Negotiation finally succeeded to end the teachers’ strike which has left students missing five weeks of school and has pitted teachers and parents against the government.
Time and again, on picket lines and at protests I heard people question how the BC Liberal government could do this to the kids.
But this is a government that has played politics with education since it was first elected 13 years ago. It is a dangerous and divisive approach. However teachers, who are not generally militant people, were willing to oppose this attitude and fight for people in the education professions and for the future of public education. They stood up for their human rights: the right to bargain, to negotiate and ultimately, to strike.
The dispute also showed parents understood the fight has been about their children’s future and the future of all of us.
It was heartening to see the support shown by parents and other members of our communities, both on the picket line and at events to help teachers.
Public education is fundamental to society. It is a wonderful opportunity, an amazing equalizer. No matter where a child lives, the money the parents may have, the background they come from, every child has the right to free public education.
Education is not simply about training kids to fit an economic model designed by a neo-Liberal government. It is about helping the development of children and youth so they can fully participate in our society.
We need young people to learn the skills to become plumbers and we need young people to have the courage to become poets.
We need young people to be in a position to earn a decent income and support themselves and we need young people who want to take risks and push their boundaries.
This is what public education should lead to. It isn’t about a war with teachers, it’s about us, about how we perceive our society and our future.
The attacks on public education started early in the BC Liberal mandate, more than a dozen years ago. It was about the same time they started the disastrous quasi-privatization of BC Ferries.
In both instances we are still trying to cope with the fallout.