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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 2, November/December 2003

Readers write

Home schooling has its place

Jim McMurtry obviously has a vested interest in keeping kids in public schools (as do I, being a public school teacher). Imagine you are a parent who is home-schooling your children, but considering putting them in public school and someone gives you McMurtry’s letter. Are his words going to encourage you to make the leap to public school, or are they going to remind you of the reasons why you chose to home-school in the first place? The latter, no doubt.

McMurtry states that he knows "that parents of home-schooled children question the value of a standard school-based educational experience, many wishing to provide their own form of indoctrination (as opposed to the state’s?), usually of a religious nature." So what? Is McMurtry qualified to determine how people should raise their own children just because he is a public school teacher?

McMurtry asserts that parents who home-school "condemn children to an impoverished, friendless, and segregated learning environment." I know families who have chosen to home school, and I have taught many children who have entered middle school after being home schooled for the elementary grades, and in my professional judgment, these children are not subjected to anything that is detrimental to their development. On the contrary, they simply come from families who have chosen an education that fits with their beliefs and/or their child’s needs. Are there home-schooling situations that are less than perfect? Of course, just as there are public-schooling situations that are less than perfect.

It seems that in McMurtry’s ideal world, the state would have complete authority over how children are raised, and parents who veer off course would be deemed child abusers and punished accordingly. I still can’t believe that he used that term, and that you published it. Home schooling "can be perceived as a form of child abuse"? That is an insult to children who have actually suffered legitimate abuses at the hands of parents, and to the parents who decide to spend enormous amounts of time and energy educating their children themselves. And it certainly won’t win any converts from the home-schooling community.

Craig Bresett
Langley

Interesting reading in Jim McMurtry’s letter (Teacher Sept./Oct. 2003). Nothing like a half-baked and uninformed opinion.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that my children have no broad social opportunities, given that they’re in dance classes, Pathfinders, and skating lessons, given that they have taken acting classes, participated in community choirs, played softball, performed on stage to audiences of hundreds, assisted in the care of their late great-grandmother, helped move several friends’ homes, and given that they participate in my volunteer activities where they encounter professionals, very young children, parents and grandparents, know the neighbourhood children and can, remarkably, carry on intelligent conversations with humans of any age between 1 and 91 (based on their actual experiences in doing so).

I’m not entirely sure how being very strongly indoctrinated in the "you will only associate with people born in the same calendar year as yourself" philosophy of schools is supposed to be better or even more real than that.

Linda Clement
Victoria

Special issue of Teacher appreciated

I enjoy reading the Teacher Newsmagazine. There are lots of interesting, informative, and diverse articles. For example, in Vol. 16, No 1, the articles on healthcare and pension assets were of interest. Keep up the good work. Now if only my spouse (the teacher) had enough time-between teaching and prep thereof to read it as thoroughly as I do.

P. Dean-Veerman
Slocan Park

I found the special edition of the Teacher excellent reading. Teachers who read it will surely have a clear picture of the precarious position in which our profession is located right now.

Donna Bulmer
Peace River North

Great job. It [special issue of Teacher] is an eye-opening convincer to the staffroom readers. Thanks.

Dave Scott
Kamloops

Try working with Liberals

Today I received the special issue of the eight-page Teacher. I was somewhat disappointed in the content, tone, and layout of the paper.

To understand and discuss the issue at hand I would have appreciated to have the facts first. But they appear in part in the last column on the last page.

The main contention seems to be that education in B.C. will suffer because of the new makeup of the membership in the college of teachers.

Of the people listed as members of the new college of teachers, 70% are or have been educators and should, from their experience, have some knowledge of education, and parents often have a good grasp of education and know well what is going on in the classrooms from another perspective.

I agree that more active teachers from public and private schools should be members of the college to achieve a better balance.

I would like to know by what process the members of the college of teachers are recruited. The paper mentions that they are political appointments. Does this mean they have to be members of the Liberal Party, as NPA members serving as councillors in Burnaby have to be members of the NDP?

Can prospective members apply for the position and then be selected on the merit of their experience? and does the BCTF appoint teachers as members to the college?

I wonder if the cause of education would be served better if the BCTF tried to work together with the present government to improve education rather than to boycott every attempt at change.

Helmut Lemke (retired)
Burnaby

College takeover not fair

Never in my 34 years of teaching had I ever been moved to shake my fist and shout, "Not Fair!"

Up to now, the college of teachers has been a self-regulating body with a majority of elected members, just like the colleges of other professions. Christy Clark has changed the ratio of elected members in the college, with parents and political appointees being in the majority, thus effectively giving the college control over teachers.

The by-laws and policies made by the "new" college of teachers make me shake my head, because the control over the college by the minister of education is unbelievable. Even the appointed councillors themselves will be dismissed if they don’t follow the agenda of the minister.

Among the multitude of policies made by the new college, one policy is that parents report a teacher to the college rather than discuss a problem first with the teacher, principal, and school board, and then the college if no resolution is found. One can only imagine the added stress for a teacher having to face a college investigation panel for a minor action with the threat of being reprimanded, suspended, or losing her or his teaching certificate.

Even though the teachers’ fees maintain the college of teachers, the teachers will have no say in what happens to them. That, to me, is most unfair! Is the government’s attack on the college of teachers just the beginning in their zeal to reorganize all the other professional colleges? Just wondering!

Bertha Kwitkoski (retired)
Burnaby

Keep our focus on the goal

A colleague told me that she and many others would not support the BCTF in asking teachers to withhold automatic deductions of the BCCT fees. They just don’t see the BCTF as fighting for their rights.

Why do we need a union? It hasn’t been able to do much against the force of this government. What are we fighting for, and why aren’t we winning?

Wait. What are we fighting? We are against a government whose sole aim is to balance a budget. Its focus is the bottom line. I have worked in private institutions for two-and-a-half decades, and, to me, that is where the government wants us to be—subservient pawns who would do anything to keep their jobs, at the expense, really, of the people we serve. Our focus is to serve the learner, to build community, to guide the child to her or his fullest potential. Clearly, that is not the governments’ focus.

In a private school, the powers that be can fire and hire sans categories, qualifications, or specificity to the needs called for by the job. What they are great at, which we definitely need to take lessons for, is marketing, advertising, the gloss and polish that sells. They can sell an empty box. On the other hand, we have not unwrapped our credentials, our specializations, our successes, and our goal of serving each and every child. We have kept quiet because we are busy doing what we need to do. Our quietness has been mistaken as lack of spunk.

The truth is, we are being compared to private schools, for they can run their institutions at less cost to the government. We are scrutinized, the public schools, under a very powerful magnifying glass, and their perspective is narrowed to complaints. How many teachers have asked the ministry to come and see what really happens in the classrooms, to see how effective the teachers are, to see how well public school children learn? Have they come?

United we stand. Divided we fall. That’s all it takes. The government has clawed mercilessly at our contracts, collective bargaining, and funding, and now it has taken our college.

If we are upset with our union, the BCTF, this is not the time to abandon its lead for that would be the final blow to our union, to us. Shall we help this government make us crumble and fall?

Let us fight for our college, for it to serve its members, us. Why should we support a college that is run by bureaucrats and not by our colleagues? Our union is our last bastion. Let’s keep our focus on the goal.

Thelma Valle-Serrano
Richmond

Supreme Court upholds the law

Much has been said to the effect that the Supreme Court, rather than Parliament is making our laws. As I see it, Canada is governed, not by Parliament, but by the Constitution Act and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those two documents define Canada, including how Canada’s laws are to be made and enforced. Parliament, within these guidelines, creates laws about how Canadians will live. Should there be problems regarding the interpretation of one of Parliament’s laws, the Supreme Court weighs the problematic law against its interpretation of the Constitution Act and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Should the Supreme Court deem an act of Parliament to be in violation of guidelines, it instructs Parliament to create laws that obey the law.

In Canada, the right to express religious viewpoints is guaranteed by law, so long as that expression does not promote hatred or violence against an identifiable group. Freedom of religious expression in Canada is not just for one particular perspective, it is for every religious perspective.

As I listen to some of the claims of various religious groups, I note that some use the Bible to justify denying full equality to others. This gives me a sense of déjà vu. The Bible has been used to support slavery, the Bible has been used to support anti-Semitism, the Bible has been used to support capital punishment. The Bible is not a book of hate, but some people use the Bible to promote their own superiority, to justify failing to grant equal status as humans to others.

I can’t justify using the Bible to tell others how their ways are evil. I’m more interested in joining hands with other humans, listening to and accepting one another, and walking together through life.

There are several legally married same-sex couples in Canada of today. The sun still shines, the birds still sing, children still laugh and play, and the stars still shine at night. My life didn’t suddenly get worse because two men or two women who love each other got married. And perhaps their life feels more dignified, more honoured, more whole. I’m in favour of that.

Ron Smuin
Penticton

Cuban student interested in writing

It is an honour to send this letter to you from Cuba, on a small island in the Caribbean. I really hope you receive it and listen to my words and answer me if it is possible.

I’m an English teacher who had the opportunity to receive an English course for a week in July from some teachers from B.C. I’m not a professional teacher yet, but enjoyed that English course for teachers in Habana. Our Canadian teachers recommended that I write to your magazine. I teach English language for teenagers but at the same time I attend the Languages University in Habana and I’ll have to spend four more years there. I’ve finished my first year there. I’d like to ask you if there is any possibility of exchanging ideas with some teachers of the Federation. That kind of communication would be really useful for me. One of our B.C. teachers gave us one of those wonderful newspapers [Teacher newsmagazine] and it is really useful. In fact, I can say that it’s completely amazing to have that kind of magazine just for teachers. In my country there isn’t that kind of newspaper or magazine for teachers. It’s like a class but printed in a magazine. I think the idea is remarkable.

If any B.C. teachers would like to contact me, my e-mail address is JhonCarlos@web.correosdecuba.cu

Juan Carlos Puig
Habana, Cuba



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