Volume 96, Issue 85
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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Teachers forget the Golden Rule

With the world on the brink of war, you would think people could put aside their petty grievances, but that certainly wasn't the case at a meeting between the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association's union and Ontario's minister of education on Monday.

Elizabeth Witmer, the Minister of Education and Ontario's Progressive Conservative deputy premier, met with the association in the hopes of repairing the damage caused by years of cutbacks under the Tory government. Witmer said she had hoped that the government and the association could work together for the benefit of the province's children, however, after answering only three questions from the audience of teachers, Witmer said she was forced to leave due to the unruly crowd.

On her way out, Witmer was jeered and swarmed by union members upset with the Tory education policy. Several protesters wore paper bags over their heads with the slogan "A Once Proud Ontario Teacher" sketched across their foreheads. Another protester punched her in the arm, leaving a bruise.

This is one of the most disappointing demonstrations of dissent in recent memory. Behaviour as childish and immature as throwing water and punches would be expected from a group of hyperactive preschoolers, not a group of university-educated teachers. Monday's rag-tag demonstration was a juvenile act, and clearly got out of hand.

The 1998 teachers' strike created a poor public opinion of Ontario's educators that still lingers. The actions of a handful of delinquents at Monday's meeting did nothing to improve the standing of teachers in the public eye.

Mike Harris and his band of Tory tin-men did their damage during his time in office, but the cuts they made to the education system were the same cuts they promised to make in their Common Sense Revolution election platform back in 1995. Teachers may take exception to the Tories' actions, but that does not excuse their behaviour.

Now is not the time to undermine important political issues by acting with the same maturity level of the young students these teachers are trying to protect. The teachers need to start focusing on the upcoming provincial election and advocating the election of a new provincial government, rather than pining over petty grievances and taking action that only serves to make the rift between the province and the teachers even wider.

Both Witmer and the leaders of the teachers' union admit that this small group of unruly and immature teachers do not represent educators province-wide. Even if that is the case, the question must still be asked – what the hell were they thinking?



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