For the past two weeks, British Columbians have been told a “media blackout” prevented release of any public updates on bargaining between the government and the striking teachers’ union.
It seemed like a good idea: Stop the public rhetoric and media mudslinging and finally get on with negotiating an end to the strike/lockout that has shut down our schools.
But the old saying “no news is good news” doesn’t apply this time. The two sides have not held formal face-to-face talks since Aug. 8.
The endlessly warring factions did meet separately with miracle-working mediator Vince Ready on Aug. 13, fuelling optimism a deal could be reached to open schools as scheduled on Sept. 2.
But not even Ready has been able to bridge the gap between two sides that apparently see no point in even trying to bargain with each other.
Most of the summer has been wasted, while our kids’ education hangs in the balance.
The government seems serious in its intent to wait the union out, refusing to legislate an end to a dispute that’s already cancelled the last two weeks of the previous school year.
The government quietly launched a “parent information” website this week with updates on the non-existent bargaining and suggestions for what kids should do with their spare time come September.
The site — www.bcparentinfo.ca — suggests kids take first aid and food-safe courses to replace their classroom learning. No, I’m not kidding.
It also has a “Learning Resources” link that connects users to “interactive games and activities for young learners,” online text books and “self-study resources.”
This is what our education system has become: Download your own textbooks and educate yourself.
But I suspect the website is aimed more at striking teachers than at frustrated parents.
The government’s unwritten message to teachers: We’re not going to budge. We’re not going to legislate you back to work. We really are going to tolerate the schools being shut down in September.
Are teachers willing to play along with this game of chicken? The government clearly hopes the union’s resolve will weaken as the strike/lockout inflicts deeper economic pain on teachers.
The average teacher has lost $5,200 in unpaid wages to the conflict. The government is signalling that it’s willing to keep siphoning teachers’ wallets, as they plan to pay parents $40 a day per kid while schools are shut.
News that some teachers are planning to abandon picket lines to set up home-schooling businesses no doubt delights the government and worries the union. The government wants teachers to lose heart and start questioning their union’s strategy.
Curse them both. Kids and parents are the innocent victims of their bitter war.
The B.C. School Act requires the province to educate our children.
“The purpose of the British Columbia school system is to enable all learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society,” the law says.
The fact that the union and the government have wasted most of the summer, instead of working toward fulfilling this solemn mandate, is a downright disgrace.