New Rule #5 in Teacher’s Dispute

New Rule:

Everyone must immediately stop using poker metaphors like,

“ The Government holds all the cards in the teacher’s dispute.”

Besides its not being a poker game, such analogies are a trite minimization of what B.C. teachers are fighting for in this dispute.

But before we toss them aside, let’s exhaust the poker metaphor once and for all.

The government has pocket aces; legislative power, and the whipsawing of teachers using the “other public sector union salary settlements” argument.

 With pocket aces, the government can sit and watch teachers bluff, bleed and bet high, before flipping over  the aces and saying “we win, read ‘em and weep”.

 But the teachers have some cards in their hand too. They have a pocket pair of moral high ground cards; the what’s right for children and public education card, and the multiple judicial censure card.

And teachers have the local appreciation card, earned from students and parents over many years of service to children and support for our Canadian way of life.

 Do these cards beat the government’s two aces? No, the government can ”win” the hand at any point.

 But once they have won the hand, they may not make it out of the room with their winnings.  

 There have been a lot of spectators at this twelve-year poker game. They have seen the government dealing from the bottom of the deck, ignoring rulings, hiding cards up their sleeve, changing rules, and being continuously disrespectful of other players.

 In the movies, such a poker player would likely be shot or at least tossed off the paddle wheeler by James Garner.

 Winning at poker with a stacked deck doesn’t sit too well and the government, who “holds all the cards” may realize too late that in winning the hand they may lose the moral authority to govern.

 So please, enough with the poker metaphors to describe the teacher’s dispute.

 But if you feel the need to taper off rather than to quit cold turkey, why not finish by saying something like “ the government should fold its hand, ante up, stop short raising, and double down on public education in B.C.

About jimnelson806

Educational consultant from Port Moody. "The Stuff Isn't What's Important" " School Wide Discipline Programmes Don't Work" " Vice Principals are crucial towards setting direction"
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One Response to New Rule #5 in Teacher’s Dispute

  1. Dawn Haylett says:

    Some people (i.e. Jeff Johnson, former Superintendant of Schools in Cowichan Valley – as heard on CBC radio Victoria on Tuesday, Aug. 26.) are making the point that in the past, when kids couldn’t get along they were told to “go out and work it out themselves, we have more important things to do”. These people are saying that the dispute between the BCTF and the BCPSEA is an equivalent type of dispute. They say they are tired of hearing the squabbling and just want to get things back to “normal”. They want kids back in school, where they ought to be, and those annoying adults should just work out their problems on their own time.

    While this sounds reasonable on the surface, (and I’m sure many people can relate to this sentiment, after all, this dispute IS tiring to hear about and seems to be endless), there is the fact that there are a lot of false assumptions flying around that need to be addressed. The assumptions I refer to are that the BCTF/BCPSEA dispute is equivalent to a schoolyard dispute, in that, 1) it is a dispute between equals; 2) it is not worth everyone else’s time to help solve it; and 3) they can work it out themselves if they just try.

    The reality is that this is not a dispute between equals. How can they be equals if Party A has the power to force the other to do whatever it wants (lock Party B out; force Party B back to work; impose a contract on Party B; penalize Party B for arguing; refuse to talk to Party B; only talk to Party B if they agree with whatever Party A wants; etc.). If this description is still too abstract for you, consider what I believe to be the equivalent situation between 2 children.

    Susan (Party A) and Amneet (Party B) can’t get along. Susan is 12 and weighs 50 kgs. Amneet is 7 and weighs 25 kgs. Susan won’t let Amneet use the monkey bars. Susan is forcing Amneet to sit with her at lunch. Susan says Amneet must play the game Susan wants to play at lunch. Susan gets tired of Amneet’s complaints and refuses to talk to her. Susan agrees to talk to Amneet if she will eat lunch with her, play the prisoner game she loves and let Susan use the monkey bars whenever she demands a turn. Teachers encounter these kinds of conflicts regularly, but these days they do not send these kids out to “work out their problems”. They know that this is not a fair fight and they intervene to help solve the problem amicably (binding arbitration by a disinterested third party perhaps?!).

    As for point #2, “it is not worth everyone else’s time to help solve it”, this is just blatantly not true. The fact is that there are 41, 000 teachers and 558,985 students (BC government statistics for 2013-14) directly affected by the dispute. Add parents, relatives, and friends to this group and I’m sure we’re talking about a pretty big number of BC citizens (many of whom who pay taxes, by the way) who are affected by this dispute. Now let’s add in the people who inevitably will have to carry more of the tax burden if the public education system continues to erode, leading to a more poorly educated population, who will undoubtedly pay fewer taxes and use more social services. This may sound far fetched, but I think research will bear this out. The fact is, there is something in it for everyone to get this dispute settled in a way that leads to improved public schools, where students’ and teachers’ work is respected and they are given the support they need.

    Before leaving point #2, I have to add the fact that the core of the dispute should never really even have been between teachers and the government, in that the need for reasonable class sizes and composition should have been something that the government themselves should have felt was necessary, and if they didn’t see its importance, then parents, industry and the general public should have been fighting for them.

    Now to point #3, “they can work it out themselves if they just try”. My comments about point #1, basically cover this point as well. You can’t work things out with bullies, unless you just let them have their way. As it is, the BCTF has spent all their money on legal fees advocating on behalf of the public for better conditions for students and now can not even offer a paltry strike pay to their members. Teachers
    have not been paid since early June and undoubtedly there are teachers who feel they can not afford to continue the fight, which will lead to division amongst the ranks. (A goal that, my cynical brain thinks, was on the government’s agenda from the very beginning. After all, breaking up these irritating unions would really make negotiations much smoother!). I would hardly call coming to an agreement by breaking down one party a reasonable resolution to conflict. It is reminiscent of getting a confession through torture.

    In the “good old days” it was true that kids were often sent out to solve “their own problems”, and sometimes it worked. The difference now, is that 1) these combatants are not equal opponents and it is equivalent to condoning bullying to send these parties out to solve it themselves, which is NOT something we encourage in today’s schools; 2) this is everyone’s problem, and if we allow our public school system to continue to be eroded, as it has been over the last 12 years, we will find ourselves paying the price literally and figuratively for years to come; and 3) the only way these combatants can solve this on their own is by the teachers, once again, becoming so beaten down that they can not continue to fight on our behalf any longer.

    This doesn’t even touch on the fact that if we allow the teachers’ union to be beaten into submission, you will be hearing the early warning call for the demise of our middle class. And if you think you don’t want to be part of the middle class, you better have an uncle named Bill (Gates), or the equivalent, because if you don’t, you’ll find that shopping where the “lowest price is the law” will still be beyond your means.

    So if you are tired of this dispute now, and just want it to go away, I suggest you start stockpiling food, clothing and cash. As for me, I’m hoping Vince Ready is allowed to have the authority to find a resolution to this conflict. I’m not holding my breath, though, because unless the government really want this solved and agree to abide by his recommendations, I easily envision the frequent response of bullies to suggestions of compromise. “That’s not fair…I don’t want to…..you can’t make me…….I don’t want to play anymore………I’m taking my ball and going home!”.

    Written in a spirit of experienced pessimism, balanced by a naive optimism. May the optimists win the day!

    Dawn Haylett
    (Disclosure – I am a teacher, but not in the public school system.)

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