VICTORIA – As the B.C. Teachers’ Federation executive moseys back to the bargaining table after a summer off, I’m reminded of former education minister George Abbott’s thoughts on his time trying to establish a civil discussion with the province’s most militant union.
It started with a lecture.
“In my first meeting with the BCTF, and I gather this is characteristic of all first meetings with education ministers, the TF advises that yes, they are a union, but first and foremost they are social activists and agents of social change,” Abbott recalled.
Their buzzword is “social justice,” which is portrayed by leftists as superior to plain old justice, in ways that are seldom defined. So what exactly are the goals of this “social change”? Here’s some of what I’ve gleaned.
Parents may recall the 2008 introduction of an elective high school course called Social Justice 12. This was mainly the result of intense protest by a couple of gay activist teachers, and the ministry curriculum describes its emphasis on inclusion of racial, cultural and sexual differences.
That’s all good, and it’s now bolstered by urgently needed anti-bullying and empathy efforts at all grades.
Then there is the BCTF version. It’s not just a battle against “racism, homophobia and sexism” but also “poverty and globalization.”
The BCTF has a quarterly “Social Justice Newsletter” filled with predictable economic assumptions. Readers of the latest issue are reminded at length that the United Nations takes a dim view of Canada’s record on human rights, including a right to housing. Undefined “poverty” statistics are cited, although Statistics Canada has nothing but incomplete relative measures.
One article describes a social justice club for Grade 2 and 3 students, with activities that include collecting food bank donations and “writing to the premier asking for a systemic plan to address child poverty.”
Leaving aside whether eight-year-olds can understand what “systemic” means, this rhetoric is taken directly from the tired old NDP policy book. It rests on the cherished myth that poverty is imposed by right-wing governments that refuse to double the minimum wage and pile more taxes on “the rich.”
And what about that darned “globalization”? The BCTF still has a 2001 teaching guide on its website promoting the claim that Nike is uniquely guilty of making shoes and exercise gear in Third World sweatshops.
Teachers are to instruct students how to organize a boycott of Nike, thus passing the received wisdom of campus radicalism to the next generation.
This was all debunked years ago. Are Adidas, Reebok, Apple and Microsoft any different? Has nothing changed in 12 years? A quick web search will show this is a stale old tale with a convenient villain, to avoid complex questions.
A BCTF official assures me this unit is being updated. Once that one is done, maybe they could check over their teaching unit on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal, another labour of the union’s “social justice” truth team.
Entitled “What We Stand To Lose With Pipelines and Supertankers,” it boasts wildlife photos and “key sources” from the left (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) to the far-left fringe (Pipe Up Network). It is another protesters’ guide designed around a pre-determined viewpoint.
BCTF bosses love to talk about the importance of “critical thinking.” These one-sided caricatures of Nike, Enbridge and other familiar villains seem designed to produce the opposite.
They remind me of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, where loyal party members are required to focus on selected enemies in a daily ritual called the Two Minutes Hate.
Perhaps this is a clue to why our school system produces so many students lacking in employment skills and bursting with demands for government-imposed wealth redistribution.
Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalNews.com. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc