||Volume 21, Number 2, October 2008
We need a parent boycott
By Barry Dorval
Every teacher in the province agrees with the goal of eliminating universal FSAs. The strategic question is how do we achieve that goal. Will a teacher boycott strategy work? No. Not on the basis of my conversations with my colleagues, and this is why:
- This action divides teachers into activists—those who support the teacher boycott—and dissidents—those who oppose it. Any strategy that divides teachers in this way is doomed to fail.
- This action isolates Grades 4 and 7 teachers and there aren’t enough of them willing to take this stand on behalf of their divided colleagues.
- A teacher boycott would be political suicide. Sadly, most of the public don’t fully understand our concerns. By refusing to administer the tests, teachers become the issue, not the FSAs. A terrible idea in an election year.
- This strategy would also be legal suicide. The odds are overwhelming that a teacher boycott would be ruled an illegal strike. We know how defying a court order ends, right?
So, if a teacher boycott isn’t the answer, what is?
Simply put, we must strengthen and refine our existing efforts to undermine the tests and support a powerful parent boycott.
So far we have tried to convince parents to withdraw their children by focussing on the damaging effects of FSAs on kids and education. This has born fruit and we must continue.
Despite these successes, however, the—I was tested and it didn’t hurt me—holdouts remain. Interestingly though, these same people are passionate about their neighbourhood schools. To reach these folks we must expose the motives of the Fraser Institute. Its public record is clear; the Fraser Institute’s goal is to undermine confidence in public education so as to promote market solutions to the problems they identify. The public must be made aware of the agenda of the organization that is attacking an institution they cherish.
We have had great success in convincing parents to request exemptions for their children. Wonderful, except that these requests are now being ignored. Time for some tweaking.
My son was in Grade 4 last year. I didn’t REQUEST anything, I stated a FACT. My son will not write the FSA. Period. Guess what? He didn’t write. And this year, neither will my Grade 7 daughter. I have the power because I exert it. Last year I shared my parental strategy at a small, PAC-sponsored FSA debate. At that school about one-third of parents (far more than were at the meeting) wrote similar letters. Their children didn’t write the tests and the results for that school were rendered completely useless (even by ministry standards). The parent boycott worked.
The way to defeat this government’s FSA policy is not by engaging in a suicidal fight where divided teachers become the issue. If a boycott is to succeed it must be carried out by parents who are passionate about protecting their schools. Our job is to empower them in that task.
Barry Dorval is president of the Vernon Teachers’ Association.