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Teacher Newsmagazine  Volume 17, Number 5, March 2005 

Readers write

Responses to "It’s all about achievement"

These letters were received in response to an article in The Vancouver Sun, which resulted from David Denyer’s article "It’s all about achievement," in the Nov./Dec. 2004 issue of Teacher.

Good news on the front page of The Vancouver Sun and someone is finally saying it and, most extraordinary of all, The Sun is picking up on it! These were my thoughts when I got the paper this morning. Your message is "right on," and it needs the widest circulation. Teachers all over the province will be cheering you on!

We are on the cusp of a defining moment: Do we want children to be enthusiastic lifelong learners, fully self-actualized citizens, or do we want them to be drudges in the George Orwell nightmare?

I write as the founder of the Drawing Network, which was created to demonstrate that children have a natural language in drawing that contributes to all language values except immediate and practical communication, and in a blessed confluence, contributes to the joyful acquistion of literacy at the same time.

When I worked with student teachers in the system (for some 28 years), the atmosphere was a good deal more conducive to the mental health of teachers and children. I keep in touch now with teachers who tell me how depressing the ambience is, and standards, constant supervision, and a narrow view of the "educated person," are the principle causes. Now the bureaucrats and educational right wingers have one thing in mind: to create a "work camp" for children.
Bob Steele, associate professor (Emeritus)
UBC, Vancouver

Thanks for your article about work camps. I agree completely and often suggest that school for many children is partly jail and partly child abuse. Rather than recognize learning differences, we cram more into smaller spaces and turn those who don’t fit into behaviour problems or learning problems.

Students exist to generate numbers; the data is collected in a larger receptacle and sent on to the district, etc. It would make a good satirical cartoon. Perhaps students who finish work quickly should be made to stay in and practise working more slowly so they don’t become a problem for teachers. Students who read well should be given glasses to make words blurry so they slow down.

Students who don’t fit the mold become behaviour or learning problem students or simple failures. I have eight IEPs in my class of 31 because the system can’t meet their needs and won’t admit it. Failing them means the system has failed. Which it has. They are not failures; they just can’t handle the work-camp atmosphere of school and its one-dimensional approach to them. Our system has finally advanced enough to be effective in the Industrial Revolution.
Barry Loewen

Retired teachers’ advocacy

Over the past two years, the B.C. Retired Teachers’ Association Board of Directors has noted that retirees, as both seniors and educators, appear to be very hard hit by the economic and social changes brought in by the B.C. government. The members of our organization began to question what we were doing about the situation. The directors felt that we had to take a more pro-active approach, yet remain a politically non-partisan organization.

In the autumn of 2003, a subcommittee of the BCRTA Social Concerns Committee was established to discover if any other retired teachers’ organization had faced this particular problem. It was found that the Retired Teachers of Ontario had, some six years earlier, established a committee to work on this very problem. After examining what Ontario had done, the BCRTA Board of Directors created a standing committee on advocacy.

One of the functions of the advocacy committee will be to prepare position papers on issues of concern to our members. Our position will be made known to any candidate running for political office in the province. Our first paper, which we hope to have ready for the next provincial election, is on healthcare. Another function will be to liaise with other educator and/or senior groups to make sure that decision makers understand our position. We will also be urging our members to take a more active role in the electoral process, by attending all-candidates meetings, asking questions of the candidates, and urging the candidates to support our position on issues of concern to us as seniors and educators.

For more information about the BCRTA’s role in advocacy, please contact our office, 604-871-2260; they can redirect your question.
Glen Pinch
White Rock

It’s determination not ability

It is amazing and gratifying to see the response of Canadians and others around the world to the victims of the tsunami that struck southern Asia. However, the response also points to a huge flaw in the neo-conservative management styles of many governments including Canada, the United States, and British Columbia.

Usually, when neo-conservatives are faced with a social problem, say homeless people, their response is to deny that there is enough money to deal with the problem and that money isn’t the solution anyway. Only when those problems become "disasters" (homeless people possibly freezing to death in unusually cold weather) is money "found."

The Asian disaster should clearly send a message to all of us that money is not the problem. Political will is the problem. We can have a decent equitable healthcare system, a stable equitable education system, and a compassionate equitable social-assistance system. The money is there. The political will to collect the money is not there.

When disaster strikes, people are usually only too willing to try to make amends through their monetary donations. It is an unfortunate reality that neo-conservatives and neo-conservative groups like the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation have convinced us to elect governments that view crumbling healthcare, education, and social assistance not as disasters but as the result of "mismanagement." The only mismanagement I can see these days is with governments that refuse to have the political will to collect and distribute tax money for the benefit of the society rather than the benefit of individuals.

The tsunami relief effort allows us to see that neo-conservatives, like the emperor, have no clothes. Keeping more money in our individual pockets will not bring about solutions to the healthcare, education, and social problems we face any more than keeping more money in our pockets would help the tsunami victims.

A provincial election is looming, and I think the question we need to ponder is Do we want to build a province where some individuals prosper or a province where we work together to make a better society for all of us?
Peter Vogt
Nicola Valley

Jamaican thank you

On behalf of the president, other officers and members of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, we wish to thank the BCTF for the assistance sent to the Caribbean Union of Teachers to assist teachers affected by the hurricanes that passed through the region late last year.

The sum sent was divided equally among the four islands that received most damage from the hurricanes, namely, Bahamas, Grenada, Haiti, and Jamaica. The funds were used by the teachers’ unions in the respective islands to assist some teachers.

Once again, we thank you and the members of BCTF for your generosity and caring. We wish for all a successful 2005.
Adolph Cameron
JTA Secretary General

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