Volume 94, Issue 8


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Tories need to go back to school

Editorial cartoon

Tories need to go back to school

Mike Harris was a teacher?

The question that has become part of a province-wide campaign against the Tories to throw a spotlight on the education debate recently received more relevance at the local level.

Last night, London teachers voted to ratify an agreement with the Thames Valley District School Board for the 2000-01 school year. The contract specifies that teachers will teach six and a half credits a year and also devote time (.17 of a credit, to be exact) to a newly-minted Teacher Adviser Program.

What's probably of greater interest to London's high school students is what the agreement has to say about extra-curricular activities. Under the new pact, teachers will be encouraged as usual to help out with after school activities, but they will not be compelled to participate.

As it stood, teachers were not staying after school to coach teams and supervise clubs and whether they will or not following this agreement remains to be seen. Threatened with empty practice fields and canceled dances, London's high school students took to the streets in protest this week. The consensus among student leaders seemed to be that students are neither anti-government nor anti-teachers, but feel they've been caught in the middle of a power struggle.

When people tend to disagree, of course, the question as to which party –the government or teachers – is being unreasonable in its demands, inevitably pops up. Are the teachers rocking the boat or have the Tories steered secondary education off course?

While it may be tempting to dismiss teachers as petulant whiners who should be content with their two-months in the sun each summer, the Conservative government has far more to answer for than they currently do.

By drafting Bill 74, a piece of legislation which would make extracurricular involvement a kind of forced labour rather than a labour of love, the Tories hit teachers with a contemptible piece of disrespect.

To make matters worse, the government has chosen not to give Bill 74 the final signature that would make it law, but to instead say that they won't invoke it until teachers disobey its strictures.

In effect, the government doesn't want to enact the draconian law they've drafted, though they want it obeyed all the same. Thus, they've left Bill 74 dangling over the heads of Ontario's teachers like some kind of legislative sword of Demosthenes.

Bill 74 is only the Tories' latest low blow at teachers. It's unfortunate that high school students are missing a big part of high school education, but even if they don't coach or supervise, teachers are still doing their job – they're teaching. If Mike Harris and company had not painted Ontario's teachers into a corner, extracurricular activities would not be imperiled.

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