Monday, 11 February 2013

Rumour & Innuendo In The Age of Information

TVO's Agenda did a diligent job this week of fact checking following the round table discussion they had with teachers.  In retrospect, what this discussion did was bypass the political spin of teacher unions and the government and give Ontarians an insight into how teachers themselves are seeing this on-going mess.  What I found unnerving was how insular and, in some cases, inaccurate our thinking is.

In post-show fact checking it was shown that some of the commonly held beliefs by teachers were not exactly true.  The bankruptcy lawyer story had been circulated out of the union all year.  Paikin seemed surprised that all the teachers there knew of it, but it was loudly repeated by our unions as a way of framing this disagreement prior to 115 coming in.  In fairness, these lawyers do deal with bankruptcies and they were unfamiliar with education negotiations and were aggressive in their demands, but to call them bankruptcy lawyers shows a use of absolutist language aimed at polarizing union members in order to make them feel victimized.  It's this kind of manipulation that makes me uneasy.

That the KW bi-election was a reason for the ridiculous piece of legislation called Bill 115 appears  to be a matter of record.  That Kathleen Wynn can say it was a cynical, Machiavellian move to win a bi-election while having voted for it still makes me question her credibility and these 'social justice' values she seems to have branded herself with.  In the meantime our unions are still funding the OLP, even as they encourage us to demonstrate in front of their leadership convention.  I'm not sure who is on what side any more.  With four parties involved in this (the provincial government, grassroots union members, union provincial executive who seem out of touch with the members they've tried to direct, and school boards), it's murky at best.

The followup research on the sick days/leave issue indicates just how deeply the political spin of this has cut teachers.  

"'s strange that they would seem to think the province would just leave them in the lurch in terms of short-term disability. It either shows a colossal failure of communication on behalf of the government or on behalf of the union to its members. It certainly illustrates that the level of distrust of teachers with the government is extremely high, which is just very, very sad."

The negativity itself around 115 created such momentum that the provincial executives who were pushing it suddenly found their members turning down contracts they wanted passed.  Executive was building up this fervor as a bargaining tool, but the anger was genuine, and now the rifts between teachers, the government and internally in their unions are deeper than ever.  There hasn't been a lot of honesty with how this has been managed.  How a teacher couldn't feel manipulated in this by all the parties involved is beyond me.  Trying to get a clear eye on the issues is almost impossible with all of these giants hurling boulders at each other.

I was ardently against Bill 115, I'm still astonished that it got passed - it is one of the most offensive pieces of 'law' ever put into the books.  I was more than willing to go to the wall over fighting it, I still believe we should have walked immediately when it was passed.  As one of the wiser heads in my school said in a staff meeting, "it's a bad law, you fight bad laws or we lose everything."  

Watching those teachers on the Agenda line up behind the vitriolic rhetoric of our unions when I find union interests focused on the political self interest of certain (older) members makes me question much of what I'm hearing.  I certainly no longer feel represented by the people who lead us, and while I don't agree with all of the fact checking done, it does make me question the accuracy of what I'm being told.

I find myself a teacher who is very uncomfortable with how this has been handled, the mess in my own district aside.  The Agenda's round table only emphasized for me how insulated and groomed our thinking around the turbulence in Ontario education is.