Teachers in Ontario found reason to celebrate recently.
In 2012, the Ontario Liberal government passed the “Putting Students First Act,” a bill which imposed contracts on teachers and effectively took away their right to strike.
This April, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that this act (also known as Bill 115), had violated teachers’ constitutional rights. Teachers, like other workers, are guaranteed the right to negotiate the terms of their work collectively and to have these negotiations be meaningful. Bill 115 had made this impossible.
Teachers and many other public-sector workers across the country welcomed the ruling, seeing it as a precedent which protects against current or future governments trying the same kind of legislative trick.
An incident in the last week of school this year underscored this issue for me. As a local education blogger, I’d been asked by a daytime radio show to comment on kids’ math and reading scores in our province. The interview came about because a council of local CEOs and other business-types had recently gone to the media with concern that some high school graduates’ math and reading skills seemed to have declined over the past few years.
Last week I received the following in a note from Cathy Gerrior, a.k.a. white turtle woman, a Mi’kmaw and Inuit woman in Northern Nova Scotia. Cathy asked me to spread this information widely with anyone who may be interested. Cathy is a counsellor for men who have been violent and was profiled in the January-February issue of This Magazine as a “social justice all-star.”
The Idle No More movement brought Indigenous issues to the forefront of Canadians’ consciousness. Many non-native people in Canada expressed a desire to better get to know Indigenous people and issues. Cathy offers the following protocols as advice for those of us who seek to deepen the relationships between native and non-native people in Canada. These are also useful knowledge for teachers who invite Aboriginal people as guest speakers to their schools. I’m grateful for these teachings and glad to be able to share them here.
Dear reader. Kwe. i am white turtle woman. i would like to take this opportunity to offer some reflections based on my observations and experiences as a native woman living and working in the dominant society of what is called “Canada” that doesn’t always understand or appreciate my nativeness. Continue reading Protocol for native/non-native meetings→
The report released in Nova Scotia last week didn’t fully follow the U.S. formula, which is a good thing. It contains some very positive conclusions, such as the acknowledgement of how teacher workload issues affect student learning, and the need to focus on students’ physical and mental health.
Many years ago, many people had no qualms about calling themselves “white.”
Today, more people seem to be squeamish about it. Students in class have occasionally asked me if we can use another word in place of “white” to describe people – “technically we’re pinkish”, one once said. In casual conversation people sometimes take pains to avoid the word, substituting terms like “Caucasian” or “of European descent.” Continue reading Why we shouldn’t avoid the word “white”→
What is our public education system for? To judge by much of the talk coming from politicians and business leaders, education is purely a matter of preparing students to be workers in a vaguely defined “new economy.”
Certainly, students need to be able to survive economically in the world. But public education is about much more than narrow job-skills training: it’s about teaching our kids how to create and sustain a healthy, engaged society.