This is a legacy provincial website of the ATA. Visit our new website here.

Viewpoints: Let the teaching profession help improve public education

April 9, 2019 Mark Ramsankar, President, Canadian Teachers’ Federation

Monkey see, monkey do. Currently this seems to be a popular practice among Canada’s provincial governments bankrupt of ideas and looking to decimate public education — the future of our children be damned.

Rather than pruning the hedges, our elected officials are opting for chainsaws, clearcutting over selective logging. Use the analogy of your liking, the end result is the same: short-term political games traded for long-term devastation.

Rather than present any kind of vision or plan for a brighter, stronger future, too many of Canada’s capitals are digging up political playlists from the 1990s and trying to sell them as the answer to the country’s supposed woes. It’s no different than insisting that a CD should play just fine in a world dominated by streaming from the cloud. The problem is, once one government hits play, others eagerly run to the attic to dust off their discs.

Manitoba has quickly followed in the footsteps of Nova Scotia by seeking the advice of a consultant skilled at proposing ways to dismantle publicly funded public education systems. In Ontario, chaos is the name of the game as politicians have been inspired by British Columbia’s education foibles of the past to take a hatchet to public education as their answer to reversing a deficit. Government hopefuls in Alberta are watching with anticipation as an election campaign unfolds.

Nova Scotia’s system now lies in tatters, and even though the Supreme Court righted the wrongs of BC’s previous government, the damage is only beginning to be undone.

When the goal is to weaken public education to open the door to charter schools and privatized services, the method is simple: mismanage the system, cut funding and shun the teaching profession. This is apparently a great way for some to make a lucrative living, but it comes at the expense of our children’s education and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. The United Nations made public education a universal right, so the goal of any government should be to enhance education systems rather than use our children and mortgage their future to win votes.

No one knows better than
a teacher what a child
needs in the classroom. 

If you needed bypass surgery, would you prefer a heart surgeon or a consultant to the hospital administrator? Education is no different.

Teacher organizations represent the teaching profession, the guardian of publicly funded public education. No one knows better than a teacher what a child needs in the classroom. Far more than just valuable time spent in the classroom, the profession at home and abroad has conducted exhaustive research to adapt to increasingly complex learning environments to ensure that our children get the right start in life.

Now, these may not seem like objective views coming from the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, but as an organization that represents 273,000 teachers in all provinces and territories, we know what works. What’s more revealing is that the disturbing trends we’re witnessing across the country go well beyond public education. They represent growing fault lines that pose a threat to our core democratic foundation.

Our public systems — education, health care, social services and environmental protection — help and even improve the playing field of life. They bring together communities, the young and old, people of diverse and rich backgrounds, cultures and experiences. These public systems are the key ingredients of a cohesive society and a shared common good. But they do not prosper on their own without proper care.

Tending to our democratic institutions is no different than cultivating a healthy garden. It takes continuing dedication and hard work. More than anything, it means sinking your hands into the soil. However, if a garden is abandoned, plants grow unwieldy and weeds take hold. Left unattended too long, those very weeds leave the garden unrecognizable all the way to the roots. We cannot stand idle and watch this happen to our public systems.

As the voice of Canada’s teaching profession, we want only the best-quality inclusive, publicly funded public education systems available to all who call this country home. Our 18 provincial and territorial members are ready to work with any government to make that a reality, and all they need is a seat at the table to ensure that the right policies are put in place.

From my personal experience, I know that legacies are important to politicians and the parties they represent. So, here’s an idea to help them leave a lasting and positive legacy to the benefit of future generations. All they have to do is listen to the teaching profession. They can even take the credit. ❚

Mark Ramsankar is president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and past president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Also In This Issue