Opinion

Michaels: Do we really have to go through another government vs. teachers gong show?

In case you've missed the big news story from the last week, here's the abridged version.

Teachers are going to strike next week because the government isn't giving them resources to deal with classes chock o' block with kids who have too many problems.  The government doesn't care about children. In fact, they're a bunch of bullies who hate all little people and want teachers to starve to death, to boot.

The education minister on the other hand has been working in vain to reach a compromise, but in this particular economic climate—as has conveniently been the case in every economy coinciding with an expired teachers' contract—it's time for prudence. Tax payers are strapped enough and students are suffering from greedy-guts teachers withholding report cards.

It's all familiar enough, right?

So familiar that it's nearly impossible to fight the urge to slip into a coma when someone from a union or the government speaks about so-called contract negotiations. It's such a tired conflict, that the initial battle cries caused usually rational people to close their minds, turn red and chip in less than thought provoking rants.

There are a few thousand people who have something I'd like to hear, however. I'm intensely curious about the silent 13 per cent of the BCTF who didn't cast a ballot in favour of the job action this week. Or even the 25 per cent of  union members who chose to abstain from the vote, entirely.

Now these are people who must have something to say… better yet, it's likely something none of us have heard.

Say what you want about our cold-hearted political leaders, but teachers have their faults as well. Dinners with packs of teacher-friends during previous contract talks have taught me educators can be a persuasive, single minded bunch, who move through political land-mines in lockstep when the topic of contracts come to the fore.

Following one Thanksgiving do, I nearly stormed the legislature myself, singing "I believe the children are our future" a la Whitney Houston—and at that time I was using my five years of post secondary eduction to make half a teacher's entry wage, dropping my sympathy to an all time low.

Imagine then, being one of those 13 per cent who spend day-in, day-out in the hothouse environment of B.C. schools during contract talks. It must be nearly impossible to compose a thought that isn't drenched in union rhetoric, let alone mark a ballot in a manner contrary to the masses.

I'd like to think they found it hard to dig into troughs of righteous indignation and ask for a 15 per cent pay raise, when so many British Columbians are barely holding on to whatever life they've built.

Or maybe they have unfavourable opinions about peers who have the gall to gloss over serious and relevant issues about class size and composition, by heading to a protest on an overpass carrying a sign that says; "if you can read this, you're welcome."

Even those of us who lean left in apprehension as soon as Christy Clark and her minions open their mouths, get annoyed by such sentiments. So it's clear, if your students can read it's because you did the job you're compensated for doing by tax payers. If they can't read, you failed and should be fired.

I may be projecting on that final note, but I do know we'll never hear those dissenting voices from either side.

Both parties are already leaning heavily into cliche, meaning we're all going to be dragged through a cat-and-mouse game that, if nothing else, shows that neither side is really aiming for open and honest discussion to deal with the problems at hand. Just hunker down and prepare to be drenched in mind bending rhetoric.

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