||Volume 19, Number 5, March 2007
Good article on self censorship
I commend Murray Corren for his timely argument against a parent’s right to remove her child from parts of the curriculum ("A censor? Who, me?" Jan./Feb. 2007 Teacher). Last year I had a child removed from my class production of A Christmas Carol because the parents objected to the Christmas (not Christian) overtones. The child clearly wanted to participate in the play and, in my view, would have benefitted from doing so.
If it can be shown that parts of the provincial curriculum are harmful to the development of a child, reason would dictate that the curriculum be changed. The governmentally sanctioned policy of pulling one child out of the classroom seems wrong, not only because of what the child will miss, but because the other children would suffer—if indeed the curriculum was harmful. Of course no parent(s) has convinced the provincial government that its curriculum is deleterious in any way.
Also in your Jan./Feb. issue of Teacher, is a letter from Richard Peachey who maintains that a parent should, and does, possess the right to remove her child from parts of the curriculum for "genuine conscientious reasons." What Peachey finds objectionable is homosexuality. Yet the position of our courts and governments, as made plain in The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is that homosexuality is acceptable in our society. As Corren rhetorically asks, how can a parent be allowed to restrict learning stimuli from her child that the society has affirmed to be worthwhile and in a child’s best interest to learn?
For "genuine conscientious reasons" our provincial government has included instruction on same sex families. I think it is timorous for the same government and school boards to permit some parents to dispense with parts of the curriculum, particularly instruction that promotes sensitivity toward people with a different sexual orientation. Peachey’s putative right to deny his child this instruction is not defensible in a society expressly opposed to bigotry and hate.
Vancity ballots out in March
Not all teachers wind up like Judith Wilson, building a 75-million-pound property empire in the English countryside, but by and large the banking world sees us as good for business. This realization was part of the reason Vancity took over the Teacher’s Credit Union. Vancity got the branches, the staff and most importantly, the business of many BC teachers.
Each year three Vancity members are elected to the Board of Directors for a three-year term. If you are a Vancity member you should have received your election mail out from Vancity by February 23. When reading the information and contemplating your choice, please consider a voice for BC teachers. Ballots can be mailed to Vancity head office using the enclosed self addressed envelope or dropped off in branch. If you prefer to vote in branch, balloting will be conducted from March 16 to March 24. Regardless of how you vote, the important thing is to vote. Voting is the only way the voice of BC teachers will be heard.
Teachers right to question authority
In a recent letter to the editor (January 23, 2007, Chilliwack Progress), Heather Maahs attacks the BCTF, and teachers in general, for refusing to fill out the government satisfaction surveys. She argues that failure to fill out these forms "thwarts the government’s attempts to give parents an overall perspective of satisfaction." She then argues that teachers are "demonstrating utter contempt for authority," and that they are therefore not being proper "mentors" or "partners in learning." I would like to take exception to Ms. Maahs’ position.
In the first place, Ms. Maahs does not bother to indicate what the BCTF’s arguments are. She presents only one side of the argument, and expects the rest of us to accept her analysis. But when I spoke to a BCTF member, I was informed that the reason for the refusal to fill out the forms has to do with the fact that the forms do not address the real issues that still confront the education system. There are no questions on the satisfaction survey that ask about class sizes, resources, or help for students with special needs. These problems still exist within the school system, where class sizes of 31 and more remain common, and as we have seen in Vancouver, there is not enough money for special needs teachers. By not asking about these issues, the government is engaging in a kind of propaganda campaign aimed at creating a false impression that all is well within our schools, when in reality it is not. Quite rightly, teachers refuse to become complicit in this deception.
More disturbingly, Ms. Maahs seems to feel that the purpose of education is to make students into pliable citizens who do as they are told, and seems to feel that teachers ought to obey orders simply because those in authority have said so. But the purpose of education, in a democratic society, Ms. Maahs, is entirely different from that. What the best teachers hope to establish is respect for legitimate authority tempered by a healthy critical attitude, an attitude lacking in Ms. Maahs’ comments. Let's not forget the example of Rosa Parks, who in refusing to obey "those in authority" kept faith with her own conscience, and so awoke the conscience of an entire nation. Sometimes the highest good is served by those who can think for themselves, not by those who are servile to authority. From that perspective, BC teachers are acting entirely appropriately, and you ought to be thanking them for their courage, not complaining that they are not acquiescent and servile enough for your liking.
Dr. R.J. McKellar
Simon Fraser University