Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Shop Class as Soulcraft

Matt Crawford's Masterpiece...
It might sound very tech-specific, but this book contains many education related thoughts.  Here are some of my favorite bits from Shop Class As Soulcraft, along with some observations (book quotes in white, comments in yellow):

In schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement... Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant,  and the passions for learning will not be engaged - Doug Stowe (Wisdom of the hands Blog)

"We have a generation of students that can answer questions on standarized tests, know factoids, but they can't do anything" - Jim Aschwanden

I never failed to take pleasure in the movement, at the end of a job, when I would flip the switch. "And there would be light."

I too feel this whenever I finish building a computer.  I call it 'first light' (a term I stole from astronomy for when a telescope is first turned  to the sky and used).  I get a thrill every time, when all of those complex components work together for the first time, and attain a kind of dim intelligence.  If AI ever happens, I would happily propogate it, it feels like birth!

Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect on the world.  But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible  judgement of reality, where one's failures or shortcomings cannot be interpretted away.  His well founded pride is far from the gratuitous 'self-esteem' that educators would impart to students, as though by magic.

This focus on student self-esteem seems cart before the horsish to me.  You develop self esteem as a by-product of making your way in the world under your own steam.  It is one of those things that cannot be given to you, yet so much education theory revolves around building self esteem in classrooms.  Unless you allow failure, self esteem is meaningless.  My soccer players gain more self esteem in a draw against a better team that should have crushed them than they ever got in a classroom designed to hand it to them.

The craftsman is proud of what he has made, and cherishes it, while the consumer discards things that are perfectly serviceable in his restless pursuit of the new. - Richard Sennett, The Culture of the New Capitalism

You won't find a better description of modern, globalized capitalist consumerism than in these two quotes.  Why this is a standard for economics, let alone ethics, is completely beyond me.  I've always believed that if you can't build it, you shouldn't get to use it.  Can't build a working computer?  You don't get to use one.  Can't build a car?  You don't get to drive.  Were this the case, we'd have far fewer incompetents operating equipment they are far too dim to be using.

Since the standards of craftsmanship issue from the logic of things rather than the art of persuasion, practiced submission to them perhaps gives the craftsman some psychic ground to stand on against fantastic hopes aroused by demagogues, whether commercial or political.

On of my greatest frustations... trying to have a rational discussion with fanboys (and girls) about technology.  Mac users are the worst... though AMD fanboys aren't far behind.  I'm interested in the brilliance of the engineering, not whether or not you've been convinced by witty advertising, though many people make their technology (all?) purchases based on little other than a cult of personality.

Persig's mechanic is, in the original sense of the word, an idiot.  Indeed, he exemplifies the truth about idiocy, which is that it is at once an ethical and a cognitive failure.  The Greek idios means "private," and an idiotes means a private person, as opposed to a person in their public role - for example, that of motorcycle mechanic.  Pirsig's mechanic is idiotic because he fails to grasp his public role, which entails, or should, a relation of active concern to others, and to the machine.  He is not involved.  It is not his problem.  Because he is an idiot...  At bottom, the idiot is a solipsist. (p98)

Many a student I've seen be idiotic in the truest sense of the word.  They fail to grasp what being a student is, and then create all sorts of social tension as a result.  I once has a student in media arts who was having a rough time.  She stormed out of class one day and another student wondered aloud at all the drama.  This troubled student didn't do anything, failed everything, and otherwise used an disproportional amount of school resources to keep them from wreaking even more havoc.  I asked the questioning student why she was here, at school.  She said, "so I can get good grades, do post-secondary and get a satisfying job" (which I thought was a brilliant answer from a 15 year old).  I told her that other student has no idea why she is here.  This is a cruel, jail-like torture for her.  She sees no value in it for herself (likely because her life isn't full of parental role models that demonstrate the advantages of a good education).  The whole class stopped to listen to our conversation, I suspect many of them wondered why this student was this difficult.

Management:  a "peculiarly chancy and fluid" character (Robert Jackall)  ... vulnerability of managers in managing abstract, non-objective work develop a highly provisional way of speaking and feeling.  Staking out a position on all sides of a situation, so you always have plausible deniability of a failure (that's not what I meant).  Vague language to protect a vague job.  Managers are always on probation, constantly vulnerable and anxious about the essentially meaningless role they play in a fickle corporation that could shift the ground under their feet at any moment.

Up in the air for a poignant look at this kind of management in the middle of the 2008/9 1% money grab... and one of the reasons I never worked well in business.  Also one of the reasons I'm fairly relentless with people when they start talking about private business/corporate work ethics, organization and effectiveness.  I worked in a number of private companies before I became a teacher, I was lucky to find one in five run competently, let alone effectively.

A last, favorite piece, and a brilliant analysis of the apprenticeship process:
Often someone working at a speed shop spent his younger days lingering around the counter, then, as he penetrated the social hierarchy, in the back, allowed now to pull his car around and perhaps use a floor jack to install some shock absorbers purchased at the counter. Such an exposure to injuury liability would give a lawyer fits; implicit in the invitation to the back is a judgement of the young man's character and a large measure of trust.  He will get some light supervision that is likely to be disguised as a stream of sexual insults, delivered from ten feet away by someone he cannot see (only his shoes) as he lies under his car.  Such insults are another index of trust.  If he is able to return these outrageous comments with wit, the conversation will cascade toward real depravity; the trust is pushed further and made reciprocal.  If the young man shows promise, that is, if he is judged to have some potential to plumb new depths of moral turpitude, he may get hired: here is someone around whom everyone can relax. p 183

That sense of relaxation and trust is something I really miss from mechanics.  The education environment, so focused on political correctness, is the antithesis of shop culture; even justified swearing is a real no-no.  

When I showed this to my wife she just shook her head and said, "I have no experience in this."  This sort of environment is created in groups of males.  I see it in hockey change rooms, on shop floors, and in warehouses where I've worked.  It's not that women are incapable of working in that environment, I've known a number who have successfully done it, it's that the vast majority of women see this as cruel, degrading and pointless.

This is a complicated issue, one that I'm still working out myself.  There is a direct roughness, a kind of honesty, to how men socialize that has been squeezed out of business (education being a subset of that culture).  Boys in school respond to it.  If we're playing soccer and player goes down having been kicked in the groin, I go ballistic at the ref and get a warning.  I then attend to the kid on the ground.  He's hurting.  I say, "how did that feel?"  The kid laughs despite the pain.  He knows I've just almost been removed because of what happened, he has no doubt of my stance on what's happened, and the flippancy helps him deal with the agony.  Those opportunities don't come up in class; another reason to protect extracurriculars, they let you create a more genuine bond with your students.

In Crawford's brilliant analysis above, he emphasizes the honesty and familiarity that can come out of this kind of ribbing, a real sense of camaraderie.  It's the kind of thing that makes Fight Club resonate with boys, and men, who read/watch it.  You can't relax around someone who tells you to trust them.  You can relax around someone who is able to display real 'moral turpitude' in response to your own baiting.  The lack of understanding of how this works separates many men from developing a close working relationship in feminized work environments.

Whether you agree, disagree or simply want to try and understand, Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft makes a compelling argument for value of skilled manual labour, and the culture that surrounds it.

Credible Work

I just finished reading Matthew Crawford's "Shop Class for Soulcraft", a philosophical look at the value of skilled, physical labour.  Having come from a mechanical background into an academic one, a philosopher-mechanic's critical examination of the 'creative economy' we're all dying to jump into was refreshing.
I've often missed the clarity and satisfaction I found in repairing machines, and now I have a philosophical explanation of that sense of loss.  Crawford delineates meaningful work in terms of objective standards, a sense of community and individual agency.  He then goes on to disembowel the MBA speak found in the otherworldly knowledge economy that can only exist in an entirely abstract sense of work, one I fear that has been applied to the skilled trade of teaching courtesy of lawyers and politicians.

It's been a few weeks now since I finished the book.  I'm finding that the lasting impression is one of embracing my smart hands again.  The idea that mind work is somehow superior to hand work is nonsense, though our school is streamed according to that logic (academic/applied, university/college).  The argument that we discover the truest aspect of human intelligence when we work our minds through our hands continues to ring true for me.

The other, unintentional side effect has been a re-awakening of my love of motorcycles.  I'd originally gone after one when I was 16, but my parents offered to up what I'd saved to get me into a car.  It's probably one of the reasons I'm here today, it was a smart move.  At 43 I'm not interested in wrapping myself around a pole.  Riding is a way to be alone with your thoughts, no obtrusive media, and the development of a constant awareness; you can't let your mind wander on a bike, they are ruthlessly observant of incompetence. Riding also offers an intimate familiarity with a machine in a very minimalist way that is appealing.

I come by my urges honestly.  Here is a picture of my Grand-dad Bill in the late nineteen forties... I need to get myself some white riding shoes!
I hope to be licensed and riding in the spring.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Your Tech Cloud

I'm trying out some introductory ideas for computer studies in the Fall...

Your tech cloud is the digital equivalent of 'who are you wearing?' on the red carpet at the Oscars, except for geeks.  And like high fashion, we fetishize the the personal electronics we surround ourselves with, identify with them, identify ourselves through them.  Your digital persona is an increasingly important means of self expression.  The tools you use to create your digital self have a lot to do with how you present yourself.

From a meta-cognitive point of view, this might be a handy way to start a discussion, do a tech-introduction and get to know my classes of computer-interested students.  Having said that, it would work in any class where you're considering media or technology and how we use it to express ourselves.

HERE is my tech cloud:

The (4yr) old laptop, the Rogers trapped smartphone situation, the even older (5 yrs old) desktop.  I've got kit, but it isn't what I wish I had.  About the only things I'd keep are my awesome new Olympus EPL-3 (though I desperately need to lens up), and the brilliant HAF case (which I'd gut and put a new i7 system in).  I'm hooked on Androids though, and after trying ipads and Android tablets, I think I'd just give the whole tablet thing a pass and get a phablet.  A phone/tablet combo is as far as I'm willing to go with tablets.

If I had the means, I'd get the ultrabook I think is so pretty it works in a high fashion shoot (and has a battery that lasts me all day at a conference), lens up the Olympus, and drop the tablets and the string of broken Rogers Sony phones, and the lousy service.  I'd then phablet up with the Samsung Galaxy Note with Telus.  The desktop would get a much needed upgrade from the old AMD to an i7 Intel system with a spanking new video card and SSD.  The whole thing would be a quad-booting monster, getting me into Win7, Win8 beta, Linux and OSx all on the same machine.  I'd want my tech cloud to demonstrate my Jedi tech skills!

Feel free to grab the blank tech cloud prezi and make a copy.  Show what you've got and what you wish you had!
Share away!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Random Inquiry Based Learning

Inquiry based learning is the current buzz in educational circles, but until we truly free students from the yoke of expectation, they can never be free to own their own learning.  In order to recognize the entirely arbitrary and capricious nature of the world, we take a page from Zen.

The RIBL classroom
Inquiry based learning depends upon the teacher to create an environment in which students pursue their own goals in their own way, Random Inquiry Based Learning (RIBL) takes it a step further.   In order to experience RIBL, a student must be surprised by the learning.  Taking a page from Zen teaching, RIBL thrives on coincidence, serendipity and happenstance.  Any attempt to organize RIBL results in a RIBL-less outcome.

RIBL cares nothing for fairness or rules.  RIBL capers in the chaos of a dancing star.

In a RIBLed classroom the teacher must take on the roll of instigator, chaos clown and mischief maker, unless, of course, students are expecting that; only the unexpected can yield RIBLed results.  RIBL thrives is the unexpected.  

The RIBL teacher recognizes that life is essentially meaningless and doesn't force a false sense of security on their students.  They discourage any belief in social norms and try for existential angst whenever they can.

RIBLed rubrics contain sections like: shock, awe, bewilderment and eureka.  If the learning is unexpected and creating an epiphany in the learner, then RIBL has been achieved.  If a student learns what they are supposed to be learning, the teacher has failed.  Only when students discover momentous breakthroughs in calculus while studying Shakespeare, or suddenly grasp photo-synthesis in phys-ed class, is RIBL being achieved.

RIBLed students are often nervous or completely terrified of what may happen in class.  They often cower in groups in the hallway, refusing to make eye contact with their terrifying, unpredictable teachers.  Many high schools seem to have adopted RIBL approaches to learning already.

There is only one rule about RIBL, you do not talk about RIBL!  (unless you unexpectedly do)

RIBL defies optimization or organization, in fact, it actively dismantles them.  The RIBL that can be explained is not the true RIBL.  Only through lack of certainty can students truly exceed their own expectations and learn something new about themselves.

Beware staring into RIBL, for 
the longer you stare in to RIBL, 
the longer RIBL stares back into you!
Graduates of RIBL schooling include: Vinny VanGogh, Freddy Nietzsche, Gini Wolfe and Bertie Einstein.  Students of the RIBL school produce unpredictable results, and surprise their teachers with amputated body parts or dramatic suicide attempts.  Collateral damage is a certainty if you're RIBLing properly, but if you're a committed RIBLer, you gain more from failing than you do from succeeding.  Safety is another false belief that the RIBLer discards.

A student who produces work that annoys or seems irrelevant to the work at hand is a strong candidate for a good RIBLing.

Engagement is never an issue in the RIBLed classroom, as RIBLed students are often in great peril and tend to approach classwork in a defensive/survival stance rather than with sighs of boredom.

RIBLing is the most divine form of teaching, it's what the world does when class isn't on.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Digital Footprint 2.0


The source(s) of this post (and a good example of the richness of thinking you can get out of an online PLN):

@MzMollyTL's Digital Footprint discussion from ECOO last year that stirred up the new teachers in my AQ.

@melaniemcbride's comment on the sweatshop mentality of the always on teacher:
@dougpete's blog on edublogging:

...which led to some interesting questions about online presence:

Phew!  That is a lot of build up!  Here I go...


I think we're ready for an evolution in what our expectations are around this.  Diana's original presentation suggested that teachers need to familiarize themselves with online media, and that is still true.  However, since that presentation there have been political upheavals supported by social media, underground poltical movements powered by social media, and I'm currently watching the  'Twitter Olympics': the first really social media powered Olympic games.  Even the forth estate is grudgingly trying to manage the tidal wave of social media.  Merely familiarizing yourself isn't going to cut it anymore.  Ignoring it will make you irrelevant to your students with astonishing speed.

Social media is becoming mainstream and there are increasing expectations that people know how to use it.  Only in extremely staid, conservative situations (educational administration) is social media being shunned.  Even the very conservative family reunion I attended recently wanted to start making use of social media to keep in touch, and these were people who play banjos.  Social media is becoming ubiquitous, even unhooking the Ontario government's ability to manipulate media into justifying its agenda.  This is a powerful force, not something to be trifled with or poked at tentatively.  If you're going to do it, do it honestly, and be yourself.  You'll find the ability to expand your interests online empowering if you don't try and game it.


The social networks we see spring up like mushrooms in the rain are being prompted by the miniaturization of computer hardware.  Smartphones are increasingly common, and since 2010, the vast majority of 'phone' use has been in data, not voice.  We use our mobile computers as interconnected computers, not as phones.  Our students do it, we do it, even boomers are doing it.  Like the telegraph, then the telephone after it, this is a revolution in how we communicate with each other, and almost everyone is carrying around the means in their pockets.

Our classrooms have more processing power in the pockets of students than desktop labs did ten years ago.  Their ability to communicate is unparalleled in history, and disregards geography like no other telecommunications system before it.  Just hoping that everyone considers doing something with their online presence is no longer enough, and ignoring or banning the hardware that is causing this is turning a blind eye to a profound shift in social communications.  Schools that ban smartphones should be banning other new inventions, like electricity, telephones, televisions... which very quickly starts to look backward.


Being online offers you an opportunity to be anonymous, but this requires a great deal of work on your part.  The nature of the internet means you're always leaving digital bread crumbs about how and where you're communicating from.  Anti-web types will use this as an excuse to harp on privacy issues, but when have we ever been able to communicate privately?  Gossip has always been and always will, and what you say has always followed you, it just follows you in an amplified manner now.  Social media allows you to broadcast gossip.  If you were a gossip before, you're a digitally enhanced gossip now.  It's never been more important to be the best person you are in public; there is a record now, and I've seen students constantly bitten by this as their Facebook updates land them in the VP's office.

Trying to be someone else is exhausting!
The genuine self as an online presence offers an opportunity to meet others beyond your geographic situation that share your interests.  You quickly find yourself a part of an online community that reflects your predilections and offers you a sense of collaborative discourse that might be missing in your workplace, or your immediate geography.  If you're genuine in expressing your interests, you'll create a genuinely satisfying social media ecosystem.  If you fabricate yourself, or limit yourself to specific identities (your teacher self comes to mind here), you won't be exploring the actual usefulness of this new medium.

The other advantage of being genuine online is that you attract meaningful dialogue.  If you're one dimensional, you tend to attract n00bs, marketing interests and bots (who are also one dimensional).  If you're genuine and human in your presentation of self, you'll attract a richer class of connection, one that offers powerful insights regardless of where you are in relation to each other on the planet.  You're harnessing the true potential of social media when you are multi-dimensional and human in your approach to it.

Developing a digital footprint is no longer about simply participating, or creating a cardboard cutout of your professional self, it's about honestly expressing your own views in a genuine manner.  The myriad of apps and means of communicating in a social network allow you to express yourself in simple (twitter), complex (blog) or focused interests (Google+, Facebook) ways.  Knowing how to use the tools effectively is key.

If you're fabricating a professional appearance, well, that's just work, and doing it all summer, 24/7 is not going to do you any real good.  Ultimately, you're doing an awful lot of work and not exploring this new medium effectively, probably because you're scared of it.

School Leadership 2.0

Several school administrators made comments in Doug's blog about the need for restraint.  In a leadership role, you're not free to fly off the handle whenever you have an opinion.  You always need to consider the working relationship you have to foster.  Having said that, George's comment about social media being a useful tool in fostering a team based on real knowledge of each other suggests that social media can be a means of allowing people who might not otherwise to know each other better.

The tendency has been for management (union, board, ministry, and any other ed-based management you can suggest) to shy away from social media.  They fear the de-centralization of power, and see it as a threat to their dominance.  It's nice to know some administrators are fighting this tendency, but I've heard of many more who don't hire the best candidates because their online presence creates unease, and in worst cases not considering hiring a teacher at all because they are familiar with the social web that most students spend their lives in.  Why they think that hiring belligerent, intentionally irrelevant teachers is a good idea is beyond me.

What I love about social media is that it is democratizing information.  No longer do we have to succumb to the broadcast media's idea of what is true.  Twitter told me about Bin Laden hours before broadcast media would, or could.  As a social media-ist, I'm responsible for vetting my own information feed, and broadcasting my own truth.  As both a leader, and a professional, this means not being a jackass, but being a meaningful social mediaist requires this from the get go.  If you're going to do social media well, being a gossip, spreading untruths, will eventually turn the crowd on you.  Generating drama and controlling spin doesn't work very well in a democratized information medium; the truth just bypasses you.

Social media is an opportunity to build a more ideal information medium, one without favoritism or fabrication, one that does not favor the status quo in order to maintain it; the crowdsourced truth is dangerously unmanageable... and free from spin.  

As a member of that tribe I try not to let invective and one-up-man-ship dictate my actions, I try to be collaboratively engaging.  This isn't contrary to any professional or leadership role I may have; in fact, it should enhance those roles.  When you broadcast your actions, it behooves you to it well.


The social media revolution has harnessed mobile electronics and the internet to produce a democratized media frenzy.  Old-school, forth estate media is floundering, trying to manage their loss of broadcasting monopoly, but still seeing it as an immanent threat.  Other power structures are also frustrated by this decentralization of voice.  Where once a hierarchy could dictate the message, now social media swirls around these old-school broadcasting roadblocks.  

Unions are watching members broadcast their opinions directly, without being able to dictate a unified response.  Governments and corporations are finding that the dictatorial control they once had over traditional media is weakening, because traditional media matters less.  As social media responses bypass traditional censorship, we once again see the many assert their power.

There is no doubt that these changes will force a fundamental shift in how we work with each other.  This kind of radical, data driven transparency gives control freaks a nervous breakdown, but in the end, I can't believe that freeing the signal from the self-involved interests of the powerful isn't better for everyone; that it will result in fairer, transparent, more effective organizations.

As educators, we have to try and get a grip on this ourselves, and then be ready to try and (usefully) assist our students in effectively navigating this exciting, historical change.  It's no longer enough to pay some attention to what your digital footprint is.  It's no longer enough to do the minimum necessary.  If we're going to teach future generations how to survive in the rough sea of democratized data we've made for them, we need to adapt and master the waves ourselves.

A relevant educator is recognizing the radical nature of these changes and is doing their best to create a genuine online persona, one that accurately reflects the public persona they demonstrate in their physical life.  What's private isn't at issue here, but our public selves are changing, and it doesn't do anyone any good to try and game social media by making cardboard cutouts of themselves online.

Some things to consider:
Dancing in the Datasphere: a philosophical look at where we are going
The Singularity: an inside look at what Silicon Valley believes is coming

Don't kid yourself, you're living in the middle of a revolution!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A Modest Ontario Education Proposal

The politics of teaching are on my mind lately.  Ontario has financial issues, and cutbacks seem certain.  I've previously talked about how good Ontario's education system is, the frustration of being an active educator in this political climate, and, most recently, the simplicity of the salary grid.  I've asked hard questions about Ontario's historical assumptions, and I think I haven't been entirely one sided in the process.

Being active in my union, I fear that I don't tow the line as much as I should.  Being a department head, I fear that I don't tow my employer's line as much as I should.  The sidey-ness of this whole thing frustrates me.  Why this is an adversarial process in which one side tries to take as much as possible from the other, to the point of hurting them if possible, in order to score political points.  It all seems very inefficient to me.  Along with the inefficiency there is the hypocrisy.  How we can expect, even demand, that students be rational, collaborative and unselfish when adults seem so intent on doing the opposite?

I'd like to make a modest proposal.  Now, this modest proposal won't win you political points in media that cares more about emotional confrontation than truth, and it won't inflame issues by fabricating lies; this proposal is all about fixing problems, and working collaboratively to do it.  If you want to look revolutionary, this won't do it for you.  If you just want to hate on something ideologically then this will not suit your style.

This modest proposal is for mature, collegial people who begin with the premise that everyone involved in developing an economically sustainable education system with the highest standards of excellence isn't going to throw these noble goals away for their own benefit at first opportunity.

This modest proposal won't play to invented deadlines and the fictional drama that ensues.  It asks for an honest, transparent assessment of what is financially available for sustainable education in Ontario, and then it asks the parties involved to look at how they can maintain the levels of excellence currently achieved while meeting those transparent and accurate financial goals.  People playing games about the value of education need not apply.  If you think quality education isn't important to the prosperity of Ontario, then you're an idiot; it's important that we do this well.

In this proposal, unions don't protect older teachers at all costs into the largest possible retirement they can get, we consider everyone involved in the system fairly.  We have to consider that no education system is sacred and the end result is focused on fairness and excellence.  This proposal will consider what has worked world wide in terms of meaningful teacher assessment (because OCT sure isn't it), and all parties will create a better way forward with it.

The first part of this proposal is a voluntary freeze for the next school year while the ministry, boards and unions sit down in a collaborative manner, agree on the finances, and then move to meet them.  If the union wants to offer early buyouts for expensive, senior teachers in order to free up positions for lower paid, new teachers, at great savings to the province, then this should be considered.  Putting money into the hands of people across Ontario isn't a crime, especially if it helps them retire more independently.  If the ministry wants to restructure the grid in order to encourage excellence in teaching rather than stubbornly holding to a seniority only focus, then the union should join them in creating a grid that recognizes the many ways that teachers contribute to and improve their profession - just showing up to work shouldn't get you within 5% of maximum salary on any reasonable grid.  If, in the process, senior teachers who do nothing other than show up and go home suddenly find themselves making $15,000 a year less, I'm ok with that, and any sane thinking person should be too.

The historical assumptions around public and semi-private religious schools that receive public funding should be removed, this isn't 1850.  If we are really worried about the bottom line, trying to run 4 public systems is a needless waste of money.  If people want specialized schooling, private schools eagerly await their cash.  Religious expression has been welcomed in every school I've worked at, this isn't a removal of religious impetus from schooling, it's an inclusive embracing of it.  If the province is in dire straits, nothing should be sacred other than ensuring the most inclusive, best possible education we can provide.

A clear eyed, honest assessment would allow us to restructure education in Ontario in a rational, economically appropriate manner with a clear focus on excellence.  Old habits die hard, but if we can shed them, there is no reason why unions can't do their job of protecting members without having to compulsively over protect to the point where the incompetent take advantage of the situation.  There is no reason why the ministry can't focus on producing the best education possible instead of being a political puppet to whichever government has the reigns.  There is no reason why boards can't facilitate the collaborative relationship between these two educational poles instead of being used as a scapegoat between them.

Step one?  Remove the panic of an artificial deadline.  All sides agree to meaningful and progressive dialogue on what needs to happen.  Strikes aren't threatened, legislation isn't threatened, this isn't a threatening environment, it's a collaborative one.  If students are expected to be collaborative and honest, why on Earth are adults acting this way?  It's not very flattering to anyone, and it reeks of hypocrisy when administration and teachers demand it in school next year, from children.