Letters to The Editor 

Education suffers as strike drags on

Re: Teachers’ strike

The teachers would have us believe that their main goal in the current strike is the improvement of the educational environment for the students. Yet for each day that this strike is prolonged the students look less like potential beneficiaries and more like hostages. Parents of students and, in Whistler the users of the community facilities in the schools, are also victims. If the teachers can claim to be representing the best interests of the students, the government can legitimately claim to be representing the taxpayers. Governments do not create wealth; they can only redistribute it. Any increase in funding for schools in B.C. necessarily must come from either other areas of government spending such as health or welfare, or from increased taxes. In this case that means property taxes. Thus those who may be affected by the outcome of this strike goes well beyond teachers, students, and parents.

I note that other government employees’ unions are demonstrating support for the strike. One suspects that they may be at least partially motivated by the possibility that if the teachers achieve their wage demands, these unions will be in a better bargaining position when their turn comes along.

What happens if the strike continues beyond a few days to a few weeks or even a few months? It will certainly mean a wasted year for most students. I observe my daughter, who is normally a very enthusiastic high school student, and her friends worrying about their studies, trying to keep their spirits up, trying to find useful things with which to occupy their time, and watching lots of television. After a certain length of time students in the lower elementary grades will not have developed the essential skills required to move on in school and students in the upper high school grades will not have learned sufficient content to be able to pass the provincial exams or be prepared for university. Does this mean that most students in the system will have to do this year over again? Would the age of students in the system then be pushed ahead one year so that children would enter kindergarten at age six instead of five, or would there be an attempt to push this year’s kindergarten class into Grade 1 along with the students who are presently in Grade 1? What consequences would this have as this bulge of students passes through the grade levels? Would class sizes double, or would extra teachers have to be hired for each grade level and then let go when no longer needed, or would a special contingent of teachers have to be trained to follow this extra large group of students through all of the grades? What happens at B.C.’s post-secondary institutions if there are very few students entering the first year of studies next year? The longer this strike goes on the more chaos there will be in B.C.’s educational system. The best thing that the teachers can now do for the students is to bring them back to their classes. A "flawed" educational system is going to be a lot better than no education.

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