BC Teachers: a strike of historical importance

October 10, 2005 at 8:48 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on BC Teachers: a strike of historical importance

Supreme Court (of British Columbia) Justice Nancy Brown declared yesterday (Sunday Oct. 9) that

…obeying court orders is the foundation of western society and if the rule of law is not followed, “anarchy cannot be far behind.”

“No citizen or group of citizens may choose which orders they may obey,” said Brown. [More…]

For those who don’t live in BC and have missed the news, BC teachers walked off the job on Friday (Oct.7), set up pickets (which CUPE workers won’t cross either), and took a stand against the bullying tactics of BC’s neo-liberal (i.e., neo-conservative) administration.

While Justice Brown declares that one must obey orders, political commentators elsewhere note that the teachers are furthering the cause of social justice, given what they’ve put up with for the last 3 to 4 years. David Schreck, writing on his own website as well as in The Tyee, notes that

Many of the civil rights we take for granted were only achieved because someone was willing to take on the establishment with civil disobedience. (…) Those who engage in civil disobedience have to be ready to accept the consequences. It looks like the teachers are prepared. [More…]

The BC government has done a lot to exploit demagogic fear and envy (the old “divide and conquer” strategy): it has said that the teachers want a 35% wage increase (not true), and in general it has exacerbated the resentment against those with “secure” jobs and “lots of holidays” in BC’s lean-and-mean economic climate. Letters to the editors of local newspaper seethe with resentment, as if teachers were single-handedly responsible for the very concept of the sinecure. That most of us would probably run screaming from the average classroom and balk at all the preparatory work necessary for proper teaching is something a public only too happy to let teachers be the cheap babysitters of their children forgets.

I’ve always said that schools are only “popular” because they have a custodial function (they babysit your kid while you go and do something “adult” — like working or shopping, i.e., greasing the economy), but it seems that the government wants to convince people that teaching isn’t even worthy of professional recognition.

Gabriel Yiu writes an eloquent commentary entitled Why I’m a Parent Who Supports the Teachers’ Strike. He points out that the government has systematically twisted and distorted the facts to suit its own agenda. One of the teachers’s sticking points is class size. The government says there’s no problem, but in Richmond (a Vancouver suburb, home to Yui), teacher positons were cut back by 10% while student enrollment dropped by only 2%. That sort of cut-and-slash approach is probably typical across the province. The government also whipped up public fury by claiming that the teachers wanted a 35% wage increase. BS, apparently: they want something like 15% spread over the next three years, and keep in mind that they haven’t had a wage increase in 4 years and that they are among the lowest paid teachers in Canada even though BC is one of the most expensive provinces to live in. Also of interest is that the Campbell government is sitting on a surplus, and it’s not the case that we can’t afford to pay teachers properly. As Yiu points out,

As a small business owner, if I inform my employees that they will not receive any raise for four years, despite the fact that the company is making record profit, what will be the consequence? Workers will leave. Those who stay will be demoralized and their performance will be undermined.

When BC was under a record deficit, the government gave teachers a 7.5% raise over three years. With record surplus and a higher cost of living, the government determines that teachers do not deserve any raise. How can teachers swallow it? BC has the most expensive housing and the highest cost of living, but our teachers’ wages are way behind Ontario and Alberta. [More…]

This government has enacted some really dubious legislation since coming to power in 2001 — in 2003 Campbell’s government made it legal for children as young as 12 to work up to 4 hours per day, providing “a parent” (one only) gave consent. That’s 20 hours per week — during school time. Otherwise, it’s ok if your 12-year old is employed up to 35 hours per week. No restrictions on time of day, either. Want your kid to get up in the middle of the night when normal folks are sleeping? That’s ok, if he’s 12 and older…

BC Teachers called on the government to rescind what has been called the most retrograde law on child labour in the western world. But the government hasn’t, and now it wants us to believe that it, not the teachers, have the best interests of children in mind. I find that hard to credit, I really do.

Gabriel Yiu points out that the government has done everything it could to make the teachers look like the bad guys — even though international law rules against the BC government’s attempt to dictate terms through its flatfooted move to declare teaching “an essential service”:

The Liberal government’s essential service legislation in 2002 has been condemned by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization as a contravention of international labor standards to which Canada is a signatory. The B.C. government’s latest attempt to buy full-page advertisements to deny the problems teachers are facing in their classrooms is another slap on the face. Teachers were seen crying in their staff rooms when they learned about the government-imposed contract settlement Bill 12. [More…]

But as Yiu also notes, this government dissembles …a bit more than others perhaps. In his October column, Rob Wipond, who writes a monthly for Victoria’s very excellent Focus Magazine, asked Are We Becoming Easier to Dupe? As Wipond observes:

Prominent people misleading the public with bold aplomb has become rampant in North America for two main reasons: Media conglomeration and passive, gullible populations.

Big corporations usually bring a big focus on maximizing profits and minimizing costs. However, doing follow-ups, thorough research and fact-checking takes dedicated journalists, time, effort, and support from ownership, advertisers and readers. Re-printing wire service stories and composing articles based primarily on pre-packaged press releases, staged press conferences and unchallenged, unresearched statements is much easier, faster and cheaper.

So investigative journalism is being left on the cutting room floor. As a result, the powerful have become almost completely fearless before our media. They’re lying at will. [More…]

Before the teachers’ strike hit the fan, my response was, “yeah, citizen journalism, — bloggers, eh? We’ll keep their toes to the fire.” Now I’m not sure at all. Without strong institutional support — union backing and support, for example — governments will use big media to twist and distort issues, and will continue to ride roughshod over the gains in human rights that previous generations fought for — women’s rights, child labour protection rights, professional rights.

My kids are affected by this, even though they don’t go to school. They are distance education students, however, and their virtual classes are cancelled for the duration. An enrichment workshop is in limbo. But that’s ok. The teachers are right to take a stand, and if this escalates into a general strike, so be it.

Updated Oct. 17/05 entry on this topic here.

On the importance of Wood in the lot of intellectual archives…

October 9, 2005 at 10:00 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on On the importance of Wood in the lot of intellectual archives…

One can only hope that Mark Woods forgives slobs like me who never fail to forget important anniversaries — and who even manage to “remember” (i.e., be reminded) a day or two later, only to put off “remembering” for yet another couple of days…

But dear brilliantly forensic Mark of Wood_s Lot (George Bataille, that shifty librarian, probably had nothing on you in the seek-and-not-hide department), Happy 5th blogiversary. Even though it sometimes hurts my brain to keep up with what you find, keep finding it. For too many are lost…

If Andrei Codrescu made films

October 5, 2005 at 9:20 pm | In yulelogStories | 3 Comments

Through a P2C2E (“process too complicated to explain” **), I discovered Paintful Productions, the home of wonderfully weird and whacky filmmakers in deepest Sooke (nearly at Whiffen Spit, just around the Fisgard Lighthouse…). It appears that Paintful is a family affair — as all families are in one way or another painful and of course colourful. The movie-making branch consists principally of Surge and Klim Levene, with Masha Levene assisting (she developed the characters for A Single Wish).

Thus far, Paintful has released three shorts, each of which is a tiny gem. You can find I Wanna Rule the World on the Internet Archive — sorry, this seems to want to download on Windows only. It’s not Mac compatible, so borrow a PC somewhere and go here to get it. This short is based on a 10cc song, and it actually succeeds in making sense of Hitler and Mussolini: never before have these guys sounded so articulate and to-the-point. As the song title already suggests, there’s a pint-sized Führer in all of us…

A Single Wish (2004) is a powerful little story available through OurMedia. I found it better just to go straight to the link, here (and in titles, above). This is a zany (yet poignant) variation on the “three wishes” trope, and that’s all I’ll say because more would be a spoiler… Just click on it and see it for yourself. It was featured last month in C|Net‘s “animation” category.

Finally, My House is also available on OurMedia, again with the link working best for me if I go directly to the movie’s URL. I think My House is probably my favourite: it’s so rich, stuffed to the non-existent overstuffed furniture’s gills with references.

I’m really blown away by how good these movies are, particularly given that they’re so very short. The language is precise, the image juxtapositions flawlessly rivetting (including of course the “repurposing” of existing images), and, can I just say that the music is inspired? By “music” I include not just the melodies, but all the audio components: the loopy spoken and chanted Russian references, the children’s tunes and, sometimes, what sound like tsigane rhythms (themselves a clever repurposing) that suggest nomads while alluding to suspect notions of Eurocentric “orientalism” (shades of corruption, decadence, and all that), juxtaposed to the most modern cruelties and absurdities of the rationalist age (uh, that’s us, with our military beat, ka-thump, ka-thump), coupled with references to pop music, to bards dead and alive…. Maybe it’s just me reading (hearing) things into the sounds that were never intended, but music does seem to be integral to the films, and each film’s score adds to the flavour.

Since the world will keep delivering the necessary materièl for more Paintful Production films, I’m going to keep an eye out for the next production surge from Sooke…


Update: Thanks, Shelley, for pointing out that one can download a Mac-based player for Windows Media files!

O = 0

October 2, 2005 at 10:17 am | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

When I was still a “real” professor, I had laryngitis two or three times. It was really weird — didn’t hurt or and was short-lived, yet suddenly the output from the vocal chords was zero. If “Output” were written as “O,” the equation would read O=0. Funny, eh?

We had a handyman at the house when it happened the first time, and he said, “Wow, can you give that to my wife?” Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk — hee-haw funny? …No, not really at all.

Psychologists could have a field day with the fact that I came down with zero-output vocal chords when I was supposed to be “professing,” and now they could have fun with this one: I have a full-blown tendonitis in my right wrist and hand (from excessive mousing in ergonomically non-correct positions on my defective iBook while seated on a broken chair I got from the Salvation Army at a collapsible buffet table that’s too high off the ground). If you write, afflictions like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis are effectually the equivalent of “professional” laryngitis. If the keyboard is my soapbox, it’s all washed up right now. Postings will be lighter, shorter for a while; mousing & surfing curtailed.

Laryngitis goes away by itself. Tendonitis is potentially far nastier and not as impermanent, so I’m thrown into a bit of a funk over this. And, like everyone else in the house already does, I now have to learn to use a trackball. I haven’t found a trackball design that works well for me. But it looks like the ergonomics experts are right.

Ironically, I’m engrossed in Donald Norman’s straight-talking and brilliant book, The Design of Everyday Things. I could give it a subtitle: And How They Can Snap Your Wrists Off If You’re Not Careful…

« Previous Page

Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.