Category Archives: Society

Gay pride versus the mayor of Truro…by Daniel Peters

As a change of pace from the usual west coast madness on this blog, I present a bit of madness from the east coast.

This weekend’s Gay Pride parades and other activities in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County have been in the news for the last week. It seems that the city council of Truro decided not to fly the Pride flag.

That decision, in and of itself, would not have drawn a comment from me. I don’t know what the precedents are. I don’t know what it means for a city hall to fly, or not to fly, a flag. Must they fly a flag for every little event that happens in their city? Nah, not worth commenting on.

Except for one thing: the way the mayor explained the decision.

It boils down to this. Truro mayor Bob Mills is a conservative, traditional Christian. According to him, it’s simply not OK to be gay, and that’s that. He won’t pick on gays in any illegal way, but neither will he do anything that expresses approval of their lifestyle.

Predictably, there has been a lot of noise (on both sides) in our local (Halifax) paper. Here’s my contribution (just now emailed):

– – – –

To the editor:

How curious that Truro mayor Bob Mills has raised the spectre of a slippery slope from the acceptance of homosexuality to the acceptance of pedophilia. I wonder on what basis he worries about such a thing as pedophilia, since the Bible has nothing to say about it. For that matter, the Bible never condemns rape, or even recognizes a distinction between rape and seduction. The fact that we are all horrified by pedophilia (and by rape) is a legacy of the very same modern, secular, humanist moral trend that has brought about our society’s greater acceptance of homosexuality. It is modern humanist morality, not Biblical morality, that emphasizes the importance of consent, and of the power balance that makes consent meaningful. The more secular and less Biblical our public morality becomes, the safer my children will be.

Daniel Peters

The NPA Union-Busters: an Open Letter to Vancouver City Council

If you agree with this posting, I strongly encourage you to email the Vancouver Mayor and City Council with a letter explaining just what you expect of them. Feel free to even copy this letter, sign it and send it to them at mayorandcouncil@city.vancouver.bc.ca which will forward to each of them.

Dear Mayor and Council,

For those of you who have no interest in vindictively punishing your highly valued staff in your 3 unions, I commend you. I encourage you to continue to lobby the others of you, the NPA I assume (correct me if I’m wrong), to bargain fairly.

I don’t know if you NPA union-busters are trying to save enough money from wages to pay off the Wilcox consultants or if you just like watching people suffer, but your refusal to meet your workers for more than 5 hours over THE LAST 6 DAYS is abhorrent and offensive to me.

I am ashamed that I live in this wonderful city when our “leaders” sink to this level of crass disrespect for the workers who support our social fabric, the workers you speak so highly of.

Your behaviour will not go unpunished in November 2008 when citizens wielding ballots all over the city will remember each one of you NPA social pariahs.

“Sam’s Strike” can only exist with 5 NPA councillors continually supporting him.

17% over 5 years for workers in neighbouring municipalities is a fair settlement. As a citizen of Vancouver I would support those kind of numbers. Pay equity for library workers who suffer from gender discrimination IN THE 21ST CENTURY, IN CANADA, is due. We should be ashamed to delay it any longer.

This is the end of the NPA in Vancouver: your obvious desire to corrode our civil society is your undoing.

Your offense is obscene.

It is time to bargain a contract, not rewind our labour culture to the 19th century. Get to the table and do your job!

The End of "Mayor" Sam Sullivan

Welcome Peter Ladner, NPA’s next mayoral candidate.

Sam Sullivan has unofficially ended his term as mayor at 11:03AM today as CUPE announced a tentative settlement in North Vancouver. We have passed the tipping point in the regional dispute.

Sullivan’s strategy has been absurd, ill-conceived and ill-informed at best, arrogant and destructive at worst. In fact, however, it is not a new strategy: it has a historic [and historically foolish] basis: Boulwarism.

It’s all about rejecting bargaining entirely and starting “negotiating” with a final offer that won’t budge from threats or strikes. It inherently opposes the rights of workers to negotiate with management.

In light of the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent ruling that BC’s Bill 29 is illegal and that collective bargaining is protected under the Charter, “Mayor” Sam’s tactics are in the spirit of what the Supreme Court opposes, as are the abuses the HEU suffered earlier in the decade and BC teachers’ loss of the right to bargain wages, working conditions and class sizes.

But “Mayor” Sam is always right. Until he is embarrassingly wrong. Here’s how it looks today:


Richmond, Surrey, Delta, Burnaby and North Vancouver have got Vancouver surrounded with contracts that aren’t punitively designed to punish labour because it is organized. Vancouver has had the strength to bargain unfairly with the GVRD’s bargaining support, until now as the 5 largest municipalities around Vancouver have or will settle by tomorrow. Vancouver’s bargaining strength is virtually gone. Richmond and Surrey, that do not use the GVRD bargaining stick, helped set a pattern that the other 3 cities have recognized, and in doing so have constrained the GVRD’s scope to push Vancouver’s agenda and support Vancouver’s internal turmoil.

Keith Baldrey wrote in the Coquitlam Now on July 25, 2007, “the BC economy has undergone significant changes (forestry, while still big, is not the huge industry it once was) and the power of organized labour has diminished in the past two decades. …The economy is doing well, and employees consider themselves deserving of a bigger portion of that richer economic pie.”

The truth is broader though. Sure, the better economy means the workers ought to share in it. But the truth is that even when the economy was not so good in recent decades, corporate profits and management salaries have done well, often at the expense of workers, whose purchasing power today is close to half of what it was 30 years ago.

People often complain—especially during civic strikes like now–that union workers are lazy whiners who seek opportunities to strike while “real” workers in the private sector don’t have job security or finite hours of work or good working conditions. Their goal seems to be to make unionized workers have to suck it up and suffer the same kind of crappy jobs, wages, working conditions, hours of work and lack of protections that non-union workers are forced to endure.

Unions have spent the better part of two centuries agitating for change: weekends, a 40 hour work week [hopefully to decline further for quality of life concerns and higher meaningful employment rates], no children working 12-hour 7-day weeks in coal mines [except in BC now, thanks to Campbell’s neoLiberal regime, children as young as 12 can get their asses to work], overtime pay, holidays, vacations, health and safety provisions, etc. So many of these benefits have become so valued that society as a whole has adopted them into legislation: the Labour Code, minimum wages, collective bargaining rights to support democracy in the workplace. And now the Supreme Court has joined our side.

So while many non-union workers think unionized workers get too much, my question to them is don’t you deserve as much too? Why try to stop others from being treated with dignity at work because you aren’t. Should we all have a labour race to the bottom so we’re all back in sweatshops? Stop the insanity.

And as Baldry writes that the power of unions has declined, it is because unionization, particularly private sector unionization, has declined. Instead of trying to drag other workers down to lower levels of treatment, it’s time increase the level and breadth of unionization, particularly in the private sectors. Why aren’t bank workers unionized? They are often treated like moronic cogs on a product-shilling wheel while the big banks in Canada regularly post quarterly profits [not revenues!] in the billions?

Sam Sullivan doesn’t get it. Actually, he does get it. It’s just that he rejects it while claiming in his inaugural address to support it:

“Vancouver is blessed with highly skilled staff who maintain our status as the most liveable city in the world. Tightening labour markets will present challenges over the next five years to attract, retain and develop our work force. All of us should be grateful for the front line workers who serve us so well. Our recruitment theme ‘Powered by Innovation’ should be more than a slogan as we provide interesting and rewarding careers.”

Intelligent city councils surrounding Vancouver get it too and they don’t reject it. CUPE workers get it because they know they deserve to be treated with respect…as do all other workers, despite what our arrogant, anti-social premier and mayor believe.

So thanks for the memories, “Mayor” Sam Sullivan. Let your lame duck mayoralty begin.

And, Peter Ladner, the tide is turning. Remember that as you build your NPA leadership campaign.

Sam’s Strike: The Arrogance of the Man and “The Man”

It is clear to me that Sam’s Strike is all about the Vancouver mayor’s deluded sense of autocracy [see below].

While other municipalities are being lined up to support Vancouver’s mean-spirited refusal to bargain in good faith, we wait to watch how long Sam can go thinking that the world will actually revolve around him and his idea that through his immense, sheer will, thousands of people who are actually committed to building community will crack under his might and give in to his petty demands.

His mayoralty is a shame.

Vancouver is the only city in Canada that has had three strikes in the last decade. In a strong economy, to not reward public workers, but instead to demand job insecurity and a contract term to expire days after the Olympics ends is just plain mean. It’s also representative of the grand golden straitjacket of neoliberalism that erodes the social fabric we’ve spent generations building.

Talks with CUPE 15 break down, city fails again to bargain worker issues

[July 28, 2007 08:53 PM]

VANCOUVER – CUPE 15, the union representing striking Vancouver inside workers, returned to the bargaining table yesterday at 9:30 a.m. tabling a 5 year package that addressed Mayor Sullivan’s concern about labour stability through the Olympics, with an understanding that the city was prepared to deal with issues that were also important to the union.

Despite this CUPE 15 movement, the City of Vancouver once again refused to bargain and spent less than 2 hours and 22 minutes over a period of two full days speaking with the union. The rest of the time, the city committee “caucused” while union negotiators sat and waited.

“We knew something was wrong when we arrived at the table and the City of Vancouver did not even have their two top decision makers in the room or in the building,” says CUPE 15 president, Paul Faoro. “You would have thought that with a strike coming into its second week, civic services at a halt and nearly 5,500 Vancouver city workers on the street, that General Manager Mike Zora and City Manager Judy Rogers would have made it a priority to attend and negotiate a settlement. What else could be more important?”

“There is one thing I give the city credit for,” says Faoro. “Consistency. The City of Vancouver has consistently failed to bargain and continues to frustrate the process to this day.”

CUPE 15 presented a complete written package to the city for negotiation on Friday morning. The city refused to respond in writing to the proposal.

“Frankly, we have had enough of this circus, and we suspect the public has had enough too. What is it going to take for the city to realize that manipulation and game-playing is not going to bring about a collective agreement?” says Faoro. “How much does the public have to be inconvenienced and how long do our members have to walk the picket-line without a paycheque, unable to provide the services they are proud to deliver to the residents of Vancouver?”

CUPE 15’s chief negotiator, Keith Graham, says the city is still holding onto their “final offer”, tabled on July 9th, 2007. This is the same offer that union members voted down by an overwhelming 89% because it had takeaways and failed to address issues of importance to the union, like job security (no-contracting out language), improvements for auxiliaries, whistleblower protection and harassment resolution language.

Description of major CUPE 15 issues:

Contrary to common belief, CUPE 15’s current collective agreement has no language in it that protects Vancouver’s inside workers from contracting out. At any moment, the city of Vancouver can outsource whatever services they choose, eliminating jobs and compromising the quality and stability of public services. It is for this reason that CUPE 15’s primary concern is to negotiate language that provides them with job security through the term of the agreement.

“We recognize that is it reasonable for the city of Vancouver to secure labour stability through the Olympics, but it is also reasonable for city workers to seek job security,” says Faoro. “Mayor Sullivan and his management staff have given us no reason to trust that they won’t just contract out our jobs one-by-one over the next 5-years.”

Another major issue that the union would like to see addressed is improvements for auxiliary workers, whom have no right to be scheduled by seniority, no benefits, no statutory holiday pay and have gone from temporary and occasional work relief to a massive under-compensated labour pool. In parks, for instance, two-thirds of the workforce is made up of “auxiliary workers” who are kept in this position for years and years.

CUPE 15 would like to see more of these jobs converted into full-time jobs with benefits and negotiate improvements for remaining auxiliaries that include scheduling by seniority. Right now, management can and does decide to call into work an auxiliary with less than a day on the job over an auxiliary worker with 14 years service with the city.

The union has also made it a priority at the bargaining table to negotiate harassment resolution language and whistleblower protection – contract language that protects workers from discipline and/or job loss when they speak out on an issue of public concern, like water safety, equipment maintenance, safety procedures, etc.

Union package to city of Vancouver, July 27, 2007:

Using the contract ratified in Richmond as a starting point, CUPE 15 tabled a wage increase of 21 percent over 5 years that they clearly stated was negotiable. The package also included proposed benefit improvements and the above-mentioned priorities.

The city claimed that the union’s package amounted to a total cost of 30 percent and was not “affordable and reasonable”. Faoro says the city’s calculation is more “phantom costing” and just an excuse not to begin negotiations in earnest.

“It is frustrating to be at the bargaining table with people who clearly do not understand or are pretending not to understand how negotiations work,” says Faoro. “The idea is both sides present their position and you end up somewhere in between.”

Robin Jones, CUPE National representative and chief negotiator for CUPE 394 and CUPE 718,
the two Richmond locals that ratified a deal last week is available to comment to the media on the total cost of his committee’s initial proposal to the city, which he says began at about 40% cost to the city of Richmond.


“We asked for almost 12 benefit improvements, we agreed to only two in the end, glasses and dietician services. We asked for a $2 an hour shift differential, we agreed to only $1 an hour in the end. We asked for $1.50 an hour dirty pay, we agreed to 75 cents, we asked for 100 percent benefit coverage and we ended up with only 80 percent in the end and the list goes on,” says Jones. “That’s how negotiations work and today we have a signed collective agreement and both sides are happy. But you can’t get there if one party is not willing to negotiate.”

CUPE 15 represents Vancouver’s 2,500 inside city workers who normally work at city, parks, Ray-Cam, and Britannia Community Centre.

Police States ‘R Us

A 25 km security perimeter is fascinating, as is turning away cars with more than 5 people in them.

But forcing a public centre to not rent space for a public meeting is astonishing.

Essentially, the right to free public association is arbitrarily over.

This is the context in which the new North American Union is being negotiated. Democracy and transparency and civil rights as variables. Welcome to the New World Order.

MEDIA RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 11, 2007

RCMP, U.S. Army block public forum on the Security and Prosperity Partnership

The Council of Canadians has been told it will not be allowed to rent a municipal community centre for a public forum it had planned to coincide with the next Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec on August 20 and 21.

The Municipality of Papineauville, which is about six kilometres from Montebello, has informed the Council of Canadians that the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the U.S. Army will not allow the municipality to rent the Centre Communautaire de Papineauville for a public forum on Sunday August 19, on the eve of the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership Leaders Summit.

“It is deplorable that we are being prevented from bringing together a panel of writers, academics and parliamentarians to share their concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership with Canadians,” said Brent Patterson, director of organizing with the Council of Canadians. “Meanwhile, six kilometres away, corporate leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada will have unimpeded access to our political leaders.”

As well as being shut out of Papineauville, the Council of Canadians has been told that the RCMP and the SQ will be enforcing a 25-kilometre security perimeter around the Chateau Montebello, where Stephen Harper will meet with George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón on August 20 and 21. According to officials in Montebello, there will be checkpoints at Thurso and Hawkesbury, and vehicles carrying more than five people will be turned back.

Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada’s largest citizens’ organization, with members and chapters across the country. The organization works to protect Canadian independence by promoting progressive policies on fair trade, clean water, safe food, public health care, and other issues of social and economic concern to Canadians.

I’ve Decided to Become a Paris Hilton Fan, So Should You!

The Old, Debauched Paris:

The New, Squeaky Clean, Adorable Paris:

I’m sold!

It is clear to me that Paris Hilton has embraced a tone of contrition. She has embarked on life after incarceration with a brand new image of humility and a sparkling new girl next door haircut.

Perhaps she is concerned that it is time to grow up and leave her partying ways behind her. She was rebellious and disrespectful of her adoring public. She is “serious about leaving her famously party-loving past behind.”

Perhaps jail was her equivalent of Drew Barrymore flashing her boobs at Letterman, but now Paris seeks the kind of respectability and success that Drew now knows.

In the end, you be the judge. Media has nurtured a month-long boner over her tribulations. It lives to create an international obsession to milk ad dollars with a compliant public.

Paris is doing her job. She is keeping the “news”[sic] industry/business rolling right along.

God bless Paris Hilton.

Poisoning a Community: What Forces Teachers to Leave

Jeepers. This piece [see below] was terrifying, mostly because of the angry abuse making up many of the comments at the website.

“It’s just a job.” That’s a scary phrase. But I can relate to it. I quit just before I got to that place, and that was after 12 years teaching in first a pretty good climate leading to a steadily soul-destroying climate.

I still deal with the regret of spending almost a decade wanting to become a teacher, doing the training and getting a job, then building professional competence, only to see it assaulted by political forces. Reforming from within is something so many are capable of doing without becoming too bitter. I have immense respect for them. The price became too high for me.

Now I have stepped out of the classroom to find more politically powerful tools to address the underlying hyper-individualistic ideological and neoliberal economics motivations for destroying the public, universal, communitarian, society-building education system in exchange for one that worships the inherent god of free-market economics.

But I still resent having my vocation stolen from me by a poisoned climate. Yet, I am still optimistic. Optimistic and unwavering in my belief that when my children turn 5, they will have a rewarding public school experience despite others’ attempts to defund and undermine it for their own material greed, misanthropy and hatred of “the inferior”.

Oh, yes, the soul-destroying climate:

– parents who blindly stand behind their students who are caught cheating, insisting that the teachers are lying, despite evidence, perhaps because they feel being a good parent means always believing your child
– arbitrary statistical school “performance” goals that encourage fudging enrollment in provincial government exam courses
– the institutional mentality that increasingly needs to pound square peg students into round holes
– “customer” satisfaction surveys
– corporate “food” companies building food fairs in cafeterias
– parents claiming I am discriminating against their students because I didn’t catch all the other cheaters on the test, therefore their students shouldn’t be “consequenced”
– labour flexibility = servitude
– functionally illiterate administrators who believe they are inspiring
– administrators soliciting parents to complain to them about teachers instead of following district policy asking them to show enough respect for the teachers to speak to them first
– administrators trying to subvert any due process to get teachers to quit
– administrators soliciting students to complain about unfavoured teachers
– high stakes testing
– the ignorance-championing view that what cannot be measured with “objective,” “verifiable” statistics is not worth teaching
– new teachers having to justify their grade distribution to their administrators as a statistical whole, rather than an aggregate of actual individual students’ achievement
– staff meetings split into 4 different groups in different rooms to keep the staff from discussing contentious issues affecting the entire learning community
– the Fraser Institute–with its website and publications riddled with spelling errors–promoting myopic, research-rejecting educational values
– teachers who welcome and even champion government violations of their labour and human rights
– Ministry staff and government functionaries who believe consulting stakeholders means refusing to speak with BCTF representatives because they are a special interest group, different from all the other special interests
– legislating used car salespeople to have a self-regulating professional body, but removing teachers’ ability to have the same
– students who feel it is a human rights violation to be asked to handwrite or not write formal essays w/ txt msg abrev’s and shit, u no?
– Emery Dosdall
– Christy Clark
– Gordon Campbell

http://thetyee.ca/Views/Teacherdiaries/2007/03/28/GoodbyeClass/

Why I Left the Classroom
Teaching changed, so I changed my life.
By Shaun Cunningham
Published: March 28, 2007
TheTyee.ca

One in five teachers leaves the profession within the first five years of teaching. Or is it one in thirteen, as the Ontario government claims? Whatever the stats, they don’t reveal how many vanishing teachers were young and restless, old and exhausted, or, like myself, somewhere in between.

Based on what I’ve overheard in the public school staff rooms of British Columbia, about 98 per cent of teachers say they seriously consider getting out about once a day. The other two per cent are, of course, either Buddhists or medicated. I am one of these. Gone, that is, not medicated.

My own stand-up performance lasted 15 years, thus outlasting by ten years all those who leap from the ship within the first five years. It’s not so much that I’m a slow learner, but rather that this is how long it took me to achieve the spectacular kind of burn-out which hasn’t been seen since one of my Junior High math teachers declared in the middle of class, “This doesn’t add up”, left the room, and was never seen again.

Teaching was my identity and I miss it. So the answer to why I left isn’t simple. The answer, “to look after my children” brings sighs, nods of knowing commiseration, and the occasional hug from young mothers who barely know me. But in truth, I have a kind of laundry list of items which, taken together, may or may not constitute the dirt on why I and so many teachers leave the best profession on earth.

Numbers that add up

Those who believe that the 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. school bells constitute the parameters of teachers’ working hours subscribe to one or more illusions. One of these is perhaps based on recollections of the kind of schooling that depended primarily on textbooks, workbooks and on matching words to pictures. A second might be the vision of a teacher standing before a group of “average students” who are all able to learn at roughly the same rate and in roughly the same way.

Teachers now stand before a group of individuals. Each of their learning styles, their needs, their contexts, abilities and disabilities needs identification, respect, modification and thought. In one split class of 29 students, I was faced with 19 different “labels,” nine of which required completely individualized education plans. After countless meetings and forms, at June’s end that particular year, I waved good-bye to a group who seemed not to be significantly hampered by my inability to meet their needs. I, on the other hand, was mute with both exhaustion and a sense of personal failure.

Given the expectation of individualization, textbooks (where updated versions exist in sufficient numbers) have become only semi-useful tools of instruction. Many teachers run, by necessity, a “resource-based classroom.” This involves locating, evaluating, modifying and adapting material wherever you can find it. When two parents asked for homework in advance so as to pack it along on a trip to Disneyland, I suggested that they would need to make room for me. “I’m the program,” I said. “What time do we leave?”

Discussing this often inspires lectures from experts on education, most of whom work at jobs outside the field — like my Uncle Bob, for example. He had 40 or 50 kids in his room and his teacher carried a stick and wasn’t afraid to use it. He refers to these times as “the good old days,” which is why no one wants Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving dinner.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll

When did I get so conservative that I wanted to skip the class debating session and work on negative integers instead? Well, the day I intervened to stop a vote on who was hotter, Hillary Duff or Britney Spears, that’s when.

The voice in my head says, “I
can’t believe I’m talking about this with 30 twelve-year-olds and I REALLY can’t believe that kid just asked that question in public. Is this something to discuss openly? In a classroom? Is my face red? Is this really in the curriculum?”

Yes, it is. Everything is: reading, writing, arithmetic, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

The hat rack

Teacher training programs provide hats, which are trendy in style, to suit the basic tasks of daily organization, instruction and assessment. There are many of them, but they’re quickly outdated. Then teachers add their own new hats in the day-to-day dealings with 30 students, which we wear proudly into staff rooms: “Hey! Check out my new counsellor cap!” Each new one makes us feel as though we have responded, made a difference in young lives.

We collect more hats in our service to school-based managers, formerly known as principals. The boards themselves, who often speak as though CEOs of a publicly traded company, remind our captains never to remove their “fiduciary duty” fedoras. Where budgets rule, the quality of leadership is determined by numbers.

By year three, my headgear had expanded from the day-wear of a classroom teacher into the evening-wear of other roles: Attender of Many Meetings (some of which are called to cancel the initiatives announced at the last), Neurologist, Pharmacist, Public Speaker, Filer of Documentation, Punching Bag, Conscientious Objector. . . .

As I sat at home one night ignoring my own kids while polishing my union helmet before another evening meeting, it finally hit me. “Hey! This is just another hat!”

Flip flopping

In theory, schooling is about “the basics,” and in reality, at report card time at least, it returns to those roots. Between this tri-annual grounding, however, schooling has become very much about the societal ill du jour and about ideology. What’s on the talk show tonight may well be in your classroom in the form of a draft document by the end of the week. Then cancelled shortly after. I recall gulping down supper before heading off to do an evening workshop on “How to read your Year 2000 report card.” My fork froze halfway to my mouth when I heard Mike Harcourt announce on the TV news that the Year 2000 program was dead.

Though not funny at all really, it became a form of entertainment for my teacher wife and I. “Wait for it!” we would say, while listening to a talk or call-in show. Sure enough, someone would say, “Schools need to do more about this.”

Of course, schools need to address the ills of a society. It’s just that some of these ills are diagnosed awfully quickly and the prescription tends often to be a program apparently hashed out in the back of a cab on the way to a booksellers’ convention.

If the governments used the same method to plan public health as they do for education, medical treatments would be determined by the callers to yesterday’s phone-in show.

‘Flexibility’

My son, at seven years of age, got mad at me for referring to my students as “my kids.” “They’re not your kids, Dad,” he said. “I am.”

I tried to keep that fact in front of me afterward when trying to manage how much of my life became occupied with the dilemmas of the troubled little souls I dealt with. It didn’t work. “My students” came to inhabit my thoughts, my planning and my approach to what was needed as surely as my own kids did. Sometimes, in those cases where students were in serious trouble or seriously troubled by their own circumstances, where I was not getting through, they took up even more space in my head. What was I to do — adopt them? No room in the house.

I took to phoning those radio talk shows instead. “Listen,” I said. “If you’re going to ask teachers to deal with all the complex issues and dynamics of the day (in between the regular public bashings, that is), you’re going to need smaller classes. There’s a reason that people don’t have 30 kids when they decide to raise a family.”

The answer to this demand, sadly, was a new 2002 contract that replaced class size limits with “flexibility.”

Feeding the students

By at least one measure, B.C. tops the provinces with the highest rate of child poverty. Those who dispute the numbers might visit what now constitutes a typical classroom. Depending on the locale, you will find an alarming number of children coming to elementary school without proper wear on cold days, without nutritious — or any — lunch, without sleep, without acquaintance with books and quite likely, without the slightest conviction that their schooling might change anything about their contexts and choices. The children of poverty require you to work at the level of need for which a degree in social work might have been better preparation. And when you have a choice between finding a warm spot for a kid to eat the school-provided, clandestine lunch or finding a replacement bulb for the overhead projector you need for the afternoon lesson on addition, it’s the math that goes by the wayside.

Until, that is, the quiet and loud demands for care become overwhelming and you realize you don’t feel you are making the kind of difference that needs to be made. You can too easily relate to the prejudice promoted by conservative governments and think-tanks. You begin sounding like someone else, speaking resentfully of “all these needs.”

Getting revenge

When I was a student, my own experience of schooling was mostly abysmal. Part of the rationale for becoming a teacher, I have always claimed, was “revenge.” I thought the best way to overcome the bitterness I felt was to join the ranks and do the job better, make schools better. Ten years into the profession, I recognized in myself an exhaustion akin to that which my Grade 11 social studies teacher must have been feeling when he had us spend the year copying notes from a textbook while he sat reading the newspaper at his desk.

Though I spent very little time at my desk — and no part of my day on “personal reading,” I asked a friend for a favour when I saw the potential for burn-out coming on. “When you see me starting to fizzle, when you see that look that says, ‘Please kill me’ on my students’ faces, tell me,” I said. I didn’t want to stick around and torture kids more than the general experience of life in school already burdens some of them.

Unfortunately, my friend left town too soon. It became my own responsibility to spot the signs and, sure enough, they accumulated. Meeting-by-meeting, form-by-form, minister-by-minister, and kid-by-kid. So I left.

I have great admiration for those who remain to fight with the kind of wide-ranging involvement energy, time and conviction required. As for me, I volunteer in my children’s own schools now and I write thank-you notes to their teachers at the slightest provocation. Perhaps I’ll give it another try someday, but only after practicing the mantra it seems to require: “It’s just a job. It’s just a job. It’s just a job.”

Shaun Cunningham was a B.C. elementary school teacher for 15 years, who recently moved to New Brunswick. This week, he started substitute teaching in his daughter’s school.

Women: Staying Unequal to Preserve Marital Peace…by Jen Keefe

This is in response to Lidia Lovric who writes for the province. The article
I’m responding to [see below] showed up in today’s paper.

Having read Lidia Lovric’s previous neo-conservative anti-feminist articles,
it is clear that the implication of her most recent article, “A woman
president is OK, but is the White House Ready for a ‘First-Man’?” is that
women should sacrifice their success for the sake of preserving peace in the
household. Because our society allegedly raises men to be insecure, selfish
and unable to be supportive of strong and successful women, women should
continue to occupy subservient roles so as to not threaten their men. Like
most of Lovric’s articles, this is disempowering to women and discourages
women from seeking success outside the home ‘for the sake of the family’ and
societal relations as a whole. The implication of Lovric’s article should be
that our society needs to do a better job of celebrating women’s successes
and chastizing men for being uncomfortable with it.

Furthermore, Lovric’s husband’s responses to her prodding about what his
level of comfort would be with her earning more money should be an
indication that he views her position in the home as being less threatening
likely because he views it as less significant than his contributions;
Otherwise, he wouldn’t be threatened. This is supported by his remark that
if she earned more than him he could stay at home, implying that staying at
home is easier than working for a wage. Unfortunately, the reason men are so
supportive of women staying at home is because they do not perceive their
role as being as important as men’s in the workforce, and thus this is why
it does not threaten them.

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A woman president is OK, but is the White House ready for a ‘First Man’?

Lydia Lovric

Friday, February 02, 2007

When Laura Bush concludes her term as First Lady, it’s quite possible that the White House will experience a little role reversal.

With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announcing her bid for the 2008 presidency, husband Bill is being touted as America’s first probable “First Man.”

“I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do,” said the ex-president in a recent New York Post article. “I am very proud of my wife. So is her daughter. I wish her well.”

Although the former president appears to be supportive of his wife’s presidential bid, one must wonder how Bill would truly feel if Hillary becomes the most powerful person in the world.

While most couples can’t really relate to life in the White House, more and more husbands are finding themselves married to highly successful women with greater income levels or loftier titles. But is it a blow to the male ego?

Political correctness dictates that men today should graciously celebrate the achievements of their partner. Yet, I believe most men still like to wear the pants in the family.

When I questioned my husband about how he would feel if I earned more money than him, he hesitantly asked, “How much more?”

“Double,” I replied.

At first, he said it wouldn’t be a problem, and joked about whether he would be able to stay home. When prodded further, he admitted that, yes, it likely would bother him a little. I suspect most men feel this way.

This is not to say that men would not be proud of or happy about a wife’s success, only that, if their own achievements failed to measure up, some would feel like “less of a man.”

Relationships where the female earns considerably more money are likely fraught with problems, whether the couple admits it or not.

Consider the following hugely successful women: Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Kim Campbell. All have had tremendous careers. Their success on the homefront, however, has been less than stellar.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly contributed to the breakdown of their personal relationships. But bruised egos are plausible culprits.

One exception: Women who earn their wealth and fame through modelling, acting or singing. I think it’s easier for a husband to deal with this success, because the rest of the world regards such stars as being grossly overpaid and incredibly lucky.

A woman who has conquered the corporate world, broken down barriers in politics or contributed greatly to science or medicine is far more intimidating.

To be sure, there are a handful of men able to live happily in the shadow of their formidable wives. But I believe they’re in the minority.

Most men today still expect to be the breadwinner.

They’re OK with the missus earning some dough as well. But when she brings home a giant baguette and he brings crumbs, well, it’s bound to create a bit of tension.

Lydia Lovric can be reached through her website: www. lydialovric.com

© The Vancouver Province 2007

The Futility of the Left-Right Political Spectrum

The left-right spectrum is pretty obsolete, what with right wing w.Caesar running crazy deficits to undermine government’s ability to meddle with individual freedom to become rich and free from social regulation and left wing governments pledging to balance budgets: typically the reverse of the old Cold War Keynesian days.

In November of 2002 a friend sent me a link to a site, Political Compass, to do a survey to see where I would live on a two-dimensional spectrum consisting of left-right and authoritarian-libertarian, like so:

The next two images show estimates of where other well-known people could be on this spectrum.

Currently:

So 2.5 years ago I did the survey and ended up in the bottom left quadrant:

These days, as I get older and wiser and parental and more mature and more committed to the establishment I did the survey again to find myself–shock–even more radical:

Ultimately, I think everyone ought to swing by this website, Political Compass, to see where they are. The sooner we get more and more people releasing themselves from the tyranny of a 1-dimensional political spectrum, the better. The next task will be to create 3 and 4-dimensional models.