Saturday, March 2, 2013



The news that high school teachers ended their protest against extracurricular work as goodwill in response to what they called "positive talks' with the province should be greeted with the cynicism their general strike statements deserve.
They're ending it because parental support is eroding faster than the teachers can dream up reasons why they are maltreated.
And I think that polls about public attitude towards teachers salaries and conditions already are skewed too high because too many adults bite back their misgivings and go along with teachers because these men and women, after all, keep kids off the street and occasionally teach the three Rs.
Of course the elementary school teachers are continuing to boycott doing anything extra for their pupils. I'm not surprised. Their bargaining team generally demonstrates that they wouldn't have passed kindergarten except for mark inflation. I went to an elementary school in the town of Chesley and there were no extracurricular activities. But that was in the dark ages and I thought teachers had improved since then.
I don't think there are many outside the education system who really support higher pay for teachers.  I don't know anyone who thinks it was a marvelous bargaining tool to stop the coaching and teacher support of student activities from choirs to the school play.
In fact, there is a deep hostility against the salaries and conditions of all those getting paid from our taxes. Older voters remember when teachers and civil servants were happy to accept lower salaries because they had such wonderful job security. Now they want it all, protection even for lousy workers, and salaries above the average.
Of course there must be some out there who support teachers and don't think their months of  holidays, and easy working conditions should tame their incessant demand for more, as if they were holding out a bowl for more food in a Dickens story.
I guess they never have looked at what teachers get paid just across the border, even though American teacher unions are seen as potent forces in elections. Teachers certainly try to influence Ontario elections too. I remember the cursing hostility with which teachers greeted Tory MPPs when I watched them door-knocking. Right now I suspect that a good approach for an Ontario political party would be to  run "against" the teachers and have in their platform the idea that enough is enough when it comes to grabbing money from taxpayers.So when Tory leader Tim Hudak says the Liberal government and NDP are too busy listening to the unions and not the rest of  Ontario, I think he has a winning stategy for the next election, even if the environmental zealots, lefties, NDPers and their mouthpiece, the Toronto Star, may fall into an apoplectic rage at the statement of the truth.
I found that extracurricular activities at high school were a marvelous part of my education, even though the football coach was a mean bastard who did that chore because it was "expected" that was what gym teachers did. I participated in everything, from intramural and school teams to the choirs, school play, student council and yearbook.
I must say, looking back, that they weren't onerous chores for the supervising teacher and most activites just lasted a month or two. Often,  the teachers just floated around the perimeter.
For teachers who argue that all this is extra work, and then add that they often have to do work as well at home, this is hardly unique. Journalists are expected to know what is happening in the newspapers and the world BEFORE they report for work. Anyone in business who wants to be noticed and promoted does volunteer work, joins service clubs, and helps churches and charities.
If anyone thinks you get ahead just by working the minimum work day, let them adjust quickly to unemployment.
I suspect that anyone hiring teachers privately judges them on how much extracurricular work they do in addition to their marks or whether they burned down the last school. And that's the way it should be. Surely the principal of every large school knows who goes above and beyond the minimum classroom time and who vanishes at the afternoon bell.
Better teachers, which means the gifted ones and those happily involved in extracurricular chores, should be rewarded with merit increases, but that is contrary to what unions want.  They want to keep the mediocre and the failures and the gifted all in one big clump as long as they all pay their dues. What does it matter if the teacher is awful?  (One of my sons "survived" a teacher that the education director admitted to me later should have been fired.)
Teachers are better educated as a group than many in Ontario, and probably read more, but they certainly have missed all those stories about all the people looking for work and all those who are working but don't expect to ever have the benefits of full-time employment like pensions and health insurance.
The old days of public unions pushing around the representatives of the taxpayers ended about a decade ago, but it hasn't sunk in yet, certainly not with the teachers.

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