Opinion Column

B.C. students not held 'hostage'

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Schools in B.C. aren't likely to open this week. (REUTERS)

Schools in B.C. aren't likely to open this week. (REUTERS)

“School's out for summer. School's out forever. School's been blown to pieces.” — Alice Cooper School’s Out

There will be no public school classes today as planned – nor quite likely for weeks, after veteran mediator Vince Ready walked out of negotiations, saying teachers and the B.C. government were too far apart.

So it’s time for a reality check.

First, the sky will not fall – everybody take a valium.

Students will not be scarred for life by learning that adults peacefully resolving their differences is inconvenient and expensive in a democracy. It is, in fact, a valuable life lesson.

Alternative ways of dispute resolution are now on display by Russian tanks and troops in eastern Ukraine, where the rule of force now trumps the rule of law and respect for international borders.

Second, teachers are not “strike happy.”

They are going without either wages or strike pay, and suffering financially because they believe it is the right thing to do — whether you agree or not.

And teachers know they will never make up $5,000 and counting in lost wages.

The BC Teachers’ Federation is not holding kids “hostage.”

True hostages are the 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria – respect the word.

Students and parents are also not “caught in the middle” of this dispute. They are part of this dispute because parents are taxpayers and voters, and their children will become both.

As such, parents have an important role in telling the government how they feel about its position, loudly. Students and non-parents have that responsibility, too.

Class size and composition – the number of special needs kids in classrooms and what resources they get to help learn – are critical to the whole province’s future.

Premier Christy Clark is well aware political leaders who ignore public opinion don’t survive long. Just ask ex-premier Gordon Campbell.

And with the B.C. Supreme Court twice ruling the B.C. government broke the law by stripping provisions for smaller classes and better composition from the teachers’ contract, Clark should be worried about not learning her lesson.

Ultimately, this dispute will end, teachers and students will go back to classrooms and the kids will be fine.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/ Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman



Do you agree or disagree that the teachers’ strike is inconvenient but not earth-shattering?

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