“You do not have to die. If you cease resistance, you will be treated well and return someday to your family.”
The words – in Arabic – appeared on the backs of millions of propaganda leaflets American planes dropped to Iraqi soldiers during the Gulf War.
Your safe conduct pass listed instructions on how to surrender: shoulder your rifle; hold your pass above your head; walk slowly towards us.
Iraqi soldiers were quickly drawn to the leaflets by their flip side, a replicated 25 Dinar banknote with Saddam Hussain’s face on it.
Deceit is the key to propaganda.
In any conflict, it aims at shaking the confidence and convictions of the other side. In the Second World War, an English-speaking Japanese radio voice called Tokyo Rose tried to undermine American troop morale with misinformation.
From Germany, William Joyce, a Nazi nicknamed ‘Lord Haw Haw,’ bombarded British listeners with inflated accounts of Allied casualties. Surrender and return to happier times, he pleaded.
Interviews with captured soldiers show 70 per cent believe propaganda messages, and are swayed by them.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender knows the statistics.
Last week I opened his email to all “B.C. teachers.” Email – direct hits – beats dropping leaflets from planes, hoping they’ll land in the laps of frontline troops.
Mr. Fassbender will send “a series” of them during contract negotiations between the union and the government. Frontline teachers have noted the insincerity, misinformation, and subterfuge. They won’t break ranks over class size and composition, especially after last month’s Supreme Court ruling that legislation in 2002 and again in 2012 stripped that language from the collective agreement, that doing so was illegal and had to be restored.
Justice Susan Griffin said the government tried to provoke a teacher job action.
Mr. Fassbender cries foul. Instead of accepting the verdict, and the criticism, he launches more irresponsible litigation. “Our actions were to de-escalate and seek a negotiated solution,” he said.
The dismissal of contract language for learning and teaching conditions belies this as much as his claim to respect teachers.
“I want to say how much I appreciate the work you and your colleagues do …. ” he writes.
The line sticks in throats.
There are 1,400 fewer special education specialists since 2002, but an ever increasing list of students awaiting tests forced on them by the ministry – a fabricated pre-condition for extra help.
Classroom teachers are told to do some tests themselves to get the ball rolling. They don’t have the time or resources to be a learning assistant or to replace lost counsellors, speech therapists, or librarians.
If Mr. Fassbender appreciated teachers, he’d work with the BCTF to solve problems. He could start with more LAs to assist the growing numbers of grey area students. They’ll be denied support over the next decade as the court appeal creeps through the system again.
“Together, we’ve managed to build one of the best education systems in the world,” writes Mr. Fassbender.
In 10 years or sooner, it’ll be broken.
In 2013, BCTF President Susan Lambert told me it would take $3.3 billion to fix it, not the $1 billion Mr. Fassbender claims now, near Family Day.
His responsibility is to taxpayers only.
But, wrong-headed ministry thinking is not unique to any party.
In 1994, a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled the NDP failed to fund learning disabled students. That prompted North Vancouver to close a learning centre that Grade 3 student Geoffery Moore depended upon.
Tribunal chair Heather MacNaughton found inadequate support was “systemic.” It still is.
Ms. MacNaughton ordered support replaced within a year. Government appealed, setting a precedent for Mr. Fassbender.
To its credit, the NDP acknowledged its early folly before the last election. Adrian Dix promised renewed yearly funding – $265 million over the next three years. He might have turned things around.
Current BCTF head Jim Iker says kindergarten students who needed support in 2002 went without it until they exited the system.
A court appeal seals that fate for this year’s five-year-olds.
“I can only imagine what we could achieve together from a position of long-term labour stability,” says Mr. Fassbender in his email leaflet.
“As Minister of Education, that remains my goal.”
You’d expect to find this kind of doublespeak in George Orwell’s dystopia, 1984.
Expect more leaflets soon.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.