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July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

Gibson asks – who controls public education?

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“There is a justifiable level of apprehension, almost fear, associated with publicly opposing positions taken by the BCTF”

I am frustrated by the battles raging in BC over who controls public education. I am frustrated by the leadership of a union that asserts in its every action that only the BCTF knows what is best in public education. However, what I am even more frustrated by is the sound of silence from any of the other partner groups within education. Where are the voices of the principals and vice-principals association, the superintendents association, the Deans of Education, the trustees association?

They are silent and their silence is deafening.

Mr. Steve Cardwell, Superintendent in Vancouver, has rightly suggested that after the labour dispute is finished all educators must return to work together. Teachers, principals, vice-principals, superintendents, professional non-teaching staff, trustees and parents must, as is expected of professionals in any field, set aside their differences to focus on their collective professional responsibility – in this case – educating the next generation of public school students.

Civility and respect are critical for all professionals and for all sides during labour action. However, being civil and being respectful does not require any individual or representative of a professional organization to be silent. Or does it?

My experience past and present leads me to suggest that there is a justifiable level of apprehension, almost fear, associated with publicly opposing positions taken by the BCTF. Examples are illustrative.

As a trustee seeking re-election in Vancouver in 2008, schools were politicized. Staff representatives invited BCTF endorsed candidates to attend staff meetings permitting these BCTF endorsed candidates to campaign in schools. Candidates who did not seek or want BCTF endorsement were very quietly supported by individual teachers. These teachers could not and would not state their support for me out loud or while at school. Staffs were politicized and a level of political group-think evident in the schools permitted staff to silence their colleagues. I was re-elected in 2008, but the silencing of colleagues through intimidation remains a part of what I observed as a trustee.

More recently, during this labour action, I was interviewed by Bill Good in relation to the post on City Caucus about teacher salary grids. An individual teacher, hearing the interview and angered by my comments, was personally offended despite the fact that my comments were general and factual. This teacher acted in anger. The teacher took action against someone close to me. Someone who is not a member of my family, did not make the comments to which the teacher objected and may have a view very different from my own. However, association to me was seen to be sufficient justification for the teacher to take action that was both personal and bullying against an individual close to me.

One could argue that these are unusual times or that two examples do not make a case. I would agree. However, the silence of education partner groups remains deafening. Are all the partner groups in education of one mind? Are they concerned only with their group interest and not the public interest? Or are they apprehensive about speaking publicly because they too have examples of unprofessional and targeted actions by a union that seeks to ensure that it, and only it, has control in public education.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on March 20, 2012. See Carol’s recent posts on public education here and here. See also related posts by Mike Klassen and by Suzanne Anton.

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