Category Archives: Free speech

Threat Convergence: The New Academic Work by Petrina, Mathison & Ross #highered #criticaled

THREAT CONVERGENCE:
THE NEW ACADEMIC WORK, BULLYING, MOBBING AND FREEDOM

Stephen Petrina, Sandra Mathison & E. Wayne Ross

The convergence of the casualization, fragmentation, intensification, segmentation, shifting and creep of academic work with the post-9/11 gentrificaton of criticism and dissent is arguably one of the greatest threats to academic freedom since the Nazi elimination of the Jewish professoriate and critique in 1933, Bantu Education Act’s reinforcement of apartheid in South Africa in 1952, and McCarthyism in Canada and the US in the 1950s and 1960s. In the history of education, this would be quite the claim yet the evidence seems to speak for itself. Academic work has been fragmented into piecemeal modes and intensified as academics absorbed, through amalgamation, traditional clerical staff and counseling work. The balance of the academic workforce has been reduced and casualized or segmented to an “at whim,” insecure, unsalaried part-time labor pool, the 8-hour workday and 40-hour academic workweek collapsed to 60-80 hours, and the primary locus of academic work shifted off-campus as the workplace crept into the home and its communal establishments. Academic stress— manifested as burnout through amalgamation and creep of work, and as distress through bullying, mobbing and victimization— underwrites increases in leaves of absence. Non-tenure track faculty are hit particularly hard, indicating “contingency or the precariousness of their position” as relentless stressors.

Nowadays, it’s whimsical to reminisce about work-life balance and promises that the academic workforce will be renewed as boomers retire with baited expectations, or that the workweek and workplace for salaried full-timers could be contained within the seduction of flextime and telecommuting. In many ways, the flexible workplace is the plan for boomers by boomers with both nest eggs and limits on retirement age breaking. As currency values, retirement portfolios, and savings spiral downward while dependent children and grandchildren and inflation spiral upward, incentives to retire erode. Precariously unemployed, underemployed and part-time academics aside, boomers still in the academic system are trended to face the biggest losses. As economic incentives to retire decrease, incentives for intellectual immortality and legacy management flourish with the boomers’ political leanings moving toward the center. One can hardly blame them.

Enthusiasts of anything “flexible” (learning, space, time, work, etc.) and everything “tele” (commuting, conference, learning, phone, work, etc.), academics readily workshift with additional liability but no additional remuneration— instead is an unquestioned acceptance of the “overtime exemption”— while the employer saves about $6,500 per year per worker in the tradeoff as worksite or workspace shifts from campus to home. The academic workweek is now conservatively 60 hours with many PT and FT reporting persistent 70-80 hour weeks. Perhaps academic women can finally have it all after putting in the 120 hour workweek. One reason institutions now cope with many fewer FT hires is that academics are all too willing to do the work of two. As Gina Anderson found a decade ago, “with apparently unconscious irony, many academics reported that they particularly valued the flexibility of their working week, in terms of both time and space… in the same breath as reporting working weeks in the order of 60 hours.” For most academic workers, the cost of flexibility is effectively a salary cut as overheads of electricity, heat, water, communication and consumables are shifted to the home. Carbon footprint reductions are a net benefit and for a minority, the savings of commuting and parking offset the costs of this homework or housework. What is the nature or implications of this increasing domestication of academic work and displacement of the academic workplace? For academic couples with or without children, the dynamics of housecohabitry, househusbandry or housewifery necessarily change as the academic workplace shifts and labor creeps into the home. With temptations to procrastinate on deluges of academic deadlines, academic homes have never been cleaner and more organized. Nevermind the technocreep of remote monitoring. Over the long run, although some administrators cling to the digital punch card and time stamp with Hivedesk, Worksnaps or MySammy, “smashing the clock” in the name of flextime and telework is about the best thing that ever happened to academic capitalism.

This is not exactly a SWOT analysis, where Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are given due treatment. Rather, the focus is on this threat convergence as it resolves through historic displacements of the academic workplace and work. To what degree are the new policies for academic speech inscribed in academic work, regardless of where it’s done? As the academic workplace is increasingly displaced and distributed, are academic policies displaced and distributed as well? Observed at work, monitored at home and tracked in between—these are not so much choices as the cold reality of 21st century academic work.

Read More: Threat Convergence

 

New Workplace Issue: Academic Bullying & Mobbing #academicfreedom #ubc #aaup

New Workplace Issue #24

Academic Bullying & Mobbing

Workplace and Critical Education are published by the Institute for Critical Education Studies. Please consider participating as author or reviewer. Thank you.

Steven Salaita in Vancouver – Talks at SFU & UBC Jan 12/14

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

Petrina and Ross on the #BCTF and @BCLiberals #ubc #yreubc #criticaled #bced

FALL RESEARCH CONVERSATION in EDCP

Discussants: Stephen Petrina and Wayne Ross
Scarfe 310
November 4, 2014
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
Light lunch and gathering Noon to 12:30 pm
Year of Research in Education event

This research conversation will focus on
The Legacy of the B. C. Teachers – Government Impasse

Two questions for discussion might well be:

  • What fundamental problems remain after a “settlement” has been reached? Should these problems affect the curriculum and pedagogy of courses in the UBC Teacher Education program?
  • To this department conversation we encourage faculty to bring with them one or two of their degree candidates, those having written comprehensive exams or in the process of so doing.

Hosted by Wm. Doll and Donna Trueit

Talks called off, #HongKongStudents moving strikes to secondary school #scholarism

AL-hk-0910ePhoto: Reuters

 Straits Times, Hong Kong Reuters, October 9, 2014– The Hong Kong government on Thursday called off talks with pro-democracy student leaders after they threatened an expansion of protests, dealing a blow to attempts to ease tensions that have seen tens of thousands take to the streets to demand free elections and for leader Leung Chun Ying to resign.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, the city’s No 2 government official, was speaking on the eve of planned talks with student leaders after protests paralysed the city.

“Students’ call for an expansion of an uncooperative movement has shaken the trust of the basis of our talks and it will be impossible to have a constructive dialogue,” Ms Lam said.

Hong Kong’s Justice Department handed the investigation of a US$6.4 million (S$8 million) business payout to Mr Leung to prosecutors on Thursday as political fallout grows from the mass protests in the Chinese-controlled city.

The latest development on Thursday came after student protesters said they would not retreat from their barricades and threatened more secondary school strikes if the government does not meet their demands for democracy, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

“Without a just explanation and concrete ideas of how to settle the current dispute, Hong Kong people will not retreat. And there’s no reason for anyone to ask us to retreat. Therefore the Occupy movement must be ongoing,” said Mr Alex Chow, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Students.

He warned that the protests will continue until the government has responded to their demands and provides substantial solutions to ease political tensions, according to the SCMP.

Joshua Wong, convenor of student activist group Scholarism, threatened a new wave of class boycott in secondary schools if the government fails to meet their core demands, including the retraction of Beijing’s restrictive framework on universal suffrage and the resignation of Mr Leung.

Read more: Straits Times

 

Gen ’97 the youth of #HongKongStudents #scholarism

hong-kong-democracy-protest

Yoichi Shimatsu, New American Media, October 3, 2014– Hong Kong – On both sides of the barricades blocking this city’s streets, media pundits from New York and Beijing assert that the protests in Hong Kong arise from demands for greater autonomy. Completely unnoticed is a major demographic shift in the region’s population, which is redefining the issues that motivate the younger generation to shut down this global financial center.

The leadership and activist numbers are coming from Generation ’97, young people born during the 1997 handover of the then-British Crown colony to Chinese sovereignty. These youngsters, most still in the secondary level (high school), are finding themselves at the forefront of a populist struggle for electoral rights. They are motivated by anxieties about local identity and a consequent need for better representation, reflecting attitudes that differ subtly but significantly from the traditional opposition parties.

Leadership of the democracy movement was suddenly thrust onto this youth cohort before the protests, when a corruption scandal broke involving the controversial publisher of the Apple Daily press paying illegal contributions to politicians in the opposition parties. The Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation turned up examples of pocketing of unreported donations for personal gain. This corruption further taints the image of a pan-democratic alliance that was already divided by rivalries and unexplained dropouts prior to the street protests.

Underlying the youth movement’s strategy of civil disobedience is a deepening distrust of their pre-1997 elders in both camps, who operate in a political culture of “deal-making” and an elitist obsession with property and wealth, regardless of political affiliation. What the young radicals confronting tear gas and riot police reject is the selling out of Hong Kong’s unique way of life to the highest bidder, whether wealthy businessmen from China or globalist financial corporations.

In contrast with the figureheads of the opposition parties, these youth are not aligned with Britain or the United States, but are battling instead for their own Hong Kong as the last bastion of Cantonese culture. For that goal, the ever-increasing ranks of post-1997 youth realize the vital importance of equal voting rights to chose leaders who will represent the people of Hong Kong, especially the poor and disadvantaged, and not just its wealthy elite.

A manga antihero

The most charismatic figure to emerge from the youth movement is Joshua Wong, one of four student leaders of Scholarism, a political front of high school students and college freshmen. The Gen ’97 teen activists with Scholarism are the driving force behind the street protests, overshadowing the Occupy Central organizers and their seniors in the Federation of Hong Kong University Students.

These secondary schoolchildren are prepared to cast away university admission and promising careers — unimaginable sacrifices in this upwardly mobile society that cherishes education above all — in their commitment to political rights. By making the unthinkable break with traditional values in a conformist urban society, the rebellious youth have shocked anxious parents, unionized workers and the lower middle class of this Cantonese-speaking city into worried support with food donations, cash, praise and admiration. The example of teenagers holding out against tear gas has convinced many formerly passive residents to take a stand on the streets.

Joshua, 17, shows a precocious understanding of the complexities of Hong Kong politics, and yet remains adamant in remaining an outsider to the establishment. His strong commitment to street agitation is not based on an alpha male image from kung fu movies. To the contrary, the slim teenager is modest and soft spoken, while succinct in explaining his viewpoints. A Bruce Lee-style bowl cut touches his wide-set almond eyes, which are exactly like those of maverick antiheroes in Japanese comics known as manga. This lad is clearly the role model for young people across East Asia, who are disaffected by traditional career paths, choose a variety of lifestyles and are tuned in to social media.

“I admit it’s annoying to hear nothing but Mandarin in the metro instead of Cantonese,” he says, “but I am not a right-winger who makes comments against visiting mainlanders.” His statement should come as a surprise to the National People’s Congress in Beijing, whose worst nightmare is the electoral victory of an anti-China secessionist figure. Out of these gut-level fears, the NPC voted unanimously to require all nominees to gain its approval before the 2017 election of a new Chief Executive, the highest position in Hong Kong.

In contrast to the leaders of the opposition parties, or Hong Kongers who emigrated to Canada or Britain before 1997, Scholarism members simply do not have any personal memory of UK rule, and therefore hold no attachment to the British lifestyle that the last royal governor Chris Patton mistakenly referred to as “the Hong Kong way of life.” Gen ’97 accepts the “one country, two systems” formula as a fact of life. It is the only political order they have ever known.

“The relationship between Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China cannot be amended at this late stage,” Joshua explains. “There is no other road than ‘one country, two systems’.” By the same token, he adds, “Under that formula, our first priority is equality for all residents, and this means greater equality in the electoral system. We cannot let our common future be determined by a 1,200-member election committee instead of by the 7 million people of Hong Kong.”

Read More: Truthout

Rally for public #BCed support teachers June 19 6pm #bcpoli #ubc #yteubc

BCTF-BCFedRally

All Together for Public Education
Rally for Better Support for Kids | Rally to Support BC Teachers

Thursday, June 19, 2014 – 6:00 p.m.

Canada Place, Vancouver

 
The Officers of the BC Federation of Labour held a conference call today and pledged full support for the BC Teachers Federation who are now engaged in a full strike province-wide for a fair collective agreement.
 
A mass rally for teachers, activists, parents, and union members is this Thursday, June 19, 2014 at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver, starting at 6 p.m.  (Music and creative poster making at about 5)

Petition to support #BCed teachers / #BCTF #bcpoli #ubc #sfu #yteubc

BCTFQueenMaryElementary2014BC teachers picketing at Queen Mary Elementary School, Vancouver

 Sign the Petition to support BC teachers / BCTF

BC Premier Christy Clark and Minister Peter Fassbender,

We the undersigned, faculty members, librarians, administrators, students, and staff in post-secondary institutions across British Columbia, encourage you to increase your support of public education by recognizing the value of our teachers. We encourage you to demonstrate this recognition by bargaining with the BCTF with an open mind to meeting the teachers’ very fair proposals. This includes de-escalation by backing down on the BC Public School Employers’ Association’s (BCPSEA) retaliatory lockout, which further erodes the teachers’ right to bargain and threatens fair labour practices across the BC public sector. BCTF President Iker argues “It’s time for Premier Christy Clark to provide the employer with new funding that will help bring the two sides closer together on class size, composition, staffing levels for specialist teachers, and wages.”  We agree.

Please invest in education and labour by resolving this dispute at the bargaining table rather than through retaliatory lockouts. The teachers, who are the BCTF, and all public sector employees through their unions, deserve a fair process of reaching a collective agreement. Thank you.

Sign the petition in support of BC teachers / BCTF

On the #BCed student movement #bcpoli #ubc #yteubc #edstudies

BCStudentWalkout2012

The myth of the infantile and third Person

On 4 June I watched as a small group of students walked out of our local high school in frustration, a quiet stand but not quite a protest. One student muttered “hardly an angry crowd.” Just as candidly, another student posted: “The walk out was shit.” Another used the f-word to emphasize “failure.”

Wisely, the students were counselled by teachers to stay in class. But equally wisely, students encouraged each other to figure out how and when to take a stand as student-activists. Compared with the walkout in support of teachers in March 2012, this did not reflect the students’ ability to organize. It was just a minor test of the system. And unlike the Quebec student movement in early 2013, which drew secondary and post-secondary students together for a shared cause, the BC student movement has yet to materialize or find common ground across levels of education.

One of the problems at this moment is that students are infantilized and familialized, reduced to children caught in the throes of a bad parental relationship.  It’s unclear how or why this happened. The @BCWalkout2014 Twitter and “Save our Students” Facebook, which began organizing the walkout at the end of May had a bit to do with it: “The two sides are like parents who are divorcing and have stuck their children in the middle for the last thirteen years,” the appeal to walkout went. “Each side claims to be “fighting for the students” yet each side fails to show how they are doing so.”

SoSBCStudentWalkout2014

On 2 June, major media providers, such as the Vancouver Sun and CTV News repeated and quoted the lines and logic. Student frustrations, CTV News reported, were “built up like emotions in a child caught between two divorcing parents.” I hear teacher educators at UBC repeat the same, seemingly afraid to offend the government by supporting the teachers.

On queue, the day before the 4 June walkout a grade 12 student wrote a letter to The Province:

I am writing to express my discontent on behalf of a vast population of public-school students concerning the current collective bargaining between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government. To say a dysfunctional relationship between two parents doesn’t affect the children would be an outrageous lie. The relationship between the BCTF and the province is very much the same and the effects are mostly felt by the students.

The day after the walkout Carolina Tedula tried to work with the metaphor in the Times Colonist, but concluded that “the teachers and the government are far from being different faces of the same coin:”

With respect to the student walkout, and its comparison of the teacher/ government fight to the fight between two divorcing parents. To me, a more realistic comparison is this: The government is the deadbeat spouse, the teachers are the spouse asserting his/her rights and his/her children’s rights, with full backing of the Supreme Court of B.C.

In the entire history of childhood, those unfortunately experiencing painful break-ups, separations or divorces have never once been able to organize a collective opposition movement. Obviously it is not difficult to comprehend why or why not. Freud did not allow it and daddy or mommy won’t allow it either. So it is impossible for this logic to work to any degree in organizing a student movement. Here, one is infantilized as much as one subscribes to the storyline.

It’s equally impossible to build a movement out of third persons– those that seemingly rise as silent majorities and voices of reason at the point of politics. The myth of the third person is the myth of the Canadian way. These myths have had their day but will never underwrite momentum for a student movement.

At some point soon, a major test of the BC system has to materialize, as there has to be something more to education and life than the promise of a job when youth unemployment rates are increasing toward unprecedented numbers.

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!

CFP: Academic Mobbing (Special Issue of Workplace) #education #criticaled #ubc

LAST Call for Papers

Academic Mobbing
Special Issue
Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

Editors: Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross

Editors of Workplace are accepting manuscripts for a theme issue on Academic Mobbing.  Academic mobbing is defined by the Chronicle of Higher Education (11 June 2009) as: “a form of bullying in which members of a department gang up to isolate or humiliate a colleague.” The Chronicle continues:

If rumors are circulating about the target’s supposed misdeeds, if the target is excluded from meetings or not named to committees, or if people are saying the target needs to be punished formally “to be taught a lesson,” it’s likely that mobbing is under way.

As Joan Friedenberg eloquently notes in The Anatomy of an Academic Mobbing, the toll taken is excessive.  Building on a long history of both analysis and neglect in academia, Workplace is interested in a range of scholarship on this practice, including theoretical frameworks, legal analyses, resistance narratives, reports from the trenches, and labor policy reviews.  We invite manuscripts that address, among other foci:

  • Effects of academic mobbing
  • History of academic mobbing
  • Sociology and ethnography of the practices of an academic mob
  • Social psychology of the academic mob leader or boss
  • Academic mobbing factions (facts & fictions) or short stories
  • Legal defense for academic mob victims and threats (e.g., Protectable political affiliation, race, religion)
  • Gender norms of an academic mob
  • Neo-McCarthyism and academic mobbing
  • Your story…

Contributions for Workplace should be 4000-6000 words in length and should conform to APA, Chicago, or MLA style.

FINAL Date for Papers: May 30, 2014

to blog or not to blog?

The International Studies Association (political science folks) is discussing a proposal to ban Association journal editors, editorial board members and anyone associated with its journals from blogging. Here is the language:

“No editor of any ISA journal or member of any editorial team of an ISA journal can create or actively manage a blog unless it is an official blog of the editor’s journal or the editorial team’s journal,” the proposal reads. “This policy requires that all editors and members of editorial teams to apply this aspect of the Code of Conduct to their ISA journal commitments. All editorial members, both the Editor in Chief(s) and the board of editors/editorial teams, should maintain a complete separation of their journal responsibilities and their blog associations.”

Singling out blogs, but no other social media or letters to the editor or op eds, the ISA asserts that blogging is some how unseemly, that it is a kind of discourse that is not proper professional behavior, and that if one blogs one is likely to sink into some abyss losing a grasp on one’s dignity and respectability.

At best this proposal is quaint, a desire for a past when professors stayed in their offices and wrote for and engaged with their peers through narrow publication channels (like the ISA journals). At worst, this is a draconian effort to challenge academic freedom, to squelch professors’ engagement in public life, and to control access to knowledge. The silliness of this proposal does little to obviate its threat to civic engagement of scholars, both the activist minded and those who understand the world is bigger than the university campus.

Nelson Mandela | Pete Seeger | champions and guardians of education

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 | 1919-2014 Pete Seeger

Champions and Guardians of Education

Thank you

“Got Land?” hoody continues to spark controversy #idlenomore #edstudies #bced #ubced #bcpoli

First Nations sweater sparks nationwide controversy

Canadian Civil Liberties Association, January 25, 2014– Thirteen-year-old student, Tenelle Starr, inadvertently became the centre of a nationwide controversy over just five words on her sweater: “Got Land? Thank an Indian.”

Starr, who lives on the Star Blanket First Nation reserve and attends Grade 8 in Balcarres, a small town approximately 100 kilometers from Regina, says she wore her sweater to promote her heritage and and treaty rights. (Read more) Starr says that she initially wore the sweater after Christmas break without incident, and was shocked when school officials later forbade her from wearing her sweater to school. She continued to wear it, however, and was instructed each time to either remove it or turn it inside out. According to school officials, other students and their parents were offended by the sweater, which they called “cheeky,” “rude,” and even “racist.” (Read more)

After meetings between the school, Starr, her mother, and the Star Blanket First Nation, school officials determined that the sweater was not inappropriate and that Starr would be able to wear it to school, according to the CBC.

Creator of the sweater, Jeff Menard, says that he’s been flooded with orders for his “Got Land?” t-shirts and sweaters following nationwide coverage of the controversy.

Read More: CCLA

January 28 National Day of Teach-ins focused on First Nations Education Act #idlenomore #ubc #bced #bcploi #occupyeducation #edstudies

Idle No More + Defenders of the Land
Teach-ins
January 28, 2014

Idle No More— As we begin a new year, we invite Idle No More groups to organize local teach-ins on January 28th based around the First Nation Education Act and the broader Termination Plan that it represents.  We recognize that every Nation and community has their own unique stories, struggles, and practices and we hope that every teach-in is rooted in the on-the-ground realities that are the heart of the movement. When we include our local allies and supporters to attend, help, and promote local teach-ins we believe this adds strength to the bundle of arrows we continue to build through education.

As a support to teach-in organizers we are developing educational tools to use at local teach-ins that will focus on the  First Nation Education Act and the broader Termination Plan of the Canadian government.  Please feel free to use these tools, or to develop your own!  We are also hoping that each teach-in will create a quick list of local struggles or issues and that we can share these lists to help guide the Idle No More movement.

We need to support one another as we continue to fight for our lands, water, sovereignty, and our future generations.  We hope that these teach-ins help to deepen and strengthen our roots and prepare us for the work that lies ahead.

Read More: Idle No More

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