BC Minister of Education, Mr. George Abbott, came to visit Quesnel last week. At the end of the day, he set aside time for a Q&A with local teachers. I noticed that, he, like my colleagues, looked tired, but, also like my colleagues, remained polite and civil. He talked about being a former high school history teacher. He told us at least one story about his son. He even gave us extra time beyond the hour scheduled. I’ll be the first to admit that he seemed like a nice-enough guy. When we said, “We’re frustrated,” he said, “I agree.” When we said, “I’m sad,” he said, “I’m sorry.”
But I couldn’t ignore the proof that Minister Abbott is also a practiced politician. His answers were well-rehearsed and, like him, tired. Clearly, he had done and said this all many times before. Most notably, when we said, “We’re angry,” he said, “That wasn’t our intention.” And here’s where things stopped making sense.
It was at this point that Minister Abbott gave us a lengthy explanation about how no official cap on class sizes, and allowing Grades 4 – 7 classrooms to have up to 30 students (or more), would actually solve the problem of over-sized classrooms. He was, of course, speaking of a perfect plan, one free of budget constraints and involving idyllic collaboration between teachers and all levels of administration. We all know, however, that this is not a perfect, or even an adequately funded, world.
Which brings me to my main point; namely, that words mean little or nothing. We need to focus our attention on actions, for, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words:
1. A decade of budget cuts to educations hasn’t benefitted anyone, or improved anything.
2. Imposing a so-called ‘Education Improvement Plan,’which is more of a trendy, buzz word-filled idea than an actual plan, will never benefit students without serious, long-standing increases to the education budget.
3. Repealing hard-won contract language does not ‘bridge the gap’ between teachers and government; nor does it foster the trust necessary for a productive conversation.
It’s clear to me that these actions are part of a systematic process that intends to revoke my status as a teaching professional and dismantle my union, at which point the privatization of our education system can ensue. Although, I have no doubt in my mind that Minister Abbott would have denied this accusation whole-heartedly, with his tired, meaningless words.