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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 4, March 2004

Readers write


This year Revelstoke will mark 100 years of secondary school education with a special celebration for all past students, teachers, administration, and non-teaching staff: Homecoming–July 23, 24, & 25, 2004.

The homecoming committee is trying to locate/notify as many retired/former teachers as we possibly can to help us celebrate.

Write Revelstoke Homecoming 2004, Box 690, Revelstoke, BC V0E 2S0, or fax 250-837-7164, Attention: Brenda, or e-mail rev_homecoming@sd19.bc.ca.

Homeschooling has dark side

letter contentOn your readers write page (Nov./Dec. 2003, Teacher), Linda Clement painted my letter on homeschooling as "half-baked and uninformed opinion" before expounding on the virtues of removing children from schools. Craig Bresett wrote in further repudiation that "[homeschooled] children are not subjected to anything that is detrimental to their development." I concede that homeschooling works well for some kids in some situations, in addition to the new imperative of saving money for school authorities. Yet the two young boys I described in my letter who build houses all day long with their father, including the house next door to mine, are clearly victims, as are so many children excluded from the expertise, social interaction, and breadth of activity of a school. In a recent discussion with Graeme Moore, a long-time child advocate and member of the provincial government’s Employment Standards Branch, I learned of the Lower Mainland children whose parents keep them at home to help sew and trim threads for their low-paying employers in the garment industry. I contended in my letter that homeschooling permits abuse and exploitation of some children. I think Clement and Bresett do a disservice to them by ridiculing inquiry into the dark side of homeschooling.
Jim McMurtry

We should be sharing not exporting

Before B.C. school boards start opening up private, for-profit schools overseas, we’d better ask ourselves some hard questions.

What about the contradiction in values between our commitment to a free public education system for our children and encouraging and profiting from an elite system that few can afford in another country? What will the attitude of the majority of the people in those countries be to our incursions into their cultures? What is the relevance, to say nothing of the educational integrity, of teaching the B.C. curriculum in English, geography, law, etc., to students in countries with thousands of years of history and civilization of their own to learn from? Have proper risk assessments of such business ventures been done, and are school boards prepared to deal with potential losses?

Certainly we should do everything we can to build respectful and equitable relationships with communities, educators, schools, and students in the Pacific Rim. That could include collaborating on curriculum development, teacher training, twin school projects, cross-cultural educational research, and many other initiatives that build real partnership rather than replicate colonial relationships.

School boards do no one a favour when they respond to underfunding by radically altering their mandate from that of providing a service to our community, to that of selling a commodity on the international market.
Adrienne Montani
Vancouver school trustee

Ethical fundraising

No doubt about it, neoliberalism is affecting our schools, especially when it comes to funding. Coke and Pepsi and other junk-food professionals have targeted our underfunded schools as a perfect niche for their product. And given what is at stake, few wish to engage in dialogue on the paradoxical situation that schools find themselves in: How can we encourage sports and health while promoting unhealthy eating habits?

At Kitsilano Secondary School, a group of teachers have decided to generate revenue without compromising ourselves. We sell fair-trade coffee. Same game, fairer rules. We have come up with a simple system that does not put a burden on teachers’ time, but offers high return to cover the costs of extra-curricular programs.

Our supplier, Café Etico, is affiliated with CoDevelopment Canada, a partner of the BCTF. Codev works with Central American organizations to promote human dignity, justice, and democracy. Every pound of beans that Café Etico sells is then invested in health and education. More important, it gives people the dignity and pride that was for so long taken away from them by unscrupulous landlords.

Anyone interested in promoting ethical fundraising in their school can contact me for more information raoul_1948@yahoo.ca.
Yvon Raoul

Teacher running for nomination

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the dark. " – Emerson.

I am seeking the NDP nomination in a Surrey riding for this spring’s federal election, instead of cursing the state of our education under the current government.

I live mainly by Gandhian principles. I was educated in India, England, U.S.A., Canada, and Australia. I have taught K–12 and adults in four countries, and been socially active in even more. I was asked to leave Australia because I was "...inciting self-esteem in the Aborigines..." I have received awards and nomination for my educational and social-justice work. Currently I am president of the B.C. Teachers for Peace and Global Education (PAGE PSA), and am an international speaker as director of the non-profit Global Wellness Center.

It is now time for me to take my passion for justice, and life experience, into a larger arena and use it to positively affect education, healthcare, and other social services—all the services that make Canada uniquely desirable. The values that we in the BCTF hold so dear are also dear to all our affiliates in the B.C. Federation of Labour and to the NDP. We want to preserve the best of Canada and cultivate the new that is good for the people of Canada. I have the courage of five mother tigers, and tremendous moral stamina to use any powers granted me to reinstate priority to that which is dear to us as teachers, as parents, as workers, and as citizens of my chosen country.

After all, if I can raise three children on my own for 18 years, since seven months pregnant with the third, teach, study, and be an activist, then surely helping to serve an entire country will be a piece of cake for me. I need your support to get to there. I won’t let you down.
Pummy Kaur

Check options before retiring

I’d like to let our members know the importance of investigating short- or long-term sick benefits.

I had a heart-valve operation in April 1984 that required blood transfusions. I returned to teaching in September of that year, but after two weeks on the job, I found it very stressful and went on short-term disability for the rest of the 1984–85 term. I completed the full term 1985–86 but found it very tiring and since I was approaching 55 years of age, I assumed it might be my age and retired in June of that term. I had completed 23 years of service. It is also very important to research all of the implications of retirement before you make a decision. The school district was offering an early-retirement incentive, so I decided to retire.

I found out in the early 1990s that I had contracted Hepatitis C from the blood transfusion that was given to me during the heart operation. Today we know that one of the effects of this disease is feeling tired all the time. That was the reason I gave up teaching in 1986. It was not my age but the effects of the disease that made me retire. I should have elected to go on long-term disability instead of formally retiring from the profession. But who knew then what the disease could do? The federal government denies knowing that the blood was tainted and did not start testing for the virus until 1986.

So instead of 33 years of service, I retired at 23 years of service. What a difference it makes in my pension. Last month, my pension netted me $50 after medical and Retired Teachers’ Association dues were deducted. My monthly teachers’ pension is $200.

The purpose of this letter is to let our members know how important it is to make the right choices when you are sick. With the information I know now about this disease, my choices would have been quite different. The government gave me this disease, which is incurable, through its handling of blood products. My worst days are ahead of me with no compensation.
Doreen Stalker

Public education in B.C. and the world?

Who are Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberals trying to kid with next month’s "international" conference on education in Victoria carrying the pretentious title Public Education in B.C. and the World?

Certainly not the parents, teachers, support staff, principals and trustees across this province who see the following events unfolding in their varied school communities:

• the massive overloading and acceleration of B.C.’s curricula without accompanying support.

• the chronic underfunding of our public schools with more devastating cuts to come in a matter of weeks.

• the shutting down of 92 schools in 42 school districts;

• the ongoing and increasing fundraising activities by parents to provide basic textbooks, supplies, and resources.

• the impending shredding of the education/social services safety net for thousands of B.C.’s most vulnerable children forcing some school boards to run lotteries to feed hungry kids.

We invite the world to showcase, what Victoria pompously calls, "innovation with an international leading-edge research focus" but will we give them the straight goods on what is really happening in B.C. schools? Don’t bet on it.
Noel Herron
Vancouver School Trustee

Retired teachers

Four members from Nisga’a Teachers’ Union retired in 2003 and their names did not appear in the Nov./Dec. 2003 issue of Teacher. They are:
Peter Cross
Dawn Germyn
Ravi Gill
Jackie Santa

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