  This because of the “concerns” for the “present economic crisis.”! (Endorsed by TAG: how noble!)

10.  It is NOT funny that teacher-led motions will urge the masking of FSA data which is a blatantly self-interested move to prevent transparency about school performance in this province.

11.  TAG has been offered help to critique school board budgets and Ministry of Education funding allocations from the Columbia Institute, a rather “progressive” left think tank.  They offer to add interested trustees to a listserve on these issues. Fraternal greetings were received at one of the organizing meetings.

12.  Actions that in other jurisdictions are called “insubordination” by teachers unions are called “doing their duty to inform”.  In Vancouver parents are receiving union literature through their children as couriers “informing” (more like propagandizing) them about union-led meetings and concerns about class size.

What’s to be done?

A.  Obviously censure is called for.  This is not to censor and stop from speaking.  It is to censure: to criticize; reprimand for inappropriate behavior; to call to attention devious methods used; to rebuke; to slap the wrists of; to be shown displeasure from one’s peers.  Surely the leader of the pack, Mr. Lombardi, and his fellow engineers need to face those who feel offended and compromised personally regarding their own role as trustees and those who feel the very purpose and institution of the BCSTA is being sabotaged and subverted.  The methods used throughout these three months should be up for examination.

B.  The BCSTA should not be used as a cover for covert TAG organizational efforts.  Unless formally endorsed by the BCSTA, such activity provides expenses paid opportunities for TAG to organize and at the same time to continue undermining normal BCSTA activities and should not be sanctioned.

C.  Individual trustees and citizens should visit their MLA’s and apprise them of these extra parliamentary activities which in effect introduce elements of defiant parallel governments and serve to undermine the very structures and functions of democracy. Democracy is a fragile institution and well-meaning citizens should stand up to any totalitarian takeover attempts of a political framework where respect and self-criticism are important.  Democratic good-will and openness to divergent views should not, however, allow institutions to surrender as willing victims to heavy-handed subversion. 

D.  There should be many lessons from these recent events for us to be able to examine the viability and validity of our democratic institutions.  And let’s hope that those who care about the young – in our homes, schools, and communities – will be all the more resolved to help them understand the freedoms democracies bring and what it means to stand on guard for democracy!

Schmaltzy! I don’t think so.  The dangers are real.

 

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