Volume 91, Issue 33

Tuesday, October 28, 1997



Now or never

The chess game between the Conservative government and Ontario's teachers has reached a stalemate. Both players are looking across the table at each other, arms crossed, just glaring.

But as they sit, trying to predict each other's next move, the teachers are not in their classrooms and future university students aren't getting an education.

The interesting thing about this situation is the government, owner of the chess board (as well as the school board), is ultimately responsible for getting the teachers and students back in the classroom as soon as possible. If they don't, there may be harmful effects on the province's students in the long term.

At this point, a short strike, one day or two, is obviously a preferable solution for both parties. It would seem more like students were given a few snow days to run and play at the mall – compliments of Mike Harris. Any memory of the strike would be of a few hurt feelings and some minor inconveniences.

But that is assuming the Tories, who have maintained a strong position on reducing Ontario's financial woes since they came into power, will surrender. The same government believes $1 billion in cuts are part of improving the education system. Teachers, who aren't likely to believe such a monstrous slice to education would improve their lives or the those of their students, seem prepared for a long strike if necessary.

So, what effect would a long strike have on education in the long term? Should it last for weeks or months, students, especially potential graduates, face a loss of valuable time. Since most high schools are visited by post-secondary institutions in the fall and the first flurry of Canada's university applications – complete with first-semester marks – must be mailed to the Ontario University Application Centre by Dec. 12, Ontario's students would have to catch up to the other provinces. Not to mention students can not pass an Ontario Academic Credit course if they miss more than two weeks of class – something Harris will have to address as well if there is no immediate resolution.

Also, if the dust doesn't settle soon, the teachers must deliver a crash-course to make up for lost time – hardly the learning process students want or need to be successful at the post-secondary level.

The most significant effect of the strike, long or short-term, is the loss of confidence students will have in the education system and the government. Students may not realize that although their teachers seem to be fighting for themselves – to avoid bigger classes and less preparation time – they are really fighting for the students. Meanwhile, the Harris government's "improvements" should seem frightening to young Ontarians who want a good education.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997