We begin a new PENS blog series on public education—its aims, its funding, the way it’s governed in BC, and what it’s like to be a student, a parent or a teacher in BC schools.
The series isn’t in strict chronological sequence since BC, Canadian, and world education continues to move quickly. Nor will the blog be limited to matters of elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schooling. Considering the speed of social and economic change, posts will move far and freely. After all, if it isn’t Christy Clark in BC it’s Betsy de Vos in the USA. If it isn’t a new approach to the teaching of mathematics, then it’s the education of gifted kids. If it isn’t classrooms that take into account individual differences, then it’s the pull toward standardized testing. The list goes on and on.
When there’s relevant news from the American experience, the Ontario experience, or a more distant corner of the world (Finland or China, say) it will turn up in this blog. Either I (Bill Bruneau, the main blog writer for now) will deal with it, or another PENS writer (or friend) will cover it. Later, we’ll find a way to invite reader comments.
Some posts will be short, some long (next post about the BC Speech from the Throne, delivered 2017 February 14, will be short-ish—but the post about the provincial budget on February 21 will take, well, days….).
There’s space in the blog for posts about budgets, provincial and national; for talk about curriculum change; and for discussions of big social problems that affect public education. But there’ll also be occasional comment about the personalities and institutions who want to change BC public education.
You can acquire a feeling for this PENS blog by reading the PENS Charter, and previous blog entries. Some of our writers will talk about the PENS Charter, how it came to be, and how it fits with the protest movement now in full swing in BC.
Somebody once asked Martin Luther King Jr. why he thought the timing was right for a campaign to end segregation in the United States. His answer was simply that “It’s always the right time to talk about fairness and equality.” Well, the same is true of public education: the time to talk about public education (and about the wider society) is always…now.
The government decision last fall to fire the entire Vancouver School Board certainly helped to concentrate the public’s mind. Several months earlier BC teachers found it necessary to strike to draw attention to underfunding, an action they took because of government policy. That too concentrated minds. Then there was the Supreme Court decision of late last year, a decision that compelled the provincial government to live up to contractual promises it had simply refused to carry out for fifteen years. And the destruction of elementary school music programmes, the proposed closure of more than 200 schools across BC…
What is the best way forward? How should we respond to events like these? Should local school boards be given real and lasting financial and curriculum powers? Faced with changing demography, cultural diversity, and economic uncertainty, what kind of curriculum makes sense in schools, colleges, and universities? What level of funding is really needed in public education?
With the help of active parent groups, media work by folks like those at Your Education Matters, and active support in the universities and the media (The Tyee, and with less argumentativeness the Sun and the Globe), answers are beginning to be clear. In the next few blogs, you’ll see some of those answers.
Three Long Campaigns
To begin, I’ll tell the tales of three long campaigns for
*more education funding,
*more local autonomy, and
*re-commitment to education as the first priority of government.
One campaign was and is federal even though education is provincial. The feds play a big role in education in Canada. They have to be considered, and they certainly shouldn’t be forgotten in the fight for public education. There’ll be a post about this later on. We’ll start for now with BC.
2017 is, of course, an election year in BC. There will be more public education action than usual in the legislature, in communities across the province. By “communities,” I don’t only meant towns and cities and regions, but also interested groups of citizens demanding a voice in the way their and our kids are educated, and the way we provide education for adult learners. The recent work of the Parent Advocacy Network, the FACE (Families Against Cuts to Education), Protect Public Education Now, and many other groups—all that work is forcing more of the decision making into the open—where it belongs.
It’s a big, broad story. But this is a big, broad blog.
The provincial campaign for proper educational funding, in its current form, goes back fifty years. Indeed the direction of the recent BC campaign owes much to activists, some from far outside the province, some of whom are nearly forgotten. We’ll look more than once at those fifty years as the blog proceeds.
Next: The Valentine’s Day Speech from the Throne
Welcome to the PENS Blog on public education! Our bloggers include parents, teachers, education researchers, and other strong supporters of public education in BC and in Canada. Taking the lead is Bill Bruneau, Professor Emeritus UBC, ex-Vancouver School Board trustee, ex-President of his faculty association, and ex-president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.