Odd Thoughts: Truth, as usual, stuck in middle

I confess, I’m growing tired of all the nonsense being floated back and forth in the general silliness between government and teachers – interminably.

The lockouts (designed just to make teachers look bad) and strikes and self-righteous outrage on both sides – all for the good of the children, of course – grew old weeks ago.

First, let’s get rid of the education funding levels issue. One side says they’ve gone up, the other insists they’ve gone down. As usual – when you factor in declining pupil enrolments, increased budgets, and inflation – reality lies pretty much dead in the middle: no real change in the past dozen or so years.

But is no change from an inadequate funding level acceptable?

The very existence of that question, of course, relies heavily on an opinion that teachers and the education they deliver have never been adequately funded.

I’m not sure that’s my opinion, but ask most teachers…

On the other hand, their union, the BCTF, appears to be of the opinion that the government wants to turn back the clock to the 1920s and further, when kids attended multi-grade classes in one-room schools built by work parties of neighbours on land donated by one the community’s more affluent farmers or otherwise upstanding citizen landowners.

Staffing the classrooms dotted within reasonable barefoot walking distance of students were mostly young women – single, because if they were married, they had their own families to take care of.

Men could be teachers… but that was mostly because they were “book-learned” and probably incapable of more practical endeavours.

They weren’t paid peanuts, however. Peanuts would have been an expensive import commodity – far too valuable to waste on teachers.

Once again, reality sits in a far more comfortable place. Teachers are not poorly paid today. But like everyone else, they deserve a top-up now and again.

But why are we talking about pay scales? Because that is what Education Minister Peter Fassbender has been careful to cultivate as the chief issue. (Let’s see if teachers fall for it.)

A side note about Minister Peter: he was a school trustee in Langley 30-plus years ago. He was elected as a member of a controversial slate that called itself the Back to Basics Bunch.

They were the ones who cultivated the Looney Langley tag known throughout the province, and one that is still hurled about for far less significant transgressions of political sense, inside and outside of local education issues in Langley. Those who expressed joy at his appointment to Christy Clark’s cabinet because he would bring moderation to matters of education in this province didn’t do their history homework.

Teachers have said from the start that they are more concerned about classroom conditions – more helping teachers for kids with special needs… and smaller class sizes.

And there’s the bugbear for me: teachers paid for better learning conditions for their kids when they gave up wage demands in exchange for smaller class sizes – before the provincial government unilaterally tore up that contract, killing the class-size clauses without enhancing the teachers’ pay scale as compensation.

The B.C. Supreme Court has shared my bugbear on that issue – twice – and the government keeps ignoring both the justices and me.

One final swing the other way: teachers are not a special class of people.

They are not any more important than lawyers, or garbage collectors, or truckers, or welders, or postal workers (okay, maybe postal workers) or… well, everybody.

We’re all important.

Even the kids.

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