Sunday, July 06, 2014

#BCED...First They Came For The Teachers And I Did Not Speak Out...


I am an academic who lives a very comfortable life.

It was not always thus because, as a life scientist, it was a precarious climb through the graduate and post-graduate training, as well as the pre-tenure, periods.

And then there was the required requisite luck of publications high enough up the ladder to get there.

In a weird (and very real) way I also think of myself as a small business owner because my lab runs entirely on extramural, peer-reviewed grants. In addition to buying all the stuff it takes to do the experiments I use a good chunk of that money to both train and pay people to work with me. And now that I've been in the game for (quite) awhile now, some of those people actually have kids and families and mortgages of their own and all that.


Every time we slave over, and then live and die with the results, of one of those grants that goes through the peer-review process (this year's success rate at the National level was 14%), it is still all about the science first.

But what really keeps me awake at night is the worry about what I'll have to do personnel-wise if things don't work out.


One of the reasons things are so comfortable for me on a personal level, separate from the grants (unlike in, say the States, we don't pay big chunks of our own salaries off grants) is that I belong to an 'association'.

Another reason is that the institution I work for, backed by the government, still bargains with and deals with that association (and the academic senate that represents/works for the mechanics of how things should work) in good faith.

Which is why it weirds me out when some of my colleagues slag public school teachers given their current situation.

After all, it's not like we couldn't soon find ourselves in the same type of situation if the worm were to turn.

But that couldn't happen here, in British Columbia, right?

Sure thing.

Except, what if we all worked at Capilano University?

Crawford Kilian has been following that story where things are not going well and, surprise!, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has is involved there too:

On May 13 I attended a meeting of the Board of Governors of Capilano University, which has had a very bad year. 

Last spring the board agreed to cut several programs altogether. This caused considerable anger and bitterness, especially since the recommendations for the cuts had been made by a handful of administrators without consulting the university senate. 

Recently, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the board's failure to consult with the senate was a breach of the University Act. This upset the board members, who may yet appeal the decision... 

Crawford's latest dispatch, in which he worries about the proMedia muddying of the waters is here.

Hmmmmm....I wonder....What if our public school system had the equivalent of an 'academic senate' where the important stuff like curriculum/class size, etc. could be represented and dealt with separately from the bargaining unit?....



Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

That academic senate you speak of sounds like an impediment to the outhouse-like gravity of the way people who have got it made in the shade (and their yes master governments like the Liberals of our province) like (insist!) doing things. As if democracy and, more importantly, Freedom, never happened and today's made-in-the-shaders are Divine as the Kings of old and somehow less likely to one day have their Divinity tested and be found wanting.

RossK said...


And it's not totally stacked with shillophants.

At least not yet.


Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

If the very subject of government was not making me terribly ill this morning I might warm to the idea of just such a body, a Forests Senate, being capable of producing forestry policy that does not appear to be crafted by an ancient Divinity well into the late stages of the pox our provincial hi-dee-ho government continually imposes lashingly from above.

RossK said...


I fear that you and I are both getting way, way out of our of area of expertise here (and I invite knowledgable readers to weigh-in if they are not to busy doing more fun and important leisurely things on a Sunday), but...

Didn't the experts in Ministries actually have more pull and sway to make the right things happen back in the old pre-politicization days?


e.a.f. said...

now wouldn't that be entertaining, but at one time I thought we had organizations which thought about those types of things and they were called School boards. I remember in the 1960s there were school boards and they did things like that.

Now didn't some government some time ago divide teaching organizations oh right that was nurses, perhaps its time for a teachers standards organization. you know set some rules, with out government interference, say involve some school boards, teacher representatives, teacher union reps, PACs. they come up with what constitutes education in this province and then the government pays for it. teachers teach, their union negotiates, no that won't work because other unions get to negotiate their working conditions and in some cases the pace at which they work, and that is after all what the teachers are trying to do.

teachers are unionized, so if other unionized workers get to negotiate how fast that assembly line goes, why can't a teacher negotiate how many kids they have to teach. If there are rules for health and safety in plants and in the forests, why can't teachers negotiate their healthy and safety, namely composition of their classes. remember, being in a class all day with a bunch of kids, some of whom aren't playing with a full deck, can effect the mental health of a teacher.

i would suggest much of this is about the fact we have an occupation which services the interest of children and in our society children are of very little value. they don't vote and they don't pay taxes. Teaching up until recently was a female dominated profession and female dominated occupations usually don't make as much money as male dominated occupations . I'd suggest its the history, more than whats truly happening to day

Norm Farrell said...

Mr. BnH makes an excellent point that could easily be made policy. Not just for forests, either. (Horgan, Weaver, you paying attention?)

Presently, a few plutocrats dictate resources policies that serve their own interests and dutiful servants in government snap to attention. As a result, resources worth billions of dollars leave the province each year and only a small fraction of value flows to citizens, the putative owners.

Imagine how different BC's economy would be if resource developments were influenced by a Senate of scientists, environmentalists and ordinary citizens, all without personal financial interests at stake.

Imagine if Northern Gateway was subject to peer review and expert scrutiny, as a paper is examined before publication in a respected journal like Science. Same with log exports, fish farming, private power, fracking, LNG subsidies, etc.

RossK said...

I like it when the likes of Beer, Norm and eaf get their heads together!


Maybe we should have a Bloggodome Senate too!


Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Gazz - You suggest a Bloggodome Senate in jest (I think) but the idea tickles me too. For just as long as it takes them to go all Duffy on us. If they were to remain unpaid (we're all used to that!) and subject to easy recall such a body just might rermain Unduffied and provide a service to our province unlike any other and, best of all, the government could neither downsize, fire or lock it out. All the government would be left with is what they are best at - pissing everybody off.

Norm Farrell said...

We could begin a citizens' boule with members wearing chitons and chlamys; volunteers chosen by lot, sent home after a year.

No pensions, no expenses, no patronage to reward; charged with examination of public officials both before and after leaving office to ensure honest accounting and loyalty to the province.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Think you are truly onto something Norm. But I think they may need to be armed if they are to survive a year of examining the POs available for examination at the moment.

RossK said...

Armed with Pez dispensors perhaps.

Actually...I'm not joking.

And I think we could start with a Kierans/Camp/Lewisish-type bloggopodcast to talk about what's really going down every once in awhile.


Norm Farrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm Farrell said...

Crawford Kilian wishes that Trevor Lautens "had gone on to some other subject and left the debate to people who know what they're talking about." Had that been Trevor Lautens’ natural inclination, I might not have begun blogging back in 2009.

After a long period serving the BC Business Party at the Vancouver Sun, Lautens, a skilled wordsmith, began writing a column for the North Shore News. He used it fore drive-by pot shots at those who offended his ideology or his pals.

Lautens' used the column to defend the old boys club that ran West Vancouver Police. The ruling clique had been pushed aside (temporarily, it turned out) after a series of policing scandals, including one that involved an impaired officer crashing on the drive home after a group drinking session at the station. Strangely, the officer was promoted shortly afterward.

The municipality decided to hire an outsider as Chief and chose Kash Heed who had been a runner-up when Vancouver PD acquired a new boss. Heed was immediately targeted by WVPD insiders who thought their old ways were just fine. Lautens admitted he was friends with people who were being reassigned by the new Chief but that didn't stop the columnist from doing a hit piece aimed at demeaning Kash Heed.

At the time, I thought Lautens' effort was an outrageous example of a person using a pro media position to protect friends by damaging their opponents with pseudo-journalism. I fired off a Letter to the Editor but soon came to the conclusion that more was needed. Those of us who Lautens would call "internuts" are now offering alternatives to the yellow-ish journalism provided by the ones who prefer to serve themselves and the elites.

RossK said...

Thanks for that Norm.

I had no idea...

Would be a great starting place for a Bloggodomic Senate discussion.