Hope for the new year: Make education a priority

Well, it was quite a year.

2012 will be remembered by many as a year of anger and unrest in education.  Teachers all across North America found themselves embroiled in often bitter disputes,  facing governments who seemed less and less willing to honor previous commitments, and a public that seemed less and less willing to support them. And through it all, anti-teacher pundits from all sides were more than happy to weigh in with their often vitriolic anti-teacher sentiments.

Across this country, from coast to coast, teachers faced the wrath of governments looking for someone to blame for years of poor decision-making. Certainly the most heinous example of this trend came from Ontario, where teachers were forced into accepting an agreement that would see, among other things, wage freezes, a reduction of sick time and an outright denial of their right to collective bargaining. (As one commentator put it, forcing someone into an agreement means it is not actually an agreement .) This bill was such an obvious, and perhaps unconstitutional, attack that the government of Ontario has announced that it will repeal the bill immediately after all local contracts are in place.

Here in Nova Scotia we saw much the same trend. Under the guise of putting “Kids and Learning First” our own province witnessed the removal of 700 teaching positions, and then saw the responsibility of granting high school credits handed over to volunteers. We saw an increase in spending on healthy initiatives for kids through the “Thrive” program while schools were given less money for hiring gym teachers. We saw government spending increase by over 600 million dollars, at a time when they were cutting 68 million from schools in name of fiscal responsibility.  Finally,  we witnessed our own education minister stand up in Province House and state in no uncertain terms that it was her government, not the teachers, that was most concerned about children.

To say this has taken a toll on the profession would be an understatement. Teachers are feeling beat up and worn down. Some are angered, some are saddened, and most are confused as to why we are suddenly the target. Still, the majority of us continue on a daily basis to do the best we can for the children in our care .  However, it is hard to not feel like “Boxer” from George Orwell’s animal farm. We believe in our schools, and in the ideals of education. We continue to strive for that ideal,  feeling, sometimes, that we are the only ones who see the value in what we do. And, ultimately, we wonder what we have to do to save ourselves from being shipped off to the glue factory.

Although it may be some time before the lot of us are marched up the ramp of Simmonds’ truck, 2013 will no doubt prove full of challenges. Unemployment is up, enrollment is down, and it looks like the NDP are staying put, at least in the short-term. Let’s hope that in this year,  reason trumps business, and that education takes its rightful place near the top of Nova Scotia’s priority list.

After all, we can’t all work for the Irvings.

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Filed under Funding cuts, Public education, Uncategorized

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