Well, it’s nice to know that the new Provincial Liberals have such a high opinion of educators.
The Liberal Government is promising new reforms in education, and has already taken on the task with the announcement last week of the new panel to do a full review of the education system. I am more than slightly sour at the exclusion of teachers from the committee, but everything I have heard of Myra Freeman, who will be chairing the committee, suggests she is above reproach. The inclusion of Kyle Hill on the committee, however, is far more concerning, as he seems to be aligned with movements that support the idea of privatizing education. I can’t, for the life of me, understand his appointment, unless the Liberals are considering some of his decidedly anti-public education ideas for implementation.
I had been content to take a wait-and-see attitude with the committee, hoping for the best. I, personally, would love to see some of the more ridiculous ideas that have been suggested by various and sundry A.I.M.S. disciples extinguished once and for all, and this committee has the potential to do that. However, it seems that just when I begin to have faith in a government, they turn around and parade out someone like Leo Glavine.
By now I am sure that you have all heard of Glavine and his comments made on February 6th. In a piece he created for The Kings County Register, he wrote of how some in Nova Scotia are “cognizant abusers of the system” who “…accept government assistance, yet still have money to travel.” He used a Christian faith based tale to suggest that some people who are ill in this Province are so by choice, refusing to heed advice about not smoking and exercising regularly. He asked his readers to imagine a healthcare system where “Patients would have to prove they practice a healthy lifestyle before receiving assistance. They would have to prove that they practice the basic tenets of proper eating and exercise.” Finally, he assured readers that he felt encouraged by seeing so many “active constituents” and grocers providing healthy choices.
Now, I am not a health care commentator, and as pleased as I was that Minister Glavine indeed found some of us regular Nova Scotians encouraging, I had no intention of weighing in on his comments. That was until a friend of mine drew my attention to another piece penned by Glavine. This one of February 20th. And this one, I felt, deserved my attention.
In what I can only assume was an attempt to raise the spectre of JFK, Glavine entitled this gem “What are you doing for Nova Scotia?” He began his piece by telling everyone in the Province that what is needed is an attitude change. We need to “celebrate” our successes and to stop “bringing others down”. “Our success” he wrote “depends on the success of every individual”. He talked about how we are all Nova Scotians and of how, although we are a bunch of complainers who “want this and want that”, we could make things better if we just changed our attitude.
Now, although it’s been an awfully long time since someone seriously said to me “You’ve got a bad attitude, mister!” I was tolerant of Glavine, up to this point. I was unsure as to why he felt it was his duty to tell me I needed to “buck up”, but I was willing to let that slide. That’s when Mr. Glavine summarily reached out and slapped me and somewhere in the vicinity of, oh, let’s say, conservatively, 30,000 Nova Scotians across the face.
In speaking of attracting immigrants to our Province, Glavine stated:
Would you choose to move to an area where citizens are suspicious of success?…Where the education system is second rate?
Remember, this is the Minister of Health. One of the top politicians in this Province. A politician who I, and I am certain a great number of people who work at the various Universities, Colleges, Public and even private schools here in Nova Scotia, helped put into power. And he has the audacity to stand up in public and tell the entire world that he feels the work that I do, day in and day out, for the kids I teach is, in his “expert” opinion, second rate.
But you know what? I’m OK with that. Because Minister Glavine, in his infinite wisdom, told me what I need to do to improve.
“…parents and teachers have the most influence in creating an entire new generation of successful citizens …who do not expect to make a living by using other people’s money. Teachers can start improving education today, for free! They can stop using assessment rubrics as goal-setting tools. These enable students to strive for lower standards. If teachers show top quality work, model top quality and expect top quality, they will get top quality.”
Well, sir, looks like I’m gonna be OK.
I guess I could write to the Minister and ask him about how to improve my assessment rubrics. I mean, the second rate education I received from Dalhousie, C.B.U., St.F.X. and Mount St. Vincent, as well as my twenty years in education was obviously a waste of time. As were my hours of professional development and training in assessment and evaluation. Perhaps I could seek some advice from him on how to get the best out of my students, many of whom come from socioeconomic backgrounds that they could escape from, if only they “changed their attitude”. And finally, I guess I could ask him what he would like me to do with the kids who do not produce top quality work, no matter how much I show, model and expect, using all of my considerable, albeit, second rate, expertise.
Because if I stop working with them, where are they to go? The street? Prison? Or will they, to quote the Minister, become those “cognizant abusers of the system”?
The biggest sting in all of this, for me at least, is not just that Glavine has such a low view of me and my colleagues. It is rather that, to date, although the Minister has been called to task from a variety of sources for his February 6th comments, no one is talking about his piece of the 20th. As of publishing, I have heard not one single voice, not one single commentator, not one single politician, not even the Premier of my own Province come to the defense of educators.
The self same Premier who has established a committee to do a full review of the education system, and chosen to appoint to it the likes of Kyle Hill.
I stay in Nova Scotia as a teacher because I choose to do so. I love this Province and want to raise my daughter here. But when I hear comments like this, I have to ask myself if this amount of abuse and disrespect is actually worth it. Nova Scotia has certainly not been a particularly fun place to be a teacher recently. And me and my second rate degree would be welcome in any number of other Provinces and even other countries.
If Minister Glavine represents the best and brightest this Province can offer, it may not be long before I, and many like me, leave for brighter pastures.
And where do you suppose our Province will find itself then?