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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 1, September 2007

Readers write

Return to sender

Like the thousands of other teachers in the province we recently received I am the BCTF publication. We are returning our magazines to the BCTF office.

This publication is unnecessary for many reasons.

  1. It glorifies every step of an event that was a last resort and not a celebration. We are well aware of the reasons for the strike, that’s why we voted to have it!
  2. The BCTF has its own house to look after and is doing a poor job of dealing with its two small unions. We are embarrassed to hear of the problems within. The BCTF should be a model employer. Are our executive officers not highly skilled in diplomacy, conflict resolution, and the art of negotiation?
  3. The cost of producing this glossy magazine is probably so great we will be appalled when the costs are disclosed. We can’t afford this from every point of view–financial, environmental (ours landed in the recycling until we retrieved them when the idea of a letter occurred), and negative public perception (for the previously stated reasons).
  4. Coverage of this strike could have been included in the Teacher newsmagazine as an insert, not as a separate magazine.
  5. The executive officers of the BCTF do not appear to be in touch with their staff or the members they are representing. BCTF members are the BCTF.

Teaching staff at Don Christian Elementary School, Surrey

All students should be able to access all programs

I agree with Don Olds that an "obsession with (giving) homework" is wrong. Assignments should always be relevant and meaningful rather than just being given out in the belief that piling on homework somehow builds a good work ethic or motivates students to learn. Students should be given opportunities to complete work at school as much as possible. Completing homework, especially for middle and elementary school students, should never become so onerous as to take away a child’s freedom to delve into their own passions, spend time with their families, get involved with church and/or community groups, and just plain old play.

However, I must comment on Olds’ statement that "Homework is discriminatory to students who have trouble finding a place and a time to sleep and enough to eat, never mind a place and time to do laid-on homework!" Taking this further, I would say that school itself is discriminatory to these students. Perhaps we should abolish school.

I believe the recently deceased Kurt Vonnegut had some interesting insights into this "everyone must be equal, no matter what" philosophy. In his story, Harrison Bergeron, a distopian society based on forced equality reveals the logical outcome of this type of thinking. Olds (and John Young, for that matter) sounds like someone who would relish the idea of working for the "Handicapper General," ensuring that not a single person has an advantage over any other person, in any way. Real-life experiments in enforced equality (Pol Pot’s Cambodia being the most "equal" and perhaps the most evil) have failed miserably.

People should be equal before the law. Other than that, there will be differences. If you want to abolish special courses or homework or good looks or high IQ’s or anything else that smacks of "inequality" you too will fail miserably, and rightly so.

Craig Bresett, Langley

All children have rights

I have to take issue with Richard Peachey’s argument that it is hypocrisy for the BCTF to not support "parents’ rights to preserve their children from teaching they deem morally objectionable." To support diversity we may say that everyone has a right to their own culture and opinion, but it doesn’t require, and cannot require us to fully embrace plurality and say all those opinions are correct.

In particular, we do not accept that parents have the right to demand we teach that the Holocaust is a fraud, that the handicapped should be sterilized, that women are not really "persons" and can be considered property, that slavery of blacks is justified because they are inferior or that homosexuality is immoral—no matter what their own personal beliefs are on these issues.

Our country has laws and standards of human rights and it is the job of our public education system to teach and uphold those rights. Should a parent wish to take issue with any part of that code, they may do so, but as teachers our job is to open students’ minds to new ideas and encourage them to critically examine all opinions (including our own). Our job is also to protect and nurture ALL students—and this is where the right to label certain teachings "morally objectionable" really breaks down.

The issue that opponents of teaching acceptance of homosexuals carefully skirt is that they want us to support their right to tell their kids that there is something seriously wrong with other kids. Anyone who has worked with children and teenagers knows the pain that being different can cause. Already homosexual teens suffer the highest rates of suicide, drug abuse, and other risky behaviour because they struggle to deal with the agony of constant persecution. In no way can we ever be a part of condoning the cultural stigmas that daily lacerate the self-worth of these children. That would be morally objectionable!

Maureen Maier, Coquitlam

Where will it end?

Upon reading Steven C. Faraher-Amidon’s response to Murray Corran’s article, "A censor? Who, me?" I had to ask myself, Where will it end? Will teachers in this province rob our students of knowledge and the ability to think critically in order to appear politcally correct? Yes, parents are taxpayers. Faraher-Amidon and these taxpayers have a right to the finest education we can offer their children. By censoring ourselves, we become like the poor people in Afghanistan under the Taliban, afraid to open our mouths and speak the truth for fear of reprisals. Teachers need to cherish their autonomy. Long live freedom of speech. I applaud Corran for his stand.

Amber Harvey, Retired, Mayne Island

Thank you

On behalf of the Poplar Glade Elementary School teaching staff in Williams Lake, I would like to thank all those teachers throughout the province who donated so generously to us after a fire destroyed our school.

That generosity certainly helped diminish our sense of loss. It should be noted that the fire erupted during the lunch hour and schools should be prepared for such events. Fortunately, three weeks prior, we had a 9:00 a.m. fire drill (before the students were settled in, and before attendance was taken).

The evacuation was conducted as if it was just another drill, and that’s all it was thought to be, but within 10 minutes the school was engulfed in smoke. Firefighters, who had entered the school to see what the problem was, had to lay ladders on the floor to retreat as the linoleum suddenly began to buckle.

The evacuation was initiated by the custodian whose hours had recently been reduced. Had the fire started a couple of hours earlier, she wouldn’t have been there. Evacuating students over buckling floors and thick smoke would have been another story.

We were very fortunate that only "things" were lost. Thanks again.

Stuart Westie, staff rep, Poplar Glade Elementary School, Williams Lake

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