Volume 91, Issue 42

Wednesday, November 12, 1997

Downey fresh


Bill 160 and the public education system

The following excerpts are taken from the many letters we've received concerning the dispute between Ontario's teachers and the Harris government and the ensuing strike over Bill 160.

As in any profession, professional development days are intended to be exactly what they're called – time for staff to acquaint themselves with developments in their field. This is particularly important for educators in Ontario where the direction in education changes frequently on the whims of the government. Teachers are saying enough is enough before Ontario, as a result of Bill 160, undergoes a "restructuring" similar to that which occurred in Alberta several years ago (abolishment of most local school boards, centralized control of education, removal of taxation powers from local trustees and the setting up "parents councils" which have virtually no power, but whose members are finding themselves doing a lot of unpaid work – primarily trying to raise funds because of government cuts in the education budget). The education system in Alberta now lies in shambles leading parents to take up picket signs in protest against the government.
J.E. Smith

First off, I'm sorry but you DON'T need a teaching certificate to teach music. Come to think of it, one of the points of Bill 160 should have been to cut expenditures to music programs in high schools by 95 per cent and fire all existing music teachers. The only reason this program exists in high school is because students are forced to take it in order to graduate. The system would be better off by scrapping this rule and providing music as an extracurricular activity. They could bring in a trained professional from the music industry after school to teach the students who want to continue in music and could form a band. If students really want to go far with their talent, I'm sure they have a professional teacher outside of the classroom anyway. This would also give those students a contact with someone who is currently involved in the industry.
I must reiterate one more time that trustees are a useless position and a waste of our tax dollars. If they were of any importance, their paycheque would reflect this. Big surprise – it doesn't, hence they are a waste of money. In terms of teacher's working hours, marking and report cards don't take as much time as you think. Parent-teacher interviews are what once a month, oh the stress.
From reading the other articles, the general idea was that if you have one of these certificates you are a better teacher than someone without one, and can handle kids. This was the most ridiculous comment of all. There are tons of teachers out there who couldn't teach a cat to shit in a litter box, let alone teach Johnny 2 + 2, and can't control classes and individuals. Guess what, all these people have their golden teaching certificates. The thing you all failed to realize is that this goes both ways. There are teachers who would do an excellent job in the industry and there are definitely people in the industry that would do a good job in the classroom. It all comes down to the individual's ability to teach, not their certificate.
Paul Andrusyshyn
Science III

How is the government supposed to equalize the school boards when there is so much difference? For instance, the government simply cuts an amount of money from school budgets. Not too bad for schools who get a lot of funding (such as many Toronto schools), but what about the schools such as my high school, which is in the cheapest county in the province? I'm overwhelmed at the resources Western has even AFTER things have been cut back! I understand and accept that people will have their own opinions on this issue, but I can only hope that my letter might spur some people into researching this issue before they make unfounded accusations about the pettiness of teachers rights.
Jackie Wyatt
Visual Arts/ Anthropology II

Before criticizing teachers for all the ills of the system – and there certainly are some ills – find out who is responsible for those "mismanaged programs." In many cases you will discover it is the Ministry of Education which has decreed the changes, not the teachers. This includes regular pendulum swings in curriculum, report cards, etc. etc. And before criticizing Ontario students' achievements, remember that those hot-house students from Hong Kong and Singapore, who obtain high scores on international tests, also have very high suicide rates! They may know lots of facts, but their school systems are now coming to North America to discover how we do such a good job of teaching our students to think!
So don't shortchange your own education. You are looked up to around the world!
Laura Mullin
Class of 1971

Non-certified teachers.....Teachers are certified so they know how to relay information to people in a clear way – I know lots of "professionals" that can't do this, so why should they teach? Would you want just anyone teaching you at Western, just because they can work with computers or chemicals? Why should elementary and high school students have to suffer with people who don't necessarily know how to get their point across or don't have the patience needed to deal with children? [Paul Andrusyshyn] seems to think it would be better to have non-certified people teaching, since these people have "real world experience," so what he's saying is that teachers don't have this experience. How did he come to this conclusion? Teachers are hard-working people just like everyone else. They go to work all day then come home and have school-related things to do and can't just leave their work behind them when they come home like some professionals can.
As for the C.A.W. supporting the teachers, that does not mean they NEED the support. They didn't ask for the unions to strike with them, the unions offered their support because they agree with the teachers. Many people feel the same way as the teachers and offer their support. So this doesn't say the teachers are desperate for support, it shows the government has some problems to deal with because a lot of people don't agree with them.
Kathy Britton
Kinesiology, II

Contrary to what the media protrays, prep time and an extended school year are not the main issues upsetting teachers. If you actually read Bill 160, you'd discover a frighteningly sketchy document that gives the government absolute control over most aspects of education. Politicians, not parents, will decide what our children learn when they go to school, how they are taught and who teaches them. For example, do you really believe Mike Harris' claim that despite cutting a billion dollars from education, class size will actually DECREASE? My math tells me that less money equals less teachers, equals more students per class!
Christina Grant
UWO Education Alumni

Cuts to education WILL NOT make class sizes smaller. Cuts WILL NOT improve the quality of education. Cuts WILL hurt the students directly. With all this talk from the government about how important it is to decrease spending, it really baffles me how Harris continues to spend millions of dollars to advertise his government's views on the television, radio and in newspapers, twisting the truth so that many of the issues will be seen in his favour. How many textbooks, computers, instruments and other school equipment could this money buy? The teachers were striking for a reason. They were not being paid during their protest. A strike is not something any of these teachers wanted to do. They wanted to be in their classrooms with their students. A strike became the last resort in the teachers' fight for their students' education. They genuinely care for and respect their students and were even willing to risk their jobs to fight for what they believe is right.
Laurie Pennarun
BMus, Education I

Technology can not improve how many kids a teacher can properly teach as it can improve the amount of mail processed by a postal worker. Straight forward, if the number of teachers falls, then class sizes enlarge. How are larger class sizes going to help the education of the kids of today? If you want less teachers, why don't you just put a limit on the number of kids able to get an education and let those who can not afford it be left without proper education.
Scott Watson

The workday statistics which were cited for teachers are false. There is proof that these figures were skewed by the government by including the classroom time of principals and vice-principals in their calculations . Not only do teachers work "from nine to five" like most "working people," unpaid class preparation time spills into evenings and weekends through correcting homework and assignments, running extra-curricular activities, fund-raising for school trips and teaching equipment that they would otherwise have to do without ! Provincial funding cuts hurt students.
Brad Campbell
Music Education (Hons.) IV

The implication [in Bill 160] is that educational reform is the primary motive. The words "lieutenant governor and council" are mentioned 269 times in the 300 pages. The word "student" is mentioned once, referring to the closure of schools below a set "student to square footage ratio." Words such as "achievement," "quality curriculum," "class sizes," and "standardized report cards" are not mentioned.
The bill gives the appointed minister the right to dictate any changes to the Educational System "without conciliation" and without appeal in any court. If an elected trustee votes against a 'proposal,' they are "reprimanded and fined."
Harris was a teacher for a year-and-a-half before he was fired. Perhaps he took it personally.
James Chaykowski
Engineering Science IV

To Contact The Opinions Department: gazoped@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997