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This is not a 'fight' about wages, or about class sizes, or about who didn't go to the bargaining table. This is about the future of public education, and subsequently our society's entire way of life.  

Today BC Education Minister Peter Fassbender called on teachers to stand down, citing the need for kids to 'be in school.'  

**A delay in start will not affect students nearly as much as an interruption to their studies once they have started.**  

In addition, a strike that interrupts a new school year may be considered grounds for the BC Liberals to introduce back-to-work legislation. Therefore, is at this juncture that it is more important than ever that every teacher, every support worker, every custodian, every principal, every student, and every parent stand together. 

This is not a 'fight' about wages, or about class sizes, or about who didn't go to the bargaining table. This is about the future of public education, and subsequently our society's entire way of life. 

Education is the fabric of our society. Our experiences through it shape us into who we are and who we become. Our learning of both knowledge and skills from an early age enables us to be able to contribute to our society when we get older. In addition, our exposure to different social situations helps us to learn how to interact positively with others, and teaches us that differences can be resolved, and even overcome. 

As a teacher myself, I have both seen and experienced the inner workings of the school system in our province. Without question, we have a world-class education system that many other countries would be envious of. We have luxuries such as heating and air conditioning, free transportation to and from schools, separate classrooms built for smaller groups of learners, wonderful gymnasiums and sports facilities, and exceptional performing arts programs. Even in the small town where I went to high school, we had two full soccer fields, a tennis court, well-kept grounds, and two baseball diamonds. Inside the school we had two gymnasiums (the school was an elementary/secondary combination) two full science labs, large shops, and well maintained classrooms. More important than the facilities, we had fantastic teachers who put in the extra effort to see each one of us positioned as best as possible for success in life. Thinking back, I cannot count the number of times I would see a teacher working after hours or on lunch breaks with students that were struggling, or volunteering their time to ensure the opportunity for clubs and after school sports programs. During 'normal hours' I remember being awed by what these people 'knew' (though admittedly I did not show it much at the time). 

When I embarked on my own quest to become a teacher, I did not take the decision lightly. With my mother being a teacher, I was well-aware of the hours that teaching could require, but gladly 'signed-up' so that I could make a difference. I remember wanting my life to 'matter' and determined that being able to positively influence the upcoming generation was a quintessential means to realizing this goal. During my teacher training, I discovered that I was not alone in this desire, but rather found myself to be one among many –it was inspiring. 

The teachers of British Columbia have been abused. Beginning early in the 2000s, the government at the time acted illegally and refused to honour the negotiated contract. Not only did this violate Canadian contract law, but when the government later legislated the striking workforce back to the classroom, they violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since that time, the government has changed persons, but the policy has remained largely the same. While the issues of illegal actions and legislation have wound their way through the courts, the teachers of this province have continued to work, always hoping that the next court decision might allow them to see justice realized. 

It is time to stand up. For over a decade the teachers in British Columbia have endured the aforementioned abuse, and the education system itself has endured much worse. We are on the cusp of a new direction, one that will lead either to the privatization of public education in this province, or to its revitalization as a pillar of our democratic society. 

I implore each teacher, the leaders of the union, and their families to stand strong and stay united. 

To conclude, I will leave you not with my own thoughts, but with the thoughts of those who have gone before us: 

"Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant."  –John Adams, US Founding Father and 2nd US President 

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (and women!)  –Edmund Burke, Politician and Philosopher

"It is always darkest just before dawn."  –Ancient Proverb

Sean J. Beebe, sjbeebe@me.com 

 

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