Opinion

Apathetic parents mean teachers don’t have a chance

Minister of Education Peter Fassbender walks out of the bedroom wearing a robe over his flannel pyjamas.

He shuffles to the kitchen for coffee where he meets Premier Christy Clark, whose unevenly tussled hair makes it obvious she slept on her right side.

The camera pans to B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker, who is outside on a lounge chair, catching some rays. His hair is an audience favourite. Fans of Team BCTF post Instagram selfies of their own Iker mullets to show solidarity.

Kids, parents, teachers, politicians and the media tune in nightly to the reality TV show Big Brother: Teachers’ Strike. For three months, contestants on two teams — Team BCTF vs. Team B.C. Government — have lived together in the Big Brother house, where they are cut off of all forms of contact from the outside world.

They go through a series of competitions that reveal character under pressure. The public votes for its favourite housemate, who will determine the contract for B.C.’s public-school teachers. The show has higher ratings than The Amazing Race Canada.

Jim remains the lone wolf against Team BC Gov, and this morning, he is pouting.

In the previous night’s game of Loser Blinks First, Christy and Jim held each other’s gaze for four minutes. On the line was the 1% discrepancy in salary the two sides could not agree on. If Jim won, he would get the 8% salary increase he was fighting for. If Christy won, they reduce their original offer of 7% to 6%.

As the clock neared the fifth minute, Peter attempted to distract Jim with a loud hand clap. It worked. Jim blinked, then swore Christy grinned like the Cheshire Cat. Peter whispered, “Mission accomplished,” with a wink for his ally. Fans of the Christy-Peter alliance made #nomoreteachersdirtylooks trend on Twitter.

It’s voting day. Three-million viewer votes are cast. Jim wins with 75% of the vote. “Because he doesn’t have an agenda,” tweets @fanofBCTF, having clearly forgiven Jim’s misstep in the diary room when he suggested Team B.C. Gov’s most recent salary offer was less than its previous offer, after which Peter marched straight into the diary room and called Jim a liar (upon which #BCTFpantsonfire trended on Twitter).

Like the B.C. NDP after a provincial election, Christy and Peter are perplexed at how they could have misjudged the public’s support. Later, a confidential B.C. Liberal Party report entitled Lessons Learned in the Big Brother House reveals transparency and voter engagement were the cause of Team B.C. Gov’s ruin.

With the entire population voting, and every interaction between each side of the debate on record, it’s a game changer. For the first time since the last world war, to retain their majority, the government would have to placate parents of school-age children.

The report concluded the government must avoid activities that encourage citizen engagement. Parents will not engage in politics — even when the topic is the quality of their children’s education — unless it is presented as a reality TV show so they can vote anonymously via electronic device from the privacy of their living rooms.

Parents are uncomfortable with public displays of controversy like walking a picket line—or even honking to show support for teachers picketing—so they avoid the topic.

As long as parents remain apathetic, the teachers don’t have a chance.

When Maeve Maguire isn’t writing her monthly column for the News Leader Pictorial, she is creating marketing and technical communications for businesses from her home office in Maple Bay. Email her at maeve@describewriting.com

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