Category Archives: Free speech

The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking / La peur créée par l’existence précaire dans le monde néolibéral décourage la pensée critique

E. Wayne Ross, co-editor of Critical Education,  was recently interviewed about the impact of neoliberal capitalism on schools, universities, and education in general by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, an Algerian-based journalist.

Over the course of the interview he discussed a wide-range of issues, including: the fundamental conflict between neoliberalism and participatory democracy; the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and the possibilities of transforming schools and universities into forces for progressive change and, in particular, academic freedom and free speech on campus, schools as illusion factories, curriculum as propaganda; what it means to be a dangerous citizen; and the role of intellectuals/teachers as activists.

The interview has been published in English and French, links below.

The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking –  American Herald Tribune

La peur créée par l’existence précaire dans le monde néolibéral décourage la pensée critique – Algérie Résistance II

La peur créée par l’existence précaire dans le monde néolibéral décourage la pensée critique – Palestine Solidarité

 

The Courage of Hopelessness: Democratic Education in the Age of Empire [Video]

banner seminar for web

Dr. E. Wayne Ross | Professor, EDCP

January 15, 2016

Short Bio:
E. Wayne Ross is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC. He has written and edited numerous books including: Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies and Social Education (Sense, 2010); The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems and Possibilities (4th Ed., SUNY Press, 2014) and Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom (Peter Lang, 2016). He also edits the journals Critical Education, Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and Cultural Logic.

Abstract:
In this talk I argue there is a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality of democracy in North America that subverts traditional approaches to democratic education. The tropes that have historically dominated the discourse on democracy and democratic education now amount to selling students (and ourselves) a lie about history and contemporary life. Our challenge is to re-imagine our roles as educators and find ways to create opportunities for students to create meaningful personal understandings of the world. Education is not about showing life to people, but bringing them to life. The aim is not getting students to listen to convincing lectures by experts, but getting them to speak for themselves in order to achieve, or at least strive for an equal degree of participation and a more democratic, equitable, and justice future. This requires a new mindset, something I call dangerous citizenship.

Steven Salaita – First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech (Talks at SFU & UBC)

First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech

Monday, January 12 at 7:30pm
SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street, Segal Rooms; Vancouver, BC
Facebook EVENT

Wednesday, January 14 at 5:00pm
Coach House at Green College, UBC; 6201 Cecil Green Park Road (off NW Marine Drive, opposite Chan Centre and Rose Parkade)
Facebook EVENT

A talk by Professor Steven Salaita, who is at the centre of an international protest against academic censorship.

Salaita, author of six books and many articles, was “unhired” from a tenured position in American Indian studies at the University of Illinois when donors pressured the university because of Salaita’s tweets on his personal Twitter account about the Gaza massacre last summer.

Because this action is widely recognized as part of a broad effort to silence voices for Palestinian rights and justice, and as one incident in the long history of colonial treatment of indigenous peoples, the case has attracted international attention.

Salaita’s books will be available at this event.

Steven Salaita & Academic Censorship“: an interview on Voice of Palestine

Embarrassing recent events in Canadian higher education #cdnpse #GeorgeRammell #RobertBuckingham @usask

I’ll admit to a quaint hope that universities are still places where dialogue and dissent are both possible and desirable, but two incidents in the last week leave me scratching my head. The first is the theft of professor George Rammell’s sculpture by the Capilano University administration, and the second is the firing of Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. The issues in the two cases are not the same, but what both share is an unbelievable authoritarianism on the part of the upper administration, a willingness to trample on academic freedom and the absolute intolerance of resistance or disagreement about program cuts and restructuring. The point is not whether each of these universities plans for budget cutting and trimming are appropriate (that would be a different post), but the response to faculty and middle management who DARE to disagree with the upper administration. If this doesn’t have a chilling effect on everyone in Canadian higher education, well we are all being just too polite.

THE CASE OF THE MISSING SCULPTURE

At Capilano University there have been severe program cuts. One program area in which cuts are deep is the arts. George Rammell, sculpture instructor, used his scholarly form of expression to comment on those cuts ~ he created Blathering on in Krisendom, a work in progress  depicting Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft wrapped in a U.S. flag with a poodle. The sculpture went missing last week:

“I immediately called security and the guard told me that orders were given by the top level of the Administration to seize it. I could hardly believe my ears. The Administration had ordered my piece removed off campus to an undisclosed location, without any consultation or prior discussion. I was shocked and not sure if this was Canada,” Rammell stated (as reported in the Georgia Straight).

Jane Shackell, chair of the Board of Governors, released a statement saying that Capilano was “committed to the open and vigorous discourse that is essential in an academic community.” But she had the sculpture removed because it was “workplace harassment of an individual employee, intended to belittle and humiliate the president.” A post for another time, but this might well be the most egregious, inappropriate use of respectful workplace rhetoric to create a workplace where dialogue, dissent, and discourse are not allowed.

Of course, Rammell’s work is easy for the University to steal, but the parallel for some of us might be an administration that comes to your office and wipes all of the files for that critical analysis of higher education book you are working on from your computer. After being AWOL for a week, Capilano University has agreed to return Rammell’s work, but has banned the sculpture from campus and Rammell calls that censorship. It is and it isn’t harassment either. So much for academic freedom.

THE SILENCE OF THE DEANS

Then comes the news, Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan was fired, relieved of his professorial appointment and tenure, and escorted of the campus ~ for disagreeing publicly with the administration’s restructuring and budget cutting plan, TransformUS.

In discussions of TransformUS, middle managers were ordered to get in line and on board with the plan, and threatened if they spoke publicly against it. Here’s the email from the provost:

 

That a University would want deans who are lackeys and submissive to the upper administration’s “messaging” says a great deal about that administration. Unlike the CapU incident, this is less about academic freedom and all about the importance of maintaining an openness to dialogue and disagreement within the University. Such a heavy handed administrative approach assaults our sensibilities about how even the modern, corporatized U operates. On top of all that, the termination of Buckingham comes a mere five weeks from his retirement and is amazingly mean-spirited.

CAUT director, Jim Turk said:

What the president of the University of Saskatchewan has done is an embarrassment to the traditions and history of the University of Saskatchewan and it’s an embarrassment to post-secondary education across Canada. It’s inexcusable.

He’s right about that!

BCPSEA backs down on free expression dispute with teachers / BCTF #bced #yteubc

Over the last decade, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation has systematically tested the limits of free expression for teachers. Through a series of grievances, arbitrations, and court cases, the BCTF has provided one of the most important legal records for teachers’ freedom of expression. The result is nothing short of a significant precedent for the schools.

Earlier this month, a bit of cleaning up after a court decision in the spring resolved the issue of Yertle the Turtle. The BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) finally backed down on the BCTF local’s challenge to the BCPSEA’s ban of certain quotes from the venerable Dr. Seuss book. Finally again, we will see teachers quoting truth to power: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.”

This is far from the end, as free expression and academic freedom in the schools require active, living tests of boundaries and lines. The ban lifted on Yertle the Turtle turns a page but does not yet finish the chapter. The quotes from Yertle were spoken for a larger scope of rights, including rights to bargain contracts and define class sizes. For that, the BCTF’s appeal has gone back to the Supreme Court.

Children’s book ‘Yertle the Turtle’ now OK again in unionized B.C. classrooms

Terri Theodore, Globe and Mail, October 11, 2013– “Yertle the Turtle” is no longer under ban.

“Yertle the Turtle” can gather more fans — in school districts around British Columbia.

A freedom of expression grievance has been settled between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association based on the Dr. Seuss children’s book about a turtle trying to assert its rights.

The complaint was one of several made by the union when some school districts were banning classroom displays of union posters, buttons and T-shirts in the middle of a teachers’ contract dispute.

In one case, an administrator vetoed a quote for classroom display in Prince Rupert from the book “Yertle the Turtle,” saying it was too political.

Dave Stigant, with the Prince Rupert district, was given about 20 quotes from the book to determine if they would be appropriate to expose to students during an ongoing labour dispute.

He didn’t like this quote: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.”

BCTF President Jim Iker said the quote was just a small example of several instances where the union felt it had a claim of unfair labour practices in the province.

“But definitely the ‘Yertle the Turtle’ one out of Prince Rupert highlighted the whole issue of freedom of expression and our constitutional rights.”

Iker said several such claims went to arbitration over the last four or five years before the issue was ironed out.

The complaints were settled based on a previous court case, a key arbitration ruling and an agreement with the employer on freedom of expression rights.

Teachers are now allowed to display or wear union posters, buttons and T-shirts.

“I’m hoping it clears it up. I think it actually gives both sides certainty and we know where the limits are in terms of materials and what we’re able to display or not display, and I think the employer knows what the expectations are,” Iker said.

He said teachers also know that they can’t discuss any kind of political or union messaging with students during instruction time.

Read More: Globe and Mail

Student speech in school yearbooks censored, again

Student’s yearbook from Springvalley Middle School in Kelowna

Do student comments fame or defame school yearbooks? Apparently, they defame the great works of literature. Thanks to quick-footed censorship, some middle school students’ yearbooks now read like heavily redacted wikileaks documents. In fact, last week one yearbook was leaked to the CBC, which covered the story.

CBC Radio West, June 21, 2013– Konar Sanderson just graduated from Springvalley Middle School in Kelowna. On Tuesday, he received his yearbook. But later that day, Konar says he was forced to black out some of the comments his friends signed in his yearbook. [CBC West host] Rebecca [Sandbergen] spoke with Konar and his stepfather, Tom Metz. Listen to the interview: CBC Radio West

Defenders of student speech in school yearbooks will recall a similar incident at a BC secondary school in June 2010: “A Vancouver Island principal is defending a decision to cut a Grade 10 student out of the high school yearbook because of what he said about her in his write-up. Staff at Lake Trail Secondary School used scissors to chop Brandon Armstrong’s picture and comments from about 150 copies of the annual, saving only a single intact copy for Brandon himself.”  Read More: CBC June 16, 2010

The yearbook teacher “said after trying to black-out and white-out the comment unsuccessfully, it was decided that cutting Armstrong’s entry out of every yearbook was the only reasonable option left. Armstrong’s picture also had to go because of its proximity to the text, she said.”

BC Teachers Federation scores landmark victory in academic freedom and freedom of expression #bcpoli

Well, it turns out that Dr. Seuss’s initial impression during the war that you can’t achieve a substantial victory out of turtles turns out to be wrong! This past week, after 3 years or a decade, depending how its measured, the BC Teachers’ Federation scored one of the most substantial court victories in academic and intellectual freedom for teachers in the last thirty years. The victory provides a substantial defense of educators’ civil liberties and free expression, critical education methods of instruction. And what’s more, it is a significant victory for students’ rights to critical content in the schools.

On 21 May, the BC Court of Appeal released its decision on the BCTF v. BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) / Board of Education of School District No. 5.  The case concerned “the extent to which teachers’ expression of political views on education issues in public schools is protected freedom of expression under s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:”

The political expressions in issue were messages critical of specific government education policies, contained on posters posted on classroom doors and school bulletin boards, and on buttons worn by teachers. Pursuant to a directive from the school district that political posters and information should not be displayed in school hallways, classrooms, or on school grounds, some principals told teachers to stop displaying the posters and wearing the buttons.

This case dates specifically to January 2009, when campaign materials, such as posters and buttons, were circulated by the BCTF to teachers across the province. On 23 April 2009, the Director of Instruction and HR from School District No. 5 (Southeast Kootenay) forwarded a directive principals in the district advising them that the BCTF’s political materials had no place on school grounds other than the staff room. On 1 May 2009, the Cranbrook and Fernie Teachers’ Association forwarded a note to the Director advising that it disagreed with the 23 April directive.  Following a grievance filed by the BCTF, an arbitrator heard the case in March 2010 and denied the grievance, awarding in favour of the BCPSEA in October 2011.

The BCTF appealed the decision. Within Tuesday’s BC Court of Appeal decision is some of the strongest language for a defense of academic freedom for teachers and critical education methods:

There was no evidence in this case of any actual or potential harm to students from being exposed to the materials about educational issues, nor any facts from which an inference of harm could be drawn. On the contrary, Canadian jurisprudence, including Munroe, stands for the principle that open communication and debate about public, political issues is a hallmark of the free and democratic society the Charter is designed to protect. Children live in this diverse and multi-cultural society, and exposing them to diverse societal views and opinions is an important part of their educational experience.

Simply put, “the law supports the exercise by teachers of their right of free expression in schools.”

Court of Appeal Justice Hinkson provides a caveat:

I see no reason why students should receive less protection from the monopolization of the discourse of a societal issue than adults who are subjected to a flood of discourse on an electoral issue by proponents of one side to that issue. In the case of the students, the monopolization on the issue may deprive them of their right to be educated in a school system that is free from bias.

Where the issue upon which teachers choose to exercise their rights to free speech is a political one, their rights must be balanced against the rights of their students to an education that is free from bias. That brings into play, as it did in Harper, the concern that if a group is able to monopolize its message on any issue, competing views will be deprived of a reasonable opportunity to be heard…. However, the proportionality aspects of s. 1 of the Charter reserve for another case the evidence required to establish and the point at which teachers’ rights of freedom of expression in schools must yield to the rights of students to be educated in a school system that is free from bias.

This landmark decision  will certainly be put to test, as the case more generally dates back to over a decade of to-and-fro decisions over academic freedom for BC teachers and their right to free expression. Indeed, one of the best case studies of political speech and symbolic speech is that of the BCTF v. the BC Ministry of Education and BCPSEA from about 2002 to this present decision. Throughout this decade, BC teachers have progressively and systematically tested their rights to political and symbolic speech: posters on school bulletin boards, black arm bands, buttons, letters to parents, t-shirts, bumper stickers on cars in the school parking lot, and wearing black clothes.

“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

In April 2012, amidst another round of disputed bargaining practices and the government’s imposition of the controversial Bill 22, teachers raised questions: “A Prince Rupert elementary teacher has been told a quote from Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle is a political statement that should not be displayed or worn on clothing in her classroom. The teacher included the quote in material she brought to a meeting with management after she received a notice relating to union material visible in her car on school property.”

Eight teachers in the Prince Rupert district received letters warning of “discipline for displaying political messages.” Joanna Larson, president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ local said “the administration doesn’t want students to see the messages.” “We feel very censored here right now. We have feelings that our rights to freedom of expression have been violated.”

To accent the 11th anniversary of BC government’s oppressive bills 27 and 28, which prevented the teachers from bargaining on issue such as class size, the BCTF and teachers organized a protest for January 28, 2013– a “Dark Day for Education” and “Wear Black Day.” Teachers wore black in their classrooms while the BCPSEA cautioned that “regardless of the colour of attire worn, teachers should not engage students in discussion about their political views.” Some teachers in Prince Rupert responded with new black t-shirts, this time remediating Shakespeare and quoting section 2(b) from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But three teachers  were told to remove or cover the shirts.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) weighed in on 4 February 2013 by forwarding a letter to the Prince Rupert School Board and arguing that the ban was unconstitutional: “The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit, it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “The School District has an obligation to respect free speech, and there is no lawful justification for the District to ban these t-shirts.”

Of course, quoting or paraphrasing one’s civil liberties in defiance has been part and parcel of protests throughout the past 300 years. And arguably one of the best political works in the Dr. Seuss catalog, Yertle the Turtle has for five decades been used for purposes of instruction in the classroom and symbolic and political speech, inside and out. Notoriously, the Red Hot Chili Peppers first rocked their expressive version of Yertle the Turtle in 1985. Most recently leading up to the Prince Rupert teacher’s utilization of parts of the text, Yertle the Turtle was used in the protests at the Wisconsin legislature in 2011 and the Occupy movement beginning in September 2011.

ICES colleague E. Wayne Ross recently articulated the necessity of “dangerous citizenship”— “critical citizenship, or social justice oriented citizenship” and civil liberties citizenship— in opposition to liberal notions of “good citizenship” that somehow pass for education in the schools. “There is a misguided and unfortunate tendency in our society to believe that  activities that strengthen or maintain the status quo are neutral or at least non-political,” Wayne observes, “while activities that critique or challenge the status quo are ‘political’ and inappropriate.”

A breath of fresh air, Tuesday’s decision from the BC Court of Appeal changes the tide for teachers. BCTF President Susan Lambert was buoyed by the decision, noting that

it’s about the right of teachers to express their concerns about the working conditions that they teach in and the learning conditions the students are taught in… It’s very important that we as a society encourage teachers to express their views and that we take those views seriously…. You don’t discuss and encourage critical thinking in children by shielding them from diverse views.

BCCLA challenges “laughable” ban on free speech by Prince Rupert school board

BC Civil Liberties Association — The BCCLA is calling on the Prince Rupert School District (No. 052) to reverse its ban on teachers wearing t-shirts displaying section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the provision that protects free speech. The t-shirts display the Shakespeare-inspired question “2(b) or not 2(b)?” on the front, and the text of section 2 of the Charter on the back: 2(a) freedom of religion, 2(b) freedom of expression, 2(c) freedom of peaceful assembly, and 2(d) freedom of association.

The BCCLA argues that the ban on these t-shirts is a violation of the constitutional right to free speech displayed on the t-shirt itself. Freedom of expression guarantees the rights of speakers and listeners alike. In banning these shirts, the School District has violated both the teachers’ and students’ rights to learn, think and talk about their fundamental freedoms.

“The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit, it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “The School District has an obligation to respect free speech, and there is no lawful justification for the District to ban these t-shirts.”

As a government body, School District No. 052 is bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the guarantee of freedom of expression and freedom of association. Governments can only limit such rights in a narrow range of circumstances, according to legal tests established by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lyster added that the ban on these t-shirts is contrary to the principle that schools should be places for open discussion and inquiry: “Banning these t-shirts seems to be short-sighted attempt to cut off discussion and thinking about the basic constitutional rights that the t-shirts display. We assume that this ban has provoked a lot of discussion among Prince Rupert students. Unfortunately, the District has provided an example of a government violating the constitutional rights for its students to discuss, rather than the better example of a government respecting those rights.”

See the BCCLA’s Letter to Prince Rupert School District Board

BC Civil Liberties Association wades in on teacher controversy

Vancouver Sun, Zoe McKnight, February 4, 2013 — The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is accusing the Prince Rupert school board of infringing on teachers’ freedom of speech by banning the wearing of t-shirts printed with those exact Charter rights.

Three teachers in School District 52 were told last Monday to remove or cover their black t-shirts emblazoned with wording from Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights, which includes the right to freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

“The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit — it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” BCCLA president Lindsay Lyster said, adding that schools have an obligation to encourage open discussion.

In an open letter to chair Tina Last and other board members, Lyster asks the school district to rescind the ban on the t-shirts, which were part of a protest organized last week by the B.C. teachers’ union to mark the 11th anniversary of legislation stripping teachers’ rights to bargain class size and composition.

The school board said the t-shirts were a form of political messaging, which is against the rules.

Read more: Vancouver Sun

New Issue of Workplace Launched

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has just published Issue #20, “The New Academic Manners, Managers, and Spaces.”  This issue includes key conceptual and empirical analyses of

  • the creation and avoidance of unions in academic and business workplaces (Vincent Serravallo)
  • the new critiquette, impartial response to Bruno Latour and Jacques Ranciere’s critique of critique (Stephen Petrina)
  • the two-culture model of the modern university in full light of the crystal, neural university (Sean Sturm, Stephen Turner)
  • alternative narratives of accountability in response to neo-liberal practices of government (Sandra Mathison)
  • vertical versus horizontal structures of governance (Rune Kvist Olsen)
  • teachers in nomadic spaces and Deleuzian approaches to curricular practice (Tobey Steeves)

We invite you to review the Table of Contents for Issue #20 for articles and items of interest. Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace (we welcome new manuscripts here and Critical Education),

Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES)
Workplace Blog