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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 6, April 2005

Readers write

Schools can be saved

Thank you for the quality articles that are written in the Teacher newsmagazine.

I was touched by the article about Aldergrove Elementary, written by Sue Mackenzie and Monica Zurowski. In Coombs (near Parksville on Vancouver Island), our little school is a heritage site that has suffered the similar threat of closure for many years, too. Recently, a hard-working committee got "Community School" status for us, and it saved our school. Our elementary school, with Kindergarten through Grade 5, is now called French Creek Community School. I suggest that may be an option for Aldergrove Elementary to pursue, as well.

Thank you!

Cathy Van Herwaarden

Teacher has great insights

Kudos to Pat Clarke and Lori Robinson for providing a focus on the impact of current political/economic trends on the education system. The articles provide a context for understanding a profound shift in the culture and climate of public education over the past decade or so. As a recently retired teacher who maintains a consultative relationship with a large school district, I have been able to reflect, with increasing objectivity, on a pervasive ennui approaching, despair and cynicism, within teachers.

Prior to retirement, I wondered if it was just me. Asking different questions now, and comparing the climate with that when I began teaching, in the 1970s, I believe that Clarke’s analysis provides some way of understanding why teachers, both young and old, seem less than enthusiastic about their vocation. "Back in the day," as my daughter says, we were excited to be engaged in a profession that put holism, creativity, spontaneity, cultural and political emancipation, and environmental awareness on centre stage. Today, particularly around reporting periods, classes and staffrooms are infused with the pervasive sense of surveillance and evaluation, flowing from the demands for accountability. These forces permeate the system from Kindergarten to post-secondary education.

Writing in The Vancouver Sun, on March 1, Michael Stevenson, president of SFU, typifies the trend. For him, education is about "investing in and nurturing the rich and lasting economic potential" of our province. Cultural diversity is, for him, a means to the end. Once, educators I knew were driven by a different proposition: that a vibrant economy could be the basis for a richly diverse culture.

The grey pall of despair that saturates the halls of learning has multiple sources. Svi Shapiro, writing in the March/April issue of Tikkun, notes that "the real curriculum of our children’s lives is their subjection to the constant influence of a culture that turns every aspect of life into a commodity." The alternative narrative, which flourished so brilliantly and briefly a few decades ago, though currently submerged and subjugated, is still available. It would mean that students be engaged in the totality of their beings, not as repositories for literacy and numeracy. It would mean that students be provided space in which critical thought and the problematization of knowledge can be encouraged and develop. It would mean that education centrally concern itself with the ethical quality of our lives and that, as Shapiro puts it, "awaken in each person the sense of beauty, wonder, and preciousness of all life on the planet and the interdependence that makes continuation of this life possible." May the BCTF and Teacher be a vehicle for such a resurrection.

Scott Lawrance
Manson’s Landing

Teacher wow

I have been enjoying Teacher newsmagazine so much lately.

In particular, the Jan./Feb. 2005 issue, with the web of control, the letter from the principal of Magee, and the revelation about how much money goes to the Fraser Institute. Wow—it’s worth keeping for reference.

So thanks to everyone who works so hard and does such an excellent job.

Kerry Richardson

Teacher wonderful

I am a special education teacher with SD 69 (Qualicum). I just wanted to write to tell you what a wonderful magazine you publish. The articles are written in a superior way and are always of timely interest. My husband is a chemistry professor at Okanagan University College (soon to become UBC–Okanagan). When he comes home to visit, he always picks up my Teacher and tells me what a great magazine it is. Being a professor at the post-secondary level, he finds that the articles provide him with information about what is happening at the secondary level for students.

Colette Vaisius

Stay out of same-sex debate

I am not at all pleased that the BCTF has decided to get into this same-sex debate. What gives the BCTF the right to support this matter on behalf of teachers? The BCTF cannot and should not be a part of this debate on my behalf as it does not express my opinion on the subject. How can the BCTF support writing to MPs and imply that teachers in general are in support of this anathema? All teachers should have a free "vote" on this subject, and the BCTF should keep its collective nose out of this type of debate and get on with the job of supporting teachers on things pedagogical. Period.

This debate is not part of any homophobic hysteria—it is an all-out attack on the family unit as it was designed and created to be multi-millenia ago by the God of this universe. He ordained it, and we mess with it at our extreme peril. It is time to put this legislation where is belongs-in the trash. Marriage is a sacred institution and is fundamental to our existence as human beings. Let gay folk have their legal and tax status, etc., but do not call it marriage, for marriage it is not.

Rupert Gruen

BCTF and gay marriage

As an openly gay teacher who recently married my partner of 17 years, I applaud the BCTF’s public position in support of same-sex marriage. Part of our work as a social justice union is to support the full inclusion and equality rights of all our members as well as those of the same-sex families we teach. As professionals, we must check at our classroom door, any personal, religious, or moral opposition to homosexuality we have. Our responsibility is to teach the provincial curriculum and model in words and deeds that every family has equal value within society.

I attended public schools in Surrey and Abbotsford, graduating in the latter some 25 years ago. My public school experiences were ones of daily harassment and terror at the hands of homophobic bullies. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens of today tell me little has changed in many public schools. Indeed, the B.C. Safe Schools Task Force reported in 2003 that homophobia was commonplace in many B.C. schools.

In July, my husband and I were married in the heart of Conservative MP Randy White’s riding in Abbotsford. What a powerfully emotional event to come full circle and publicly affirm our love for each other in a community that once caused me so much harm as a youth. Attitudes of social conservatives like Randy White, including colleagues within our profession, need to be challenged as archaic. In the public school system, we should strive to truly support LGBT students and take pride in their achievements. Our union’s public support of same-sex marriage is just one step in that long process.

James Chamberlain

In honour of 100 years

Glenwood Elementary School, in Burnaby, formerly Riverway East, and known as Dundonald in 1905, is holding an open house from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., on October 5, 2005, World Teachers’ Day. We are looking for students, teachers, staff, parents, neighbours, and district associates to bring the history to us prior to the open house. We are holding an afternoon tea on May 26, 2005, and guests will be interviewed by student teams. Please contact us at wkanno@glenwood.sd41.bc.ca, or call 604-664-8800.


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