Tobey Steeves, October 26, 2014, Workplace— The 2014/2015 school year had a rocky start in British Columbia, Canada, where teachers and the ruling government have been locked in a contest over the future of public education in the province. Teachers finished the 2013/2014 school year locked out and on strike, and neither the teachers nor the government appeared willing to concede defeat. This clash between public and private values offers meaningful lessons for friends of public education.
The struggle over maintaining public services is not unique to British Columbia (BC), of course, and Naomi Klein’s (2007) notion of shock doctrines provides a lens for understanding how and why public services around the world have been attacked and subverted via [manufactured] ‘crises’. In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Klein argues that shocks and disasters can disrupt societies’ “ruling narratives” and can – if given half a chance – be turned into opportunities for profit-grabbing and corporate re-structuring. Klein provides numerous examples from around the world to show that shock doctrines have been managed and cultivated in order to create “orchestrated raids on the public sphere” (p. 26). Klein’s analysis can be extended to BC, where the provincial government has nurtured the spread of privatized education – at the expense of public schools.
I have previously argued that the shock doctrine is alive and well in BC, and involves a broad attack on teachers and the “tacit re-imagining of public education as a vehicle for private profit as well as the intentional re-direction of public resources to redistribute the burden of risk, access, and service to favour private profits over public need” (Steeves, 2014, p. 10). This includes preferential resourcing for private schools in BC, a push to direct public resources away from the provision of learning opportunities and toward a concern with extracting profit, and the systematic commodification of BC’s curriculum. To update and supplement this analysis, I would like to: (i) elaborate on the contexts that compelled BC’s teachers into rejecting shock therapy and to mount a full-scale strike, (ii) outline some of the impediments to (re)solving the bargaining impasse between teachers and the provincial government, (iii) describe key features of the collective agreement that bridged the impasse between teachers and the provincial government, and (iv) highlight some of the tactics that were used to challenge shock therapy and to cultivate shock resistance in BC
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