By Andrea Heans
I am angry! I am outraged! But mostly, I feel cheated for myself and for my students; because we are being robbed of a sound educational system. A system in which students can thrive, achieve, dream and believe in themselves with the guidance and support of teachers, principals, parents, educational assistants and other support staff. A system that recognizes that all students function at different levels and at different speeds and they are not just a cookie cutout from the same cookie cutter. A system that embraces uniqueness. A system that is not perfect and needs changes but is far from deteriorating into the abysmal cesspool of incompetent teachers and substandard test scores that the Liberal government and Dr. Avis Glaze’s report would have the public believe.
Two years ago, this month, I was fortunate to be one of 70 teachers, from across Canada, selected to attend the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy in Ottawa. I relished being the learner for the week and finding out new pieces of information that I could take back to my Grade 8 social studies classes. To have the ability to share with them all the wonderful things about government that I learned. Showing off my class copy of Canada’s Bill of Rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Showing them photos of the Supreme Court, the people and the place that uphold the rights of its citizens and the laws. Talking to my students about the Winnipeg General Strike and how previous generations fought long and hard against government and big business to ensure the rights of workers. To ensure that workers were not taken advantage of and that their democratic voices were heard. That we can thank those long ago forgotten generations for the protections and freedoms that we enjoy today.
Flash forward to February 2017. The protections that a previous generation had fought for was stripped by a government in NS through forced legislation. Charter rights were violated, by the very government who was sworn in to uphold them, with complete disregard towards the electorate it affected; a contract was imposed and my students didn’t understand how a government was allowed to do that. They looked to me for answers; however, I didn’t have the answers because I always had faith in government, democracy and the Charter. Government let me down. Government let my students down. Teachers wanted a broken system fixed. Enough resources to perform more than just adequately, supports for at risk students and better education for all Nova Scotians and all we got was a questionable guarantee that change would come.
Flash forward to January/February 2018; the Glaze Report is rolled out. Government accepts all 22 recommendations made by Dr. Avis Glaze, the day after the report is revealed. The first 11 will be implemented by September of 2018. Only just a few hiccups though; the recommendations that the government wants to implement right away have nothing to do with students and will not benefit them in anyway. Secondly, the report is riddled with inaccuracies. Dr. Glaze indicated that the test scores of Nova Scotia students were not meeting the national average, when in fact the scores were at par and in some cases better. Dr. Glaze also indicated that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) is in charge of teacher discipline when in fact it is the School Boards who are responsible.
Government is again looking to disabuse its citizens of charter rights by removing administrators from the NSTU and demolishing democratically elected school boards. Over 77% of administrators across Canada belong to the same union as the teachers. Most trade unions have workers and foremen in the same union, as the mentors must have knowledge of the trade. A collegial model is used to support and mentor teachers and guide students. The school boards give voice to the stakeholders; the citizens. It is a system that has issues, as currently run and needs adjustments not to be abolished outright.
Forcing change for the sake of change does nothing but create chaos and that should not be government’s role. Governments who create chaos historically are ones who are about to inflict a totalitarian regime on their people and take complete control through undemocratic means and the Liberals are flirting dangerously with this line. One only has to search to find the legislation used to impose the party’s will on the good people of Nova Scotia. Bills 1, 30, 37, 148, 75 are cases in point.
In 2017 the Liberals only received 39% of the popular vote while only 53% of eligible citizens voted. With numbers such as that, the Liberals should be opening dialogues with the stakeholders, who are the citizens of this province, to discuss how to move this province forward into the future. This is not the time to impose will, which again is not government’s job. It is also not the time to create chaos to justify the privatization of public institutions which would line the pockets of Liberal supporters. That is the stuff in which governments crumble under the weight of scandal.
This article first appeared at The Nova Scotia Advocate