Why Do We Hate the B.C.T.F.?


Mention a salary increase for teachers and you’d think a bunch of greedy moneygrubbers were forcing Scrooge McDuck to open his money bin for ransacking.

The public doesn’t get angry with the BCGEU, or CUPE or nurses, at contract time or any other time, regardless of how spirited contract negotiations become.

So why do we spew anger, almost hatred, for the “B.C.T.F.” when teacher contracts come up?

Firefighters and police quietly negotiate contracts that beat the cost of living without much fanfare each year. Regardless of the size of the salary increase, we accept it without ado.

We never feel the need to tell firefighters that the public is their boss. We don’t feel the public purse threatened when nurses ask for a raise.

Why does discussion of teacher’s job and working conditions make us respond so viscerally, so angrily, as if someone had let the words “ fast ferries” slip?

Under normal circumstances, one would think teachers had a fairly good case this time.

They had taken an extra “0” compared with other public sector workers. Statistics showed a clear erosion of both teacher’s salaries and funding for education.

And they had two court rulings instructing the government to restore language and funding stripped from education in 2002 and fining them for not bargaining in good faith.

They had a strong case, one would think they would have enjoyed significant public support in their negotiations.

But the teachers case didn’t make it to the consciousness of most British Columbians.

Tired of seemingly endless squabbles between teachers and government, many chose to vilify teachers, or at least the “B.C.T.F.” which has become the whipping boy in the dispute.



It’s All About Aggregate Experience

People judge groups of people based on the aggregate of their experiences with that group

Who hates firefighters, their union, or anything about them? No one. You’d be crazy to.

We know some firefighters were accused of treating female recruits badly. Many moonlight at other jobs, and some drink too much and go to strip clubs. But this anecdotal information is water off a duck’s back to us, as it should be.

Such anecdotes don’t bother us because our aggregate experience with firefighters though limited is positive. They put out fires, wear uniforms, collect money for muscular dystrophy and attend community events being helpful and friendly or flipping pancakes at pancake breakfasts.

Our aggregate experience with firefighters outweighs any “bad” things we may hear about individual firefighters. We thus accept that they know their job and are doing it. So when Delta firefighters get an eye-opening raise, we say – OK, they deserve it.

And firefighter performance is easily measured. Building on fire, fire out; – success. Cat in tree; cat out – ah job done. Community activity; firefighters present – good.

The point is not that firefighters don’t deserve public appreciation, or salary increases, they certainly do. The point is that the occupation is impossible to criticize; not because all firefighters are wonderful but because our aggregate experience with them is unavoidably and overwhelmingly positive.

The same is true of police. Their performance is easily measurable; bad guy caught, in slammer – job done. There is occasional criticism of police being over zealous or bullying, but the aggregate of our experience with police is that they risk their lives and help keep us safe. Negative anecdotes about cops don’t outweigh our positive aggregate experiences.

Nurses nurture. My Dad had a wonderful nurse, we liked good old nurse what’s her name when my wife gave birth. Illness cured – job done, easily measured, they deserve a raise. Don’t know much about what the job entails but I give it an 8 – I like the beat.

On the other side of the coin, we don’t like lawyers because our aggregate experience with them is negative. We often don’t know what lawyers are talking about – they talk in language with which we are not quite familiar and often make us feel inadequate.

Lawyers seem to make piles of money for doing even the smallest thing, which we suspect their secretaries actually do for them in five minutes.

So any negative anecdotes we hear about lawyers aren’t overlooked but rather are accepted, intensifying our already jaded view of them.

I realize this is an extremely simple and unfair characterization of lawyers, but people’s low opinion of lawyers, right or wrong, is based on their aggregate experience with them regardless of how limited that experience is.

So what about teachers?

Those who work in schools generally have a positive aggregate of experience with schools. They have seen enough of the positive things that go on in schools. This allows them to discount anecdotal school horror stories as anomalies rather than rule.

But what is most people’s aggregate experience with teachers?

First, we all went school for 13 years so we all know all about school and teachers. We all had difficulties, and we remember the crabby teacher(s) who were bossy, or embarrassed us. Teachers corrected us, often ineffectively. We were young and our perceptions were intense, magnified by youthful insecurities.

We left school with some residual resentment, and we went about our business, got a taste of a competitive world. Our aggregate perceptions of school and teachers were those of a child transferred to our adult minds.

Then we had our own children and they went to school, and don’t you know, they had similar difficulties in school, sometimes coming home in tears, experiencing an intransigent teacher who seemed to make little attempt to appreciate that special thing about our child. Our hearts bled for our child and our almost forgotten frustrations bubble up.

As parents, when we did go to our child’s school, we saw some teachers yell at kids. We saw rules and subjugation, just like we experienced.

And we saw other children behaving badly and seemingly not being disciplined.

We saw meaningless reams of homework, we saw our child excluded from a group or activity and felt our expressed concerns glossed over.

The only time we heard from the school was when our child was in trouble. We often felt our parenting was being questioned and that we were supposed to fix a problem that it seemed to us wasn’t our child’s fault.

As parents. we saw needy children that couldn’t read or write, even by high school, and we couldn’t help feeling that school is less rigorous that it was when we were in school, not realizing that when we were in school there were likely just as many non readers as there are now, we were just too young and self consumed to notice.

We bore these frustrations, hoping that our child would benefit from the overall experience of school.

So when contractual bickering continued year after year, our aggregate experience with teachers left many of us predisposed to reject teacher’s demands.

And with all that, apparently success in teaching and learning can’t be accurately measured. We saw teachers continually resist standardized accountability measures. This was frustrating, especially when we remembered some of our teachers who we thought sub standard and yet seem to enjoy invulnerable tenure.

We saw teachers go on strike no matter who the government was.

There seemed no way of getting rid of ineffective teachers and we blamed the union for protecting them and insisting they get a raise.

In short, most of us haven’t had enough positive experiences with schools and teachers to overwhelm our personal experiences and anecdotal stories about them.

Once our negative experiences with a group outweigh our positive experiences, we add each negative remark to the quiver of arrows we shoot at them; in line at the supermarket or online on Twitter.

If our aggregate experience with teachers is negative, why is it that the “B.C.T.F.” get almost all the criticism and anger rather than “teachers”? After all they represent teachers don’t they? Why do we hurl invectives at the “B.C.T.F.” rather than at “teachers”?

Again, it’s aggregate experience. Although our aggregate experience with teachers may be negative, our perceptions have all been somewhat inoculated. We all know hard working and caring teachers who are difficult to criticize.

But our aggregate experience with the B.C.T.F. the negotiating arm of the teachers,is and can be totally negative. So we vilify the scapegoat B.C.T.F. without having to criticize individual teachers.

We get angry that the “B.C.T.F.” perennially disagrees with almost everything their employer offers and their negotiations with government always end in back to work legislation or job action. We hate that they always seem to complain about underfunding and working conditions, year after year.

We hear from the media about how “militant” the B.C.T.F. is, how they can’t negotiate with any government and how they don’t like resource development or BC Liberals, and how they use children as pawns for their own greedy purposes.

We absorb each negative slight heaped on the “B.C.T.F.” because our aggregate experience with schools is not positive enough to allow us to analyze criticisms through a prism of respect as we might for a firefighter, nurse, or cop.

And we can focus our anger on the B.C.T.F. without having to hate good old Mrs. Switz at the local school, who we know to be kind, caring and hard working.

Government representatives speak rhapsodically about teachers and harshly about the unreasonable B.C.T.F., simultaneously providing a scapegoat for B.C.’s education woes and deflecting attention from demonstrable education underfunding and Supreme Court censure.

The media, who have long ago forgotten about bargaining issues, find it easier and more sexy to pile on the B.C.T.F., the lightning rod for our frustration with the discord in our education system.

And so now the vilification of the B.C.T.F is a universal sport. Educational issues are forgotten and instead, we spend our time discussing the shortcomings of the B.C.T.F., it’s leaders and its strategies.

Even some teachers, all of whom know the system has been serially and dangerously underfunded, have been unable to stay off the B.C.T.F, bashing bandwagon in a futile attempt to stem the tide of public anger towards teachers.

Why are we so angry with the B.C.T.F.?

We are slaves to our aggregate experience.

And we mistakenly think our aggregate experience with schools, born of personal youthful memories and snippets of stressful times in our child’s development, are sufficient data for us to effectively judge the efficacy of teachers and schools.












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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11 Responses to Why Do We Hate the B.C.T.F.?

  1. Geoff McElgunn says:

    Well said, Jim, and so true. Wish I knew how to change it!


  2. Hi Jim, Excellent blog. It expresses so well what I have been trying to articulate for some time. Best regards, Susan Jardine Teacher, Vancouver


  3. Pat Rickard says:



  4. Bobbi Fox says:

    Ok, Jim… I personally disagree with your comments. Your first error, in my opinion, is to neglect to recognize that the BCTF, as an organization, has made its’ own bed of nails which it repeatedly chooses to sleep on. It is not ‘teachers’ per se that the public are offended with and by!

    The public does not blindly tolerate unions which tear up its’ own (CEP’s) staff’s contracts, Jim. Yes, this dates back a few years – but how can anyone have any sense of ‘compassion’ for the ‘woe is me’ over any type of torn up contracts when the union has done the exact same to its’ own? The episodes of harassment, and claims of bullying in some of the union offices are also an issue – particularly with those who are expected to deal in a balanced manner with our most precious resource: our children.

    Even more offensive in the belief of many (myself included) is that the BCTF has chosen to blatantly ‘use’ public school children as strategic maneuvers in a game of political and fiscal football on a repeated basis over the past few contract negotiations. This use of public school children on placards, and abuse of a position of trust within classrooms and on school premises needs to become an immediate firing offense – with the unions support.

    Most teacher unions would never do this to the children in their care, Jim. Many educators in BC are truly ashamed of this, as well. This is a known tactic used by only the most militant of teachers unions in North America. Here is an example from Michigan, USA – you will find the ‘how to use the children’ as negotiating tools on page 20 – and will see some very familiar ‘slogans’ – in addition to the common thread and tactics between this past summers strike, and the Chicago Teachers strike of 2012. http://www.mea.org/bfcl_files/pdf/BFCL-CrisisPlanning-HE.pdf

    It is this particular BCTF union, under the direction of the ‘coalition’- which has been so badly behaved over the past few contract negotiations – that much of the ‘seasoned’ public is finished with any type of empathy or sympathy toward what has become equivalent to a boil on the backside of the BC’s education system.

    Unfortunately, I believe in some ways this union itself is what has potentially tarnished teachers reputations in this province – hopefully not irrevocably.

    Lastly, to compare a BCTF negotiating position (manipulating children’s rights to their report cards, and higher education) to a ‘job’ like a police officer, fire fighter – why not add soldiers in there, as well? – in which you risk your life, each and every day without fail is not a legitimate stance, no matter how much some BCTF members would wish it to be so.

    I believe the BCTF and this unions behaviour is absolutely the problem here – not ‘teachers’ at all. While the BCTF seems intent on ‘using’ the new blood they see (as in the new :crop” of parents which they seek to cultivate and/or manipulate seemingly every 12 years), the ‘communities’ that they service do not forget – or forgive – these transgressions from decade to decade.

    To have the most recent strike ‘use’ children, and the newest ‘crop’ of parents again – on placards, in classrooms, on picket lines, does not build any nature of integrity for, or public respect toward this union, in my opinion.

    Here is some background data, from others perspectives: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Structuring+reality+so+that+the+law+will+follow%3a+British+Columbia…-a0274699540
    Don Avison Report on the BC College of Teachers:

    Click to access 2010_factfinder_report_bcct.pdf

    The BCTF as an entity and a body needs to answer for the years of degradation of teacher reputations in this province, in my opinion, and alter its’ processes (i.e. one member one vote) to step into this century. Most importantly, this union must commit to the very last member, in my belief, to stop using our public school children as tools in job action and shields on picket lines.


    • jimnelson806 says:

      My apologies for not approving and answering your thoughtful comment on my blog “Why Do We Hate the BCTF”.
      I was in Victoria and purposely left my computer at home, so we could walk to Spinnakers and have Fish ‘n Chips and a beer in peace, without my feeling it necessary to rant about education for a while.

      Thanks for taking the time to compose a serious response – I very much appreciate it. Thanks to some BCTF critics like you who are willing to put their thoughts down in a rational fashion, I have a much better understanding of why teachers have become so hated in recent days.I believe your response makes my point.

      I say “teachers” not “BCTF” because although I never belonged to the union in my 35 years in public education,I have two wonderful children who are in the union.When the teacher disrespecters hate on the BCTF, they feel personally attacked.They can’t understand how anyone can ignore the disgraceful behaviour of the government towards education and teachers – they and almost all teachers, understand and believe that this government is anti education and teacher- yet everyone’s yelling at teachers. “Huh?” they say.

      Separating “teachers” from the “BCTF” is a carefully nurtured strategy.Neither Christy Clark,nor either Peter has ever uttered a bad word about teachers, but they are so vitriolic about “the union”, that people began to parrot their snide disrespect. It allows critics to express anger and disrespect for the profession while claiming that the problem is that real teachers are not being represented by their union.Teachers views are represented by the union.Some teachers, uncomfortable at being disliked, wonder if it’s their fault – there are a few that even jump on the anti BCTF/ CKNW hate machine.But they don’t wonder about who the real villain is – they all know that public education has been under attack for years by provincial governments with absolutely no idea what public education gives us all and what a wise investment it is.Their union represents them in that.

      Both of my kids are beginning teachers, neither is a union loony.Both however,know who the villains of the public education piece is, and it’s not the union.

      They both just want to do the job, be with kids and coach a team, just like Mom and Dad did.They grew up in a home where teaching supported a rewarding middle class life; you’d never get rich but you made a respected commitment to community and country.But they can no longer do what their parents did in schools.Their salaries are 20% lower than they used to be. Neither can buy a house, or travel, or even pay off huge student loans. Their teaching loads are such that neither feels much like coaching , and the kids lose out – but not because my kids are lazy, bunt because government works so hard to make their jobs increasingly more difficult.

      Think of the effect this has on kids.Teachers forced into defensive teaching – more worksheets, seat work, tests and quizzes,fewer projects, deep learning activities, and individualization – good luck with that one Mr. Fassbender.

      It’s at the point that it’s physically and emotionally impossible for teachers to teach a full load for 35 years – I’m convinced of it.
      Teachers are forced to be less and less creative and innovative. They are more resistant to change – change hasn’t been funded for 20 years.
      Teachers smile and nod at the latest,unfunded wave on the educational beach, initiated by a Minister of Education who knows little about education and whose Langley legacy is banning books, back to basics, and union bashing – then teachers close their classroom doors and their hidden curriculum takes over. When they’re shooting at you, smile,retreat, and keep your head down.

      The grass isn’t cut,the weeds not pulled,school painting rotation has been long since chopped,few counsellors, no vice principals in most schools below secondary, no specialists,fewer learning assistance centres, no district specialists to design and coordinate programmes, no outdoor education,spotty maintenance.

      B.C. Schools are deteriorating at an alarming rate, but most of us haven’t the aggregate experience to either see what BC education was and what it’s becoming. It used to be Golden Eagle Bridge and now it’s Patullo Bridge.
      No amount of vilifying teachers and yelling at the union can change the fact that we’ve stopped funding public education in BC to an acceptable level. And if the government does this to punish the awful teachers union then who is actually using kids to win a political battle?

      In terms of comparing teachers to other members of society, I’ll gladly and continually maintain that the contribution of teachers is as important as those of police,firefighters,soldiers, or anyone else.
      While all are important contributions, teachers are at least as deserving of a ribbon bumper sticker that says ” I support our teachers” as is anyone.I know the risking their lives everyday thing is the pat answer, but it’s not more important than helping our children and country develop effectively and safely.

      I have all kinds of criticism and advice for the BCTF, but none of it comes even close to tempting me to suggest that it’s the union that is ruinng public education in BC. I have an aggregate experience with schools and teachers that overwhelms those concerns… the TF is wrong not not hire a professional, female( more credible) PR person and an LRB specialist like Peter Cameron who knows how to win at bargaining and manipulate the LRB.
      Calling a strike on the last week of school was not wise. The negotiation with their admin. personal to which you allude was horrendously handled – I thought it hypocritical as did you, but I am not so doctrinaire as to excuse Christy Clark’s personal vendetta against teachers because the BCTF screwed up with the CEP. The government’s behaviour towards teachers and education is spectacularly immoral, yet we can forget that in anti union preoccupation.

      I have even more concerns about schools and teachers.Teachers that blame kids for failing drive me nuts. Teachers that insist on final high stakes exams in every subject drive me nuts.Schools that have school wide “programmes” to teach behaviour,or pro social behaviour – so patronizing and ineffective.”Back to Basics” movements,competition in everything, the earlier the better, work habits letter grades – meaningless subjective, inaccurate, and often hurtful, huge lists of rules,writing lines as punishment or my personal favourite assigning running or pushups for punishment- there’s motivation for you.I could go on forever,criticizing the system and teachers.

      But I’ve also seen kids blossom under kindness, get excited about myriad things that teachers introduce, bring out and encourage in kids that I would pay thousands for my child to experience.I have seen teachers so good that kids change from tentative to engrossed, from timid to exuberant in days.I’ve seen it happen much more often than I’ve seen crabby old Mr Switz give out detentions for tardiness.
      I’ve seen such magic stuff for which teachers don’t demand credit and don’t get.(usually someone else takes credit) The point is, I’ve seen the incredibly positive aggregate experience that schools give children and their parents that a sometimes unspophisticated union trying to defend schools from a government determined to punish teachers for past sins doesn’t give me cause to hate the union.

      The BCTF is neither old fashioned nor undemocratic – they vote on whether to throw out the garbage or not.They are strategically challenged,sometimes clumsy. but when you focus on their shortcomings, you miss the real criminal – you’re basically blaming the black slaves for suffering at the hands of slave owners.

      Thanks for engaging Bobbi.I have come to understand that hatred for the BCTF does not mean that a person sees teachers as evil.I didn’t believe it until recently.
      I don’t agree with the sentiment,I think when one focusses all on the union one ignores the elephant in the room; the disgraceful behaviour of Christy Clark and the two Peters and a lazy media.
      Please don’t discount teachers and public schools. My considerable, aggregate experience with them is that they are worth our respect and support.



  5. Bobbi Fox says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and evidently heartfelt reply. I understand the need to ‘get away’ from the challenges of these education discussions; as we have never spoken this way before, I wasn’t clear as to whether you would be willing to post this on your blog at all, and am grateful to you for having done so.

    I again must assert – please do not mistake my concerns with disrespect for teachers as individuals. That is not the case; while I may be disgusted with the actions and activities of a ‘body’ – in this case, the union – I continue to find teachers/educators as individuals of very high value, for the most part.

    I appreciate you sharing the fact that your children have followed your admirable footsteps into this time honoured profession; they deserve better from all parties concerned, as do our children.

    Your comments of concern over making 20% less are recognized; please understand that often the parents of public school children are very, very fortunate to have two salaries make up a gross take home salary equivalent to the net wage of one entry level teacher. We all cope, as best we can, with our lots in life.

    Yes, I understand that teachers may feel as if they are placed in a position of ‘defensive’ teaching. I know that many parents and even communities are certainly feeling that we have been forced into a role of ‘defensive parenting/oversight’, on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, as well.

    Many parents are fearful of speaking out on these issues, as I have – for fear of the impacts or repercussions on their school aged children; the union’s ‘call to arms’ was seen as a demand to be fulfilled, whether we as parents or communities wanted to or not, by many.

    When parents were shunned, ridiculed, and denigrated for daring to accept a much needed $40.00 per day toward strike tutoring, it became an even a poorer reflection on the union, perceptively.

    When we see that parents are actually being listened to on education issues, in places like Australia and the UK to some extents, we want the same – if not better – for our own. Educating our children is not just about throwing tax dollars at the problems; if parents and communities are not part of the solutions for our children, then funding beyond our current levels makes little sense.

    When we see Grade 11 and Grade 12 graduates who are functionally unable to count back change from a $20.00 bill without a calculator, there is something very ‘basic’ that is being missed. I am not someone who knows a great deal about curriculum issues, but I do know that students and our children are leaving school and grades without some very basic, essential skill levels, that life requires of them.

    To have communities and parents cast aside as ‘know nothings’ by an overly zealous union attitude which believes only ‘teachers should decide’ about curriculum, about class size, and about composition issues is totally offensive to many of us – and sets the battlefield with our children standing behind us, protected from what we perceive to be detrimental influences.

    To see, even within your comments, our children treated as pawns on a political chessboard in this ‘game’ of ‘who controls the LRB’, or ‘who controls public opinion’, or who controls curriculum, class size, or composition sickens me, quite frankly.

    We cannot throw money at class size when we cannot sustain the pensions of the teachers we have in the system now, in my opinion. We have not even begun to address the costs of teachers pensions, as they are today; we cannot look toward expanding high cost options without determining ways and means of making this education system sustainable over the next three or four decades – so that our children are not carrying an unbearable taxation burden.

    I wish every time that that ‘pawn’ LRB etc. position was advocated that anyone doing so – government or union – would be required to spend 10 minutes with a Down Syndrome student who has made significant learning breakthroughs, only to be cast away from that treasured classroom by a teacher who has not learned appropriate composition skills. Or that those significant gains are being lost, in recognizing there is no one available to reinforce the support or learning skills that student receives in their home.

    Spend 10 minutes telling that child why the Union/Government matters more than they do, and money matters more than their feelings, and LRB matters more than his or her education does. Then spend the next 10 minutes telling his/her parents the same thing – because that is what effectively happens, each and every time our children are used as pawns in these ‘negotiation ploys’ – and we – the affected parents and communities – are held away from the discussion tables by Union, Ministry or Government.

    In some communities there is dwindling trust in the public school system overall; more home schooling, less confidence in BCED, dwindling numbers in dwindling elementary schools. That is not just the government – not just the ministry – it is the responsibility – and a reaction toward – the behaviours of this union, too, in my opinion.

    What I am trying to say is everyone involved needs to get their acts together, and start working supportively, with parents, in a cohesive manner – stop trying to ‘split the vote’.

    Every time someone points a finger at the government or ministry, they need to point that same finger at this union, too. It is time these entities collectively attempt to work toward the betterment of the education system, and our children.

    It’s time to change, and it is definitely time to take the politics OUT of BCED, in my opinion. Or get rid of those who refuse to put down the politics, for the sake of BCED and the children of BC.

    I do not blame the teachers – but if this is not corrected, the teachers and educators of this Province who do not support these ‘political’ stances must be given a choice to walk away from the behaviours which currently tarnish them. If change is not possible, then the teachers must be ‘set free’, to use your slave analogy. Thanks, sincerely, for the dialogue. I appreciate your honesty, and hope you will appreciate mine in return, as well.


    • jimnelson806 says:

      HI Bobbi;
      Wow.We may have more of a basis for some agreement than I thought.I still think you’re dead wrong to blame teachers and their union for any of the damage done to our public education system. However:

      I hear in this response more than just a strong union aversion.I’ve always thought( and still do) that the BCTF is a convenient, manufactured place to hang hate, while other,substantive disappointments are the real bases of the dissatisfaction.I’m especially interested to hear you express frustration with how schools have treated you and some other parents, especially as regards the treatment of a special needs student you clearly know well.

      I share your concerns about how parents are often treated by schools and teachers. In my day,I always had a “no surprises” rule. If a student was struggling , or behaving badly, or unhappy,teachers were required to intervene somewhere other than on a report card. Report cards are for giving a snapshot of progress and should never be used as an academic or behavioural intervention or “smarten up”.

      Past that, I know there are pompous Principals (lots) and some teachers(fewer) who come off as “know it alls”. I know that most parents,although they may feel a bit inadequate about current subject matter and curriculum,
      appreciate a pedagogical discussion, especially as it relates to their child, provided teachers don’t break out educational jargon with which no one could be expected to remain current.

      As a lifer educator, and having been out of schools for only six years, I find myself saying “what’s that” when the latest eduspeak
      is used, as if anybody who doesn’t know that ESL is now represented by some other letters is an idiot.

      I also have all kinds of criticisms of the school system beyond the difficulties brought on by serial government underfunding.School wide behaviour programmes, anti bully campaigns,trying to teach “pro social behaviour”- all are patronizing and useless, and give less effective teachers an excuse for not improving their skills in establishing relationships with students.
      Our system stresses competition far too much, it has too many awards,far too many rules, ridiculous punishments( writing lines and pushups- really?) The system tries far too hard to manipulate student behaviour with rewards and punishments, which extinguish interest in learning.
      And our schools still give mind numbing homework that decides how kids spend their free time and causes stress within families, who struggle and cajole their kids to get it done.

      Our system exists to rank students rather than to help them to own their own learning and be excited about it, and our system doesn’t even realize that their goal should be to help a child become a good citizen,a free thinker, a happy.collaborative,hard working, responsible and tolerant person. If schools did that, I wouldn’t care whether my son was the top chemistry student or had perfect attendance.Our system stresses the wrong things.

      That said, I do think that people are incorrect to think that teachers want power and control of the money.Teachers don’t want to be in charge, they want those in charge to know something about education and to fund it adequately. Beyond that, they want professional autonomy in the classroom, like a dentist has in her office. The patient’s input is important, they should be consulted,and respected,but no one in Victoria should be instructing them on how to fill a tooth.
      Teachers are professionals, they have significant skills and training,and a lot of education.These guys are good… to have a retread school trustee from Langley explain what works to them is spectacularly inappropriate,and not the best thing for teeth or their owners.Were dentists fighting for professional autonomy would we all vilify them for using teeth for political purposes. Would we speak up for the poor tooth, who has no voice?

      I am saddened to see your upset with the fact that teachers want input about decisions about curriculum, class size and composition. Who should decide? We’ve seen the Government’s thoughts on the matter – remove 3 billion from class size and composition and refuse to put it back.

      So teachers object to that idea, and who’s vilified? Even after teachers are twice vindicated by the Supreme Court and government ignores the rulings, we still only carp that the union is evil rather than even considering the possibility that the government may be overtly belligerent and unsupportive in their actions.

      It is emminently sensible for decisions about practices in education to be made by people who know education practices.A supportive government that controlled the money and encouraged educators to do their job would have unqualified support from teachers. We don’t even have a government that wants public education to thrive.

      “Throwing money” at education is not something we need worry too much about.It’s usually a reasonable adage,but in regard to BC education, perhaps we should give it a try, seeing as we’ve tried the diametrically opposite strategy for twenty years.
      Australia and the UK are hardly models for us to follow.English schools created a class system that still persists.Australian schools have come a distance, but were so far in the billabong to start with that they still have a long way to go.
      Try Finland – I know it’s hard for teacher critics to accept,and they have tried to rationalize away their success in some cutesy Finland bashing critiques; regardless, a big part of what makes Finland the best school system in the world is that parents and the public are the staunch defenders of public education and teachers.It is the parents who demand adequate funding and insist on equality of opportunity.Perhaps we might try that just once.

      Your wish to get the politics out of our schools is also what teachers want. But you mischaracterize the situation when you suggest that this is a political battle, fought by two sides who, for the sake of our kids should just cut it out.
      As I said in a past blog,this is not a “battle” for power in public education. The word “battle” implies that two sides are shooting at each other.This isn’t a “battle” over education ,it’s a public education pogrom.Only one side has the guns and is shooting. The other “side” is busy ducking and retreating. They’re not retreating quietly,and I don’t blame them, but they have no power. A lazy media has helped turn the public against teachers and even Supreme Court decisions in their favour have been ignored and removed from their arsenal.

      Teachers are not loony unionists. They are reluctant unionists – they were forced into union status by Bill Van Der Zalm. Teachers don’t want to fight, they want everyone to play nice and get along -that’s why they became teachers.
      Teachers hate the hyper political climate and they hate the constant fight. There is only one villain in this struggle.

      I am convinced that if ,a la Ebeneezer Scrooge, you could be visited by three spirits; the ghosts of education past, present,and future, you would be absolutely shocked at the carnage governments have perpetrated on BC public schools over the past 20 years.The change is startling, and the prognosis for the future is bad, if we don’t, as you say, take the politics out of it, cough up funding to catch up and move forward;we need to re vitalize a system that has been eroding from lack of support for over 20 years.


  6. Ev Voykin says:

    I read both Mr. Nelson and Ms. Fox’s comments a few times as both were lengthy. In my view and having worked and served on school board for 18 years of my life – pre and post Provincial Bargaining, which the NDP government of the day brought into fruition. It’s very simple – prior to provincial bargaining and BCPSEA individual boards negotiated contracts with teachers, and the majority of boards settled contracts, with minimal interference from BCTF. It was local. Two or more of the biggest school boards in the province, were unsuccessful and their local teachers striked. If I recall this was the catapult to Provincial Bargaining (my personal feeling to this day was a strong disagreement to that approach and a foreseen increased bureaucracy removed from local boards. Local teachers union executives were forced to defer to a provincial representative, aka BCTF. BOTH BCPSEA and BCTF spend their time arguing in board rooms at the coast more, than really getting the pulse of their locals. Local teachers unions don’t have much choice at this point. Meanwhile, where did it get the School Boards – of whom government vowed, they would not interfere with bargaining? The government eventually kicked out all Board trustees, and now the two higher powers Govt & BCTF make or break the decisions. Had the few larger school boards (mostly at the lower mainland and island) worked out their constant conflicts – I feel there would not have been the conflict that has existed since 1994 specifically. The world of negotiation between “school boards” and “teachers” has now become a world of “Govt” and “BCTF”. Now in this day school board trustees and teachers are left with no choice but to rubber stamp what the ‘people at the top’ decide.


    • jimnelson806 says:

      I agree with you completely – thank you.
      Another reason for going to provincial bargaining was the practice of “whipsawing”.
      The Harcourt government complained about “whipsawing” – teachers using a small local agreement to whipsaw larger boards into accepting similar agreements. Ironically, “whipsawing” is now the strategy du jour of government negotiators, who insist teachers accept settlements equivalent to other groups with different bargaining priorities (such as keeping their jobs)

      It’s also instructive to look at the comparative bargaining success of those groups who negotiate locally and those who bargain provincially. When I began teaching,my starting salary ,after 5 years of education, was 8K above a beginning firefighter and a beginning city police person. My children, who just began teaching, started at a salary 15K below beginning firefighters and beginning police.When was the last time you heard about a labour dispute with firefighters or police? Local people know and appreciate the worth of their public servants.

      Cheers, Jim


  7. Bobbi says:

    Hi, Jim,
    You said:
    “this is not a “battle” for power in public education. The word “battle” implies that two sides are shooting at each other.This isn’t a “battle” over education …”

    I personally believe that both sides – BCTF/Teachers and the BCPSEA – believe this FSA issue (as a single example of impacting children and attempts to affect attitudes and routine process on school premises) as a ‘battle’.

    Here is an example: http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/documents/backgrounder09-%20Jan14-fsa.pdf

    It seems this ‘battle’ for power and control over public children’s education – a right which belongs to the public, not a singular union – is not simply my perception.


    • jimnelson806 says:

      BUt this is BCPSEA you’re citing.BCPSEA is the negotiating arm of the Lib. Government. One would assume they’d tell horror stories about teachers.

      Teachers have never had “control” of education in BC and they don’t want control.

      Teachers want sane governance, as local as possible, and they want professional autonomy. They don’t want to control the public purse or set budgets.
      You’re confusing wanting control with wanting people who know something about education to make decisions about education. The people making decisions about our schools currently, have little schooling, no education experience, and little knowledge of schools.

      Were I government,I wouldn’t presume to tell doctors how to conduct surgery. I would be humble enough to know I know nothing about medicine and I would be sure that people with medical knowledge and knowledge about hospitals were well represented in my Medical Decision making hierarchy.

      This doesn’t happen in education in B.C. – it should.


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