Category Archives: Equity

BC school district adopts anti-homophobia policy #bcpoli #bced #yteubc #ubced

ABOUT A THIRD OF ALL BC SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE A SIMILAR POLICY IN PLACE

Renee Bernard, News1130, November 15, 2013– The largest school district in the province will become the latest to adopt an anti-homophobia policy.

Surrey school board trustees have voted unanimously to embrace the new anti-discrimination code.

Gioia Breda of the Surrey Teachers Association worked on the document and says it’s an important philosophical statement to support students facing homophobic bullying.

“You can compare students who experience racism, for example. When they go home, those students have parents who are often supportive and sympathize, whereas LGBTQ youth may not have come out to their parents,” she explains.

She calls it a pro-active code.

“It offers a positive and inclusive curriculum, more sexual health education for LGBTQ youth, and education for administrators, staff and counsellors about LGBTQ issues.”

She says the policy is designed to protect both students and staff.

Just over a decade ago, the school board made national headlines in its fight to ban books featuring same-sex couples, a policy it eventually changed.

The board’s anti-bullying code was adopted with relative ease, compared to the situation in Burnaby a few years ago, when that school board encountered protests from parents.

About a third of all BC school districts have anti-homophobic bullying policies in place.

Read More: News1130

BC gov wasted $66-million over 12 years on failed aboriginal child services #bcpoli #bced #yteubc #idlenomore

Lindsay Kines, Victoria Times Colonist, November 6, 2013– The B.C. government’s failed attempt to reform the aboriginal child welfare system during the past 12 years has wasted nearly $66 million without helping a single child, the province’s child watchdog says in a new report.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond accuses the government and aboriginal organizations of blowing money on consultants, pointless research projects and endless meetings that go nowhere and deliver no tangible results.

“To be blunt, a significant amount of money has gone to people who provide no program or service to directly benefit children,” she writes in her 86-page report, When Talk Trumped Service.

More than half the money was spent on a failed effort to set up Regional Aboriginal Authorities, while the rest went to self-governance initiatives in the Ministry of Children and Family Development that bled money away from front-line services, the report says.

Turpel-Lafond said the “colossal failure of public policy” took place at a time when many aboriginal children have no safe place to live and no help coping with violence, abuse, mental illness and learning disabilities.

“Children and youth deserve better, and the best contrition for this rather shameful debacle would be a real effort to improve the outcomes for those children by actually knowing what they require and what works to support them — to stop directing the money into the big theoretical fixes, and instead shore up the front lines of the system, especially in those places where the paved roads end in B.C.,” the report says.

Turpel-Lafond spares no one in her report, noting that aboriginal organizations — particularly political groups — have been willing participants in the fiasco.

“Whether this is because they have been so overburdened by so many agendas . . . or if they believe that they are actually making progress, the representative is unsure,” the report says.

The report urges the Ministry of Children and Family Development to refocus its energy on delivering front-line services to children and leave discussions about a self-government to the Attorney General.

Turpel-Lafond said Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux has indicated that she was unaware of the problems.

Cadieux, who is slated to speak with reporters this afternoon, issued a statement in which she said the ministry agrees with Turpel-Lafond’s findings and recommendations.

“We know our focus needs to be on providing direct services to aboriginal children and families,” the statement said. “That’s why, two years ago, the newly appointed deputy minister began the process of shifting the focus of contracts from governance to service delivery.”

All aboriginal contractors have been told that future contracts will focus on direct services, Cadieux said.

She denied, however, that the money spent over the past decade was wasted. “Our efforts to build relationships with First Nations communities have established a solid foundation for government as it continues to move forward on the development of government structures.”

Read More: Victoria Times Colonist

Some still consider social justice in schools to be “indoctrination” #bced #yteubc #occupyeducation

Perhaps not too surprising all things considered in BC, the Social Justice 12 course continues to be dismissed as indoctrination. One one hand, it’s not surprising given the swing right over the past dozen years in the province. On the other, any subject or course that is not one of the official nine (i.e., art, careers, applied skills, language, math, music, physical education, science, socials) is nearly doomed to skepticism or marginalization. In the Surrey Leader, Tom Fletcher belittles the course as  “student indoctrination” and curriculum activities endorsed by the BCTF as “one-sided caricatures:”

Their buzzword is “social justice,” which is portrayed by leftists as superior to plain old justice, in ways that are seldom defined. So what exactly are the goals of this “social change”? Here’s some of what I’ve gleaned.

Parents may recall the 2008 introduction of an elective high school course called Social Justice 12. This was mainly the result of intense protest by a couple of gay activist teachers, and the ministry curriculum describes its emphasis on inclusion of racial, cultural and sexual differences…. BCTF bosses love to talk about the importance of “critical thinking.” These one-sided caricatures of Nike, Enbridge and other familiar villains seem designed to produce the opposite.

Today’s follow-up response to the column reiterates the conservative, anti-union politics at hand:

Great column. I consider this one as one of the most important ones that Tom Fletcher has written, alongside the one about “science gives way to superstition”.

If the B.C. Teachers’ Federation advocates a collectivist ideology such as socialism, the chances of saving our children from the influence of dangerous, very militant, egalitarian philosophy are slim.

Like it or not, the BCTF is one of the most astute, successful labor unions in the country and Social Justice 12 stands as the single-most progressive curriculum innovation in BC over the past 25 years. Given its origins in the passionate commitments to education by a courageous, gay couple, tenuous existence and tests in and out of courts for almost a decade, conservative challenges to deny enrolment in certain districts, and a challenge to the official curriculum, the course triumphed. This was against nearly all odds. Social Justice 12 is that important– not as content per se but as an example and precedent that curriculum can be transformative and transformed.

And the lesson is this simple: Through its professionalism, insights, and yes, politics, BCTF finds the way, opens the doors, and welcomes these necessary additions to an overly officious curriculum. In that way, the BCTF’s social justice politics and the course are refreshing for a change in this province.

The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students: new issue of Workplace #occupyeducation #bced #yteubc

The Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES) is extremely pleased to announce the launch of Workplace Issue #22, “The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students” (Guest Editors Bradley J. Porfilio, Julie A. Gorlewski & Shelley Pineo-Jensen).

 The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students

Articles:

  • The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students: Introduction to the Special Issue (Brad Porfilio, Julie Gorlewski, Shelley Pineo-Jensen)
  • Dismissing Academic Surplus: How Discursive Support for the Neoliberal Self Silences New Faculty (Julie Gorlewski)
  • Academia and the American Worker: Right to Work in an Era of Disaster Capitalism? (Paul Thomas)
  • Survival Guide Advice and the Spirit of Academic Entrepreneurship: Why Graduate Students Will Never Just Take Your Word for It (Paul Cook)
  • Standing Against Future Contingency: Activist Mentoring in Composition Studies (Casie Fedukovich)
  • From the New Deal to the Raw Deal: 21st Century Poetics and Academic Labor (Virginia Konchan)
  • How to Survive a Graduate Career (Roger Whitson)
  • In Every Way I’m Hustlin’: The Post-Graduate School Intersectional Experiences of Activist-Oriented Adjunct and Independent Scholars (Naomi Reed, Amy Brown)
  • Ivory Tower Graduates in the Red: The Role of Debt in Higher Education (Nicholas Hartlep, Lucille T. Eckrich)
  • Lines of Flight: the New Ph.D. as Migrant (Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim)

The scope and depth of scholarship within this Special Issue has direct and immediate relevance for graduate students and new and senior scholars alike. We encourage you to review the Table of Contents and articles of interest.

Our blogs and links to our Facebook timelines and Twitter stream can be found at http://blogs.ubc.ca/workplace/ and http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/

Thank you for your ongoing support of Workplace,

Sandra Mathison, Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Directors
Institute for Critical Education Studies
Critical Education

CUPE BC launches ad campaign to avert strike in public schools #bcpoli

CUPE BC, August 25, 2013– CUPE’s education workers [launched] a radio and television advertising campaign on Monday focused on building support for the union members’ work to keep BC’s schools clean, safe, and inclusive.

“We’ve made every effort to bargain a fair and reasonable settlement with the employers, but their lack of preparation is threatening to disrupt classes this fall,” said Mark Hancock, CUPE-BC President.

CUPE education workers’ collective agreements throughout the province expired over a year ago. Previous negotiations in spring 2013 were derailed when it became clear that government had not given the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) a mandate to reach a settlement.

BCPSEA is now directly controlled by the BC government, but it was not prepared for the latest round of bargaining in August when talks broke off for a third time.

“If the government doesn’t show a commitment to bargaining, our members will take full-scale job action,” said Colin Pawson, Chair of the BC K-12 Presidents’ Council. “They’re frustrated that we’ve had three false starts to negotiating, and the clock is ticking.”

It has been more than four years since the education assistants, clerical staff, trades, custodians, bus drivers and other education workers represented by CUPE have received a wage increase. Virtually all of the 57 CUPE locals representing education workers have had positive strike votes.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents more than 27,000 education BC workers in the K-12 system.

Listen to the radio ad here.
View the TV ad here.

See more at: http://www.cupe.bc.ca/news/3148#sthash.Z5mNdsd2.dpuf

Enid Lee and First Nations Youth in Winnipeg, Manitoba #IdleNoMore

Teaching for Change, Shelly Wen–  Teaching for Change adviser Enid Lee described her recent experience in an elementary school classroom with Cree and Ojibwe First Nations students in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was asked to address controversial issues, and selected the contemporary Canadian-based grassroots movement Idle No More that “calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.”  Founded in 2012, Idle No More directly responds to centuries of treaty violations and has spread from Canada to California, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and beyond.

Enid soon realized that the students “had no idea what I was talking about. I learned a lot from their response. When I asked them what Idle No More meant, they asked me if I meant American Idol… I had to stop and think about it, the word ‘Idle,’ is not used if you’re 12 years old… So we can name things, we can do things, and it can completely go over the heads of young people.”

From this conversation with the students, Lee “learned how language needs to be broken down and broken up, and also how creating audiences for students is important.”

Lee left them with an assignment to be “members of a worldwide research team” on Idle No More. When she came back in two weeks, the students had taken the task to heart. Not only did they conduct interviews with elders, but they also found ways to share what they learned through power point presentations. While Lee introduced Idle No More to the students, they became her teachers about the movement when she returned.

Lee concludes, “It’s those daily surprises that hit me [and remind me] of the potential that we have in our work [to] broaden communities. The hope that I have for young people is just unlimited.”

Enid Lee

Audio_IconListen to Enid Lee

Read More: Teaching for Change

Evaluating Education: Great Schools Project v Fraser Institute

A great example of how fact becomes fiction, and in return how fiction becomes fact, a process critical theorists generally call reification, is the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of schools in British Columbia. Yesterday, on 17 June 2013, the Fraser Institute published its rankings of secondary schools in BC. The Fraser Institute’s annual School Report Card is based on a single indicator in BC– “results of the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) exams in Grades 4 and 7 and provincial exams in Grades 10, 11, and 12.”

Fact becomes fiction: Individual students’ test scores on the controversial and hotly contested (by the BCTF, ICES, etc) FSA exams are aggregated and turned into a rating along a scale from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). A fiction of the quality of a school is generated out of the fact of individual students’ test scores.

Fiction becomes fact: The individual schools are then rank ordered, pitting school against school to capture the competitive nature of education, at the school level, in BC. The fiction of quality is represented as fact within the annual research-based School Report Card. The Fraser Institute exploits a fairly easy, common process.

Of course, there are many alternatives for evaluating education or judging the quality of schools. One of the most comprehensive alternatives has been taken up by the Great School Project, headed up by a group of experienced, insightful educators and researchers.

The purpose of the Great Schools Project is to develop methods to assess schools that support students, communities, and the public education system, so that we can provide the best education possible for every child—so that we have a useful answer to that Mum’s questions: How is our school doing? How well is our school meeting the needs of my child? It’s also an attempt to live up to our responsibility to move beyond simply criticizing — to make concrete proposals we believe will improve the public education system for kids.

Working methodically to offer productive ways of judging quality, the Great Schools Project has offered a set of Principles that ought to be at the base of any evaluation system.

Henry Giroux: The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth

Truthout Interview with Henry Giroux

Truthout contributor, director of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project and Board member Henry Giroux responded on June 10, 2013, to questions concerning varieties of pedagogy and fundamentalism, markets, and the prospects for public schools raised by his latest book: America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth

Leslie Thatcher for TruthoutDidn’t teachers open themselves up for attack when they used the agency acquired through strong teachers’ unions in the service of self-interest rather than modeling critical pedagogy? And hasn’t that begun to change? How would you contrast the real versus the ostensible goals of education “reformers”? What has to happen now? And concretely, what must each of us do?

The narrative about the contemporary assault on public schools doesn’t begin with the failings of public schools. One can’t even talk about them in such monolithic terms; some are outstanding and some are a disgrace, which is largely the result of a funding structure that has always been deeply unequal. But a critical understanding of the current war on public and higher education might begin in the seventies when right-wing billionaires and ideologues decided that the biggest problem with public schools was not that they were failing – but that they were public. The so-called new “reformers” are really radicals who want to transform the entire structure of public and higher education to serve elite, corporate and military interests. The project that informs their understanding of education is anti-humanistic, unjust, iniquitous and authoritarian in its attack on all things public, which also includes public servants such as teachers and especially teachers’ unions. The so-called new “reformers” are thoroughly ideological, politicized and market-driven missionaries who camouflage their intentions and their interests by advancing elements of a progressive discourse to push their deeply conservative agenda. Terms like “freedom,” “choice,” “equity” and “democracy” are emptied of meaningful content and bandied about in order to promote the neoliberal script of privatization, standardization, high stakes testing, commodification and unchecked competition. The new reformers are reactionaries who assume the posture of committed, avant garde patron saints of educational renewal. But in reality they are a new breed of philanthro-capitalists looking to dictate the educational experiences of entire generations of students – their aptitudes, their competencies, their consciousness, their aspirations – and make a lot of money at the same time. They are as disingenuous as they are backward looking. The new “reformers” are, in reality, pushing an old right-wing attack on schools and teachers. According to them, teachers are the problem because they lack accountability and unions promote a self-interested bureaucracy. Underlying this claim is a refusal to address how larger structural issues such as racism, income inequality and exploding poverty impact on school failings or how they should be reformed in light of these forces. Fixing public education is reduced to bashing teachers, unions, public servants, and funneling taxpayer money “away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.).”(7) The alleged new “reformers” are in reality a mix of conservative billionaires, hedge fund managers, bankers and right-wing ideologues that constitute an anti-public education movement that has produced “just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.”(8)

Unlike current “reformers,” those who advocate egalitarian reforms – who promote education as the practice of freedom – are well aware that if public schools are going to improve, they have to be defined and appropriately funded. Such schools should serve as laboratories of democracy, critical and accommodating spaces where young people have access to the expertise, skills and experience that both deepen their understanding of history, the arts, sciences – of humanistic traditions and archives in general – and the new world of advanced technologies, digital communications and screen culture. The acquisition and mastery of such diverse technologies, knowledge and skills are important not only so young people can find meaningful work but also so they can determine judiciously and rigorously their appropriate and inappropriate uses. In short, so they can rise to the level of critical and engaged citizens of the world.

Public schools must be defended as public goods that benefit not just individual children and their parents but an entire society. Critical reformers must also fight to protect teacher autonomy, struggle for equitable modes of financing, and recognize that any talk about improving schools under conditions of alleged austerity has to include an analysis of the failed domestic war on drugs and the wars abroad and the devastating effects they have had on such basic social services by diverting funds from public schools and increasingly criminalizing the behavior of low-income white and poor minority students. True reformers have to fight against the neoliberal onslaught on teachers, unions, curricula, diverse modes of accountability, and reclaim democratic values and civic education as crucial for creating quality public schools. The most important starting point for creating genuine educational reform is the necessity of acknowledging that the crisis of education cannot be separated from the war on youth, the rise of the neoliberal state, the war on terrorism, and the ongoing financialization and militarization of the entire society. To not understand these basic connections is to misrecognize the real drivers in shaping currently proposed changes and misdiagnose meaningful educational reform. Those market and corporate forces that now undermine public education in the name of fixing it have little to do with democracy and critical teaching and learning, except to weaken both as part of a larger corporate restructuring and militarization of public education as a securitized, profit-based entity. Battling against those forces clearly puts one on the side of genuine educational reform.

In strategic terms what would this mean? In my view, genuine educational reform should begin with rejecting the financing of schools through local taxes, which is fundamentally out of step with the funding models for public education in every other advanced, industrialized nation. Moreover, the struggle over the proper funding of public education should coincide with the struggle for smaller schools and classes, more resources, and more full time quality teachers – which would also entail a robust commitment to critical and comprehensive teacher education and so a rejection of its current debased state. Schooling is a public necessity that is as important as national defense and should be funded as such. Secondly, all attempts at the privatization and corporatization of schools must be rejected so as to make education truly public and widely accessible, removed from those who see it largely as another source of profits harnessed to corporate power. Schools must be defined as democratic public spheres and not simply as sites whose worth is determined by the morally truncated, narrow instrumental standards of measurable utility. Teachers need to work under conditions that provide them with the autonomy that enables them to take risks, be creative, and draw upon a range of educational approaches and pedagogies. Schools must be defined as sites of political and moral practice deeply involved in the production of democratic agents. Moreover, matters of vision, agency, and support should be connected to the struggle against those pedagogies of repression that reduce teaching to the imperatives of standardization and testing. We need modes of pedagogy that enliven the imagination, create thoughtful and curious students, incorporate an ethic of civic responsibility, and teach the practice of freedom. That means connecting pedagogy to the histories, experiences, and narratives that young people bring to any learning situation – the very educative contexts denied by the standardization juggernaut. Pedagogy should not mimic economic models with their reductionist worship of method, stripped of any sense of morality or social context. Instead, pedagogy should provide the conditions for students to invest in robust and critical forms of self and social agency. Pedagogy is not a neutral method, but a deeply political practice that is always connected to the acquisition of agency, a practice that demands that educators be vigilant about what identities are being produced under what conditions and for what purposes.

Critical educators, in concert with concerned citizens, need to raise the bar so as to demand modes of education in which teachers are knowledgeable and reflexive, function as agents of civic education, and create pedagogies that are provocative and illuminating in their ability to get students to come to terms with their own power as individual and social agents. Any viable mode of critical pedagogy must treat young people with respect and enable them to develop their own voice and sense of agency, and do so in an environment that is thoughtful, critical, humane and challenging. In the end, I think it is reasonable to argue, as I do in this book, that education at all levels is the fundamental precondition that makes democratic politics possible, provides a space where meaningful histories, voices and cultural differences can flourish, and enables students to grow intellectually and morally, reflect critically about their relationship with others, and interrogate thoughtfully their relationship with the broader society and the larger world. I make no apologies in arguing that the project that informs this book furthers the attempt to establish a connection between learning and social change, educate young people to be able to translate private troubles into broader social considerations, and create the pedagogical conditions for the development of a formative culture that expands and deepens the possibilities of a democratic society. The Education Deficit and the War on Youth is a call for educators and others to organize collectively both within and outside of schools to further develop the ideas, values and institutions necessary to sustain a world where justice prevails and individual and collective consciousness does not fall asleep.

Read More: Truthout

7. David Sirota, “It’s No Coincidence that the Public Education and Poverty Crises are Happening at the Same Time,” AlterNet (June 3, 2013). Online:http://www.alternet.org/education/us-department-education-releases-study-schools-and-poverty-rate

8. Ibid., David Sirota, “It’s No Coincidence that the Public Education and Poverty Crises are Happening at the Same Time.”

Cyberbullying and cybermobbing: What ought teachers do?

Heritage Minister James Moore announced $250,000 in funds this week to support the Federal government’s Youth Take Charge initiative. The new funding supports a youth-led anti-bullying project, primarily through the Canadian Red Cross’s Stand Up to Bullying and Discrimination in Canadian Communities project, building on the Red Cross’s Beyond the Hurt program. The Red Cross funds will be used to train 2,400 teens ages 13 to 17 to deliver workshops for their peers. The announcement was made at the Ottawa high school where Jamie Hubley was a student when he heart-breakingly took his life in the throes of bullying on 15 October 2011.

The new initiative and funds signal increasing concerns with bullying and cyberbullying, which is receiving due attention; mobbing, including cybermobbing, is also drawing attention. Although mobbing can refer to a group of bullies, it less obviously refers to scenarios where students, teens, etc. succumb to peer pressure to gang up on one or a few individuals. Any one of those joining into mobbing may never be suspected of bullying per se, as they are unlikely to single-handedly act against a target, but collectively all too readily assume the characteristics of the pack.

In the past year were two highly publicized suicides of young women in tormented by cyberbullying and cybermobbing through social media. The tragic story of Amanda Todd, who took her life on 10 October 2012 after posting on YouTube an emotional cry for help and description of how she suffered, generated a wave of compassion and questions: how could this have happened to a 15 year-old high school student at CABE Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, BC. Who and what are responsible? Why? Canadians relived a nightmare again when Rehteah Parsons, a 17 year-old student in Coal Harbour, NS, took her life on 7 April 2013. This young woman was a tragic victim of rape and subsequent malicious social media practices. Yet the deaths of these young women followed three suicides in 2011– young women all of which were tormented through social media practices maligning and targeting them: Emily McNamara, Jenna Bowers-Bryanton, and Courtenay Brown took their lives in March and April 2011. There is no getting over these young women, Jamie Hubley, or the many others who lost or took their lives for similar reasons.

Teachers have for years been taking stands against bullying and mobbing and need help and support, and they need insights into how to protect themselves from making a mistake in the selection of resources. For instance, on 29 May 2013, a Winnipeg teacher at École Julie Riel in St. Vital showed a popular anti-bullying movie titled Love is All You Need?, using the YouTube version. It’s a professionally produced movie with a powerful message. Writer and director Kim Rocco Shields defended the movie, noting that “it was created to open eyes of more adults and maybe teenagers, late teens, that couldn’t really grasp the idea of why kids were being bullied and why kids were taking their own lives.” Contemplating an edited version for use in schools, she reported that “some of the experts said, right then and there, we must change the ending so it’s more uplifting.”

Image from Love is All You Need?

With the explicit peer-induced and self-inflicted violence of the video, a student fainted in class and the boy’s parents understandably became quite upset. The boy’s father was straightforward: “A teacher chose something that was viewed that was not part of the official curriculum.” Superintendent Duane Brothers called the video “clearly inappropriate.”

Hopefully, in addition to the $250,000 for youth-led anti-bullying project more funds will be forthcoming forthcoming from federal and provincial governments for teacher-led initiatives.

BC Liberals candidate comments insensitive to special needs students

Dean Recksiedler, News1130, May 7, 2013– Critics are blasting a Liberal candidate in northern BC who made some controversial comments about special needs students in the school system.

In a recent all-candidates meeting, the incumbent MLA in Peace River North was asked if he thought there was a correlation between the degradation of the public school system and the increased enrolment in private schools/home schools.

Pat Pimm‘s response was:

“I think there is… We’ve certainly seen a decline in the public system. The public system since 2001, there’s been a decline of over 60,000 students. That’s a big decline. What’s driving that decline, I can’t honestly say. But I do think that there’s…… People don’t like to speak about this, so I’ll probably get in trouble for saying anything… When you’ve got special needs children in classes with other children, it does create some issues. I’ve heard that across the province, it causes some grief. How do you deal with that is a real hard question and it’s one that… is causing the teachers extra time and trouble and certainly, I think is causing some students to move into other areas in the private sector as well.”

The BC NDP and BC Teachers Federation seem to lead the charge in slamming Pimm; critics call his comments “insensitive” and “appalling.”

One comment on Twitter was even more pointed, suggesting the incumbent in Peace River-North was de facto admitting the BC Liberal government has under-funded classrooms with special needs kids in them.