Today's Lesson is Hypocrisy

Image of Ontario teachers on strike Ontario teachers might be well-equipped to teach students how to spell the word hypocrisy but it seems clear to me, in light of a recent Facebook post I read, that some teachers have little or no understanding as to the word's actual meaning. According to Mr. Google, a definition incidentally which happens to correspond with my long-standing understanding of the word's meaning, hypocrisy is "the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behaviour does not conform".

Unless you've been living in a cave, it would be difficult not to know that many of Ontario's teachers were poised to take part in an illegal one-day strike action last Friday, contrary to the provisions of Ontario's controversial Bill 115: Putting Students First Act, 2012. In a nutshell, the Act is intended to ensure that school contracts fit the government's fiscal and policy priorities and aims to prevent labour disruption during 2013 and 2014. The most contentious provision in the Act grants the Minister of Education the authority to withhold the approval of collective agreements which do not meet the standards of the legislation and, instead, impose an agreement upon the parties. Many union leaders and teachers believe that Bill 115 is an affront to their democratic rights and values because the Act limits their ability to strike and may, effectively, impose a collective agreement upon them.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board, in an eleventh hour decision rendered just hours before the start of the school day on Friday, concluded that a walk-out by teachers would constitute an illegal strike action. A number of school boards, spurred by uncertainty and unsure what action teachers might take, scheduled other activities Friday, cancelling formal classes. Teachers ultimately did present themselves for class on Friday, however there is little doubt the excessive sabre-rattling effectively disrupted classes that day. Amidst the uncertainty, many parents made alternative arrangements for their children on Friday and many students simply did not attend school.

On the weekend, a family member posted a comment on her Facebook account, expressing her displeasure with teachers for having been prepared to walk off the job last week; a move which effectively cancelled classes for her children. A teacher, to whom I'll simply refer to as Stephanie, posted a verbose diatribe as a follow-up in a feeble attempt to rationalize and justify the actions of teachers. The lovely Stephanie's unedited tirade follows in its entirety:

* * * * *

"What exactly is the 'more' that teachers are supposedly asking for? I am a teacher and the only 'more' that I am asking for is for me, for you, for my children and yours. It is the RIGHT to negotiate a fair contract with my employer. It is the RIGHT to be able to plan my retirement, that I have been scrimping and saving for, just like everyone else. It is the RIGHT to be able to take a sick day when I need to because half of the kids at school are sick and you can only avoid it for so long (but then I still have to plan a lesson and leave specific enough instructions for someone else to take over so that my students are safe and continue learning in my absence). I haven't taken 10 sick days in my entire teaching career, but if I needed them, if I or someone in my family got sick, I would like to know that I'd be okay. It is the RIGHT to go to work and feel valued for raising other people's children so that they are caring, responsible and contributing members of society. It is the RIGHT to have my salary (which is for 10 months of the year, by the way, not 12, so that summer vacation that people so often push in the faces of teachers, is unpaid time, where I and many of my colleagues actually PAY money to go to school ourselves, so that we become better at teaching your children, OR we continue to teach the children that struggle and end up at summer school, so that they have a fighting chance at success). I went to university and trained hard to become a teacher, but it certainly wasn't for the money!. IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT THE MONEY!!! I agreed long ago to have my wages frozen because the reality is that the economy is NOT good and that EVERYONE in the public sector should be helping out in this way. My wages have not been frozen, they have been cut, and I have been told that I have to take more unpaid days off, which will cut it even more. The PD days I spend in training, to better my teaching practices, to keep up with learning styles, the needs of students and the changes that are happening all around us, again, so that I can continue to make a difference in the lives of the children that I spend every day with. I do cherish the time that I get off to spend with my own family, but it doesn't even come close to making up for the time that I am away from them (I coach 4 nights a week during the school year, on my own time, after I finished my work day, so that other people's children can learn from the experience of being on a team and everything that goes with it), or the time I spend doing evaluation and planning to make sure that I am doing the best that I possibly can for my 'kids' at school. I put my students first, quite often ahead of my own family and ahead of my health - I want what is best for them always. And that is why I support my profession for now and for the future. I love teaching. I love coaching, and I love making a difference. BUT, if I stood back and let the government implement Bill 115 without a fight, I would not be walking the talk that I talk every day. I teach my students to be fair and democratic individuals who stand up for their own beliefs and if I didn't do that now, I couldn't look myself, my colleagues, my students or their parents in the eye as I go to work everyday just trying to teach and once again, put my students first. I am a teacher and I have never felt so attacked and villified from a portion of the public who continue to allow themselves to be misinformed about what this fight is really about. I have said it before, this is my future, your future and the future of our children and if people don't start standing up for it, it is going to be too late. And you too, could have been a teacher....... doesn't it all seem like sunshine and roses now?"

* * * * *

Lard t'underin' Jaysus Stephanie... please tell me you're not an English teacher. Given that you're currently not participating in any extra-curriculars at school, I'd have thought you could have spent a bit more time articulating a cogent defence of your intent to participate in a strike action. If you feel vilified, perhaps it's a consequence of your conscience recognizing that any attempt to rationalize and justify a position so fraught in hypocrisy makes about as much sense as putting a screen door on a submarine. Parents aren't disgusted with teachers for attempting to champion democratic rights; they're pissed off at teachers for having the audacity to use their children as pawns. Listening to teachers proclaim that the education of students is their primary concern while they're simultaneously prepared to walk off the job is like listening to Jack the Ripper proclaim his love for women. Today's lesson is about hypocrisy Stephanie... an hypocrisy which is borne from your own misguided beliefs. Mercifully, I'm here to extend the hand of fellowship towards you and offer guidance in your obvious time of need.

I don't personally know anyone who has suggested that teachers don't work hard. Notwithstanding a few slackers, incompetents and free-riders which, statistically speaking, exist in your profession just as they exist in others, I think you'll find that the vast majority of parents believe that the lion's share of teachers are hard-working, dedicated and competent educators. Inherent in your argument, however, is the belief that you are being "attacked and vilified [by] a portion of the public who continue to allow themselves to be misinformed about what this fight is really about". Bzzzzt... wrong Stephanie... You are being attacked and vilified because you threatened to walk off the job in an illegal strike action and sacrifice the education of children to satisfy your own agenda. Even the casual observer can't help but notice how you conveniently characterized those who don't happen to share your views as ignorant.

You summarize your position by listing several issues to which you believe you have an inalienable "RIGHT" to. Accordingly, you espouse the right to "negotiate a fair contract", "plan [your] retirement", "take a sick day when [you] need to", "work and feel valued for raising other people's children" and "to have [your] salary". You conclude your fulmination exclaiming that "IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT THE MONEY!!!". Pull-leeeze.... don't piss down my back and try to tell me it's raining. It's ALWAYS about the money.

Precisely what provisions of Bill 115 prevent you from planning your retirement? Or are you one of those individuals who subscribe to the notion that you should be able to bank unused sick days and access their accumulated sum, en masse, as some sort of gratuity when you're about to retire? The public is not, as you suggest, ignorant Stephanie. They recognize that your desire to suckle at the public teat is precisely what drives your attempt to perpetuate the culture of entitlement. But since you raised the issue of sick leave, and how you believe the tyranny of government is going to prevent you from taking a sick day "when you need to", how will Bill 115 infringe upon your perceived right?

With respect to sick leave, the public's understanding is that your annual sick leave will be reduced from twenty (20) days to a maximum of ten (10) days. The new provisions will prohibit the carry-over or accumulation of these days for future use. Local boards will be required to develop and implement short term disability plans through a third-party provider that any teacher, who is ill for a period beyond ten (10) days, may access: an additional 120 sick days of entitlement. You are, of course, also able to access your long-term disability benefits should that be insufficient. To this end, Stephanie, your assertion that you are losing sick leave benefits is not entirely true.

I can't help but wonder why you think you should be valued for "raising other people's children"? You do not raise other people's children, nor is it part of your collective agreement to do so. Your mandate is to deliver a programme to students as prescribed by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Raising children is a parental responsibility, not a teacher's prerogative, so don't be presumptuous with respect to your station. You insist upon the right to "have a salary" but your disjointed sentence structure and lack of coherence on this point makes it difficult to determine precisely what point you're trying to articulate.

If your position has any credence whatsoever, it's in your assertion that you believe you have a right to "negotiate a fair contract". Without getting into a philosophical debate over whether or not ANY contract might be negotiated fairly given that one side always has superior bargaining power, I'll concede that teachers should have the right to negotiate a contract. The question then becomes, does Bill 115 infringe upon your right to negotiate a contract? I am not an expert in public law, but I'd wager half my stuffed Armadillo collection and two bottles of Wild Turkey that the provision within the legislation which grants the Minister of Education the authority to impose a contract might make an interesting subject for judicial review. I won't give you my gut feeling on how a court might rule because I'd prefer to use my head to do my thinking for me but prima facie, it would not be outside the realm of possibilities for a court to rule that particular provision of the legislation invalid or ultra vires. The point is that your concerns over the constitutionality of the legislation should be addressed in the proper forum: the courts.

Interestingly, one point you fail to address adequately is the issue of extra-curricular activities from which the majority of teachers have chosen to withdraw from. The public recognize that teachers who choose to participate in extra-curriculars have done so on their own time, without remuneration and, in some instances, at their own expense. The public also recognize that teachers who choose to participate in extra-curriculars do so solely to enhance the learning experience of their students. This begs the questions, why has your union recommended that you stop participating in all extra-curricular activities? How does your withdrawal from these activities serve to substantiate your claim that you put the interests of your students above your own? Extra-curricular activities do not form a part of your collective agreement and, as such, your union has absolutely no authority to restrict you from providing them. Why has your union been so vocal in recommending their cessation and why are teachers acting like lemmings on the issue? My suspicion is that otherwise conscientious teachers are being unduly influenced by the angry mob; that the 10% of teachers who regularly participate in extra-curriculars are quite likely being cajoled by the 90% who do not. Though anecdotal, I have little doubt those towing the party line are working extra hard to redefine school-yard bullying as solidarity. Bloody shame you don't grow a pair Toots.

The most profound example of hypocrisy in your position, however, is not your decision to withdraw from extra-curricular activities; it was your intent to suspend classes and participate in an illegal strike action. There is a disconnect, one which you fail to recognize, between your declaration for democratic rights and your blatant disregard for properly enacted legislation. You might not agree with Bill 115, and it may well be that a judge might strike down various provisions within the legislation but, as mentioned above, the proper forum for redress is the courtroom; not the classroom. The fact that it took an affirmation by the Ontario Labour Relations Board to dissuade you from an illegal strike action speaks volumes about your respect for the law and the democratic process.

The bottom line, Stephanie, is that your actions and those of your unionized brethren lay in stark contrast to any statement you might make about the welfare and education of students. The tenuous support you might have enjoyed, even after the suspension of extra-curricular activities, vanished the instant you were prepared to walk off the job in an illegal strike action. Now that the true depths of your ill-willed agenda are revealed, you're not quite as popular as you thought you were. The Emperor has no clothes Stephanie... and it's not a pretty sight.

Submitted by "Big Banana" Bob Loblaw, 17 January 2013