Opinion

B.C. schools get an F in labour management

Alistair Taylor - Staff photo
Alistair Taylor
— image credit: Staff photo

So, the teachers go out on strike and everybody is asked to take sides.

With social media that becomes even more imperative as supporters and detractors alike post strongly-worded opinions about the situation.

I find it interesting how there’s an element of arm-twisting to their statements: “The teachers need our support because they’re fighting for our children’s education...” or: “Send those blasted teachers back to work, give me their salary, I’d take it...and the two months’ off in the summer to boot!”

There’s no middle ground. There’s nobody saying, “Does anybody feel the teachers are being shafted by the government or should they really be content with what they’ve got? Does anybody have any feelings on this? I’m having a hard time knowing just what to think.”

No seeing both sides of the situation or being undecided because there may be valid points in either camp.

Nope, “yer either fer us or agin’ us.”

Is our education system a bleeding mess? Well, no actually. Our education system is actually pretty good. It’s not the best but it’s far from the worst. In fact, according to one website, Educate Every Child on the Planet, Canada has the ninth best educational system on the planet (seventh in another ranking). Ninth. Now, of course, that’s a national average, given that Canada has 13 educational jurisdictions. Could it be better? Yes, of course it could be better. Should we be content with ninth? Well, no of course not. But the world isn’t going to end.

So, what thoughts do I have about the strike? First of all, full disclosure, my kids have been and are home-schooled (but through the provincial education system, so we are affected by the strike).

But what occurs to me with the strike is how labour strife only seems to affect our public institutions these days. Maybe it’s because we now no longer have a unionized major employer (the pulp and paper mill) but it seems like the only people battling it out on picket lines are public sector employees. Private sector workers have long had to deal with market realities and settle for a lot less.

Public sector workers still have the ability to wield the walk out stick to further their aims. But they lose a lot on the moral ground if they strike. It’s not just shut down the mill and deprive the employer of income. Teacher strikes threaten a student’s educational year.

It’s another one of those situations where we need to know how much is enough? How much does a quality educational system cost? And if that is important to us, then we need to tell government to buck up. If it isn’t, if keeping our taxes down to a certain level is more important, then quit complaining about the poor education system we have. You get what you pay for.

The big problem with this is, whether a settlement is negotiated or imposed, either way, we’re probably going to have to go through this again.

The biggest failing of our education system is the F we get for our inability to run our schools without educators and administrators butting heads regularly.

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