If, due to the BC teachers’ strike, you are one of the many parents who are congratulating themselves on having their kids in private school, are considering private school as an alternative, or are increasingly losing faith in either the public school system, the democratic system or both, beware that you are not prancing to peppy (or should I say preppy) tunes of the pied piper. His entrancing tunes take the willing to unintended and dangerous places.
A little melodramatic perhaps, but not too far from the truth, I fear. At first glance, the teachers’ strike that has drawn on for what seems an interminable amount of time, appears to many as a responsible government trying to balance the books while the teachers stand with their hands out, unreasonably demanding the impossible. I propose that that is precisely how the spin-doctors want us to feel.
What we are really witnessing is the systematic breakdown of democracy in keeping with neo-liberal strategy toward unfettered ultimate corporate power. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “neo-liberalism,” I am not referring to a particular political party, but rather an economic mantra that has been sweeping the nations to the rhythm of our march toward globalization.
“Small government is best; a free economy where business can prosper!” Of course that means no pesky environmental restraints or heavy taxes. The fine print in this arrangement is everything else that services big business: a cheap, uneducated, easily manipulated labour force with none of those inconvenient unions. A stratified, privatized education and health care system that best serves the needs of those in power and the illusion of a little bit of democracy, but nothing that will really threaten business as usual.
There are several privately funded think tanks that blitz the media with PR in favour of privatization and to sway public opinion to the tune of neo-liberal rhetoric. Democracy can be identified as the single biggest barrier to the advancement of corporate power. It concerns me greatly that this strike seems to have served their interests in pushing public opinion in a number of areas:
1) The goal to insulate those in power from being accountable to any higher laws. The Supreme Court has ruled twice that the government is breaking the law and has bargained in bad faith. If the public ignores this ruling and essentially adopts the attitude that “they are in power, so they can do what they want,” slapping the wrists of the teachers while locking them out of the schools during lunch hour and telling them “they should be grateful to have a job,” then we have collectively consented to a dictatorship. That is not the kind of Canada I want to live in.
2) Make the public lose faith in the democratic process as well as in publicly funded initiatives. I don’t know a single person who is not exhausted from this battle. Not to mention the brave stance of the teachers who are on the front lines, defending (at great personal cost) what many have given their lives for – a fair, equitable system where every voice counts.
3) Foster faith in privatization. As we have seen in other places like Chicago, there will be pressure to reform the school system, giving parents “choice” with private options. This will serve corporate interests in growing a tiered system that caters to the wealthy and where the privileged are groomed to govern while the rest of society works in low-paying, low-skilled sectors, so busy making a living that there is no time for a life, or meddling in public affairs.
Our government has treated the teachers who help prepare the next generation to excel with contempt, while misleading the public, i.e.; using the word “benefits” as a blanket statement that includes prep time and working conditions, then comparing it to other sectors.
If this spirit is not what you want for our country, then please raise your voice for a kinder, more just society! Speak out for an outstanding public educations system for all, for a country where every voice counts and for a political system where our leaders are accountable. Contact your MLA and demand that our government obey the law, because far more is at stake here than school start dates.