This blog post is for the students of B.C. It's for all the teens who have heard about -- and are contemplating joining -- a student walkout on Wednesday this week.
I need to talk to you.
I need to clarify a few things before you decide whether or not to participate in this walkout. I'm not saying "do" or "don't" walk out. You're rational beings. You have your own brains. You can make your own decisions. And I can't physically stop you from exiting a building. Most of you are bigger than me by the end of Grade 8, anyway.
But I do hope that you make informed choices. That you really understand what you're doing and why you're doing it.
Because walking out on Wednesday for the sake of skipping class is a crap reason. Really. There are far better reasons to skip than for a political cause about which you aren't actually informed.
So, here you are. A breakdown of what's going on, just for you, the students of B.C.
1. A strike and a lockout are two different things.
A strike is tool that unionized employees are legally permitted to use in order to try and force their employer to acknowledge the workers' value and negotiate with them more fairly. This is what teachers are doing. The one day of school that you missed last week and are scheduled to miss this week is strike action. I'll explain the reasons for this action in the next point.
A lockout is when an employer tells their employees that they are not permitted to work. This is not a choice that teachers have made. This is a directive from our employer (the government of B.C.) telling us that we are not allowed to work during our lunch breaks, nor more than 45 minutes before or after the bell. We legally aren't allowed to help you during lockout hours.
We aren't refusing to mark provincial exams, either. We aren't allowed to go to work in order to mark them; we aren't allowed at work at all on June 25, 26, or 27.
This is not a teacher choice. If we are at school working during these times, we're trespassing.
The media has confused this with talk about extracurricular activities. The employer is saying that we're allowed to volunteer, but that is not what the actual lockout order states.
(I talk more about that in another post. Open it in a new tab for later reading if you're curious.)
2. Teachers are striking for your learning conditions.
If you started school any time after 2002, you don't know any different than what you currently see.
I do know a different public school system. The schools I went to before 2002 were different. You guys don't have the same opportunities that I had at your age. And I don't think that's fair.
Neither does the Supreme Court of B.C. They have twice ruled that the government of B.C. has acted illegally in its dealings with teachers -- specifically where your learning environment (that is, how many people are in your classes, and how much support we can give to those who need it most) in concerned.
The Supreme Court of B.C. has twice said that you deserve better learning conditions than you currently have. But the government of BC -- the group who has locked us out -- doesn't agree.
We're striking because your learning conditions DO matter. And a few missed days of school this year is a helluva lot better than years of missed opportunities.
3. Public education in B.C. is underfunded.
Education is a provincial mandate, meaning that each province in is charge of their own education system. Each province decides how much of the provincial budget to spend on public education.
B.C. spends $1,000 LESS per student than the Canadian average. That's a huge amount. Think about how much less your school has to work with than most of Canada's.
Personally, I don't think your education is worth any less than any other student in Canada, and I'd like to see the government value it as highly as I do.
4. You aren't pawns. You're people.
I apologize if you feel as though we're messing with your future. I really do.
But, to be honest, I am trying to mess with your future. I'm trying to make it better. To give you more opportunities and more support to reach the goals that you set for yourself.
As cheesy as it sounds, you're the future of B.C. And I think you deserve the chance to have the best future possible.
Now, I can see you not buying that argument if you're graduating this year. I mean, your future is now, right? And you're right. It totally is. But it goes on from here. Your future is -- likely -- in B.C. And an educated, prosperous B.C. benefits you, too.
5. Consider joining your teachers on the picket lines instead.
I totally get it if you're tired of this strike business. I know that I am. I hate going on strike.
You might be frustrated. You might want the teachers' union and government to just sit down and figure ship out, to give you the education you deserve.
So tell them that. Make a sign. Wave it at traffic. Let the public know that you care about your education.
Just consider doing in on the picket line instead of making your own.
And I don't say that because I don't think you can make your own decisions. I just say it because I think we're fighting for the same thing.
So, there you have it. Some more information about what's going on. Take it and use it how you will. Because you guys have free will. And functioning brains, capable of critical thought. So stretch those brain muscles. Take in all the information you can. Toss it around in your grey matter. And then, only then, decide what you're going to do.
A Fair Deal - Here you'll find information from the BCTF (the teachers' union) regarding the issues that we're fighting for.
BCPSEA - This is the British Columbia Public School Employers' Association, who are the people negotiating on behalf of the government. The full lockout order and other communication can be found here.
Parents for BC - a group dedicated to making parents' voices heard with regard to education in B.C.
(This was first published on Ashley D. Mackenzie's website.)
More blogs on the B.C. teachers' strike:
- I'm Calling For A Parent Walkout. You In? - Louise Wallace, mother, blogger
- What Happens After A Teachers' Strike, From A Student's Perspective - Ramesh Ranjan, former student
- Dear Parent Of The Average Child: One B.C. Teacher's Confession - Genevieve Hawtree, teacher
- A Kindergarten Student Told Me Teachers Are 'Lazy, Greedy' - Caroline Cho, teacher
- Why I'm Still A Teacher After 20 Years - Carla Friesen, Teacher