51: Teaching as Bee Keeping and Media as Censor
Consider beekeepers. In order to be a proper
beekeeper you have to have certain credentials. If you want to go
commercial with your bees you have to have certification that indicates
you are a properly trained beekeeper. Once
you have this qualification, in order to continue as a beekeeper, you
have to follow certain rules enforced by an agency or ministry of
government. You may have some opportunity to have a say in the drafting
and implementation of the regulations governing bee keeping but in the
end they are government policy and you live within them or find another
Trade is the operative word, you are not a
"professional" if you are a beekeeper, you are a trades or crafts
person. The difference between a professional and other sorts of
workers such as beekeepers is the public recognition that the work of a
professional is sufficiently complex that practitioners are best able
to govern the credentials, qualifications and conduct of fellow
practitioners. The job is seen as one that has more to it than basic
skills training. Also, the nature of the work is varied enough and
subject to such a vast array of circumstances that those practicing the
profession are really the only people who have the knowledge required to
make judgments about conduct and performance.
Bee keeping is an important and valuable
trade. Teaching is an important and valuable profession. It seems
preposterous to suggest that there are any similarities, unless of
course you are the current minister of education. Her recent hijacking
of the B.C. College of Teachers actually has the effect of
putting teachers in the same classification of worker as beekeepers, or
Evidently teaching is now viewed by the
provincial government as an occupation, where the primary public
concern is regulation. As such it can be controlled, or governed by
anyone. As far as the government in Victoria is concerned since teaching is mostly about
following rules people not affected by the rules therefore best control
it. So we now get a "college" of teachers under the control of a
minister of education who can have anyone she wants in the majority.
Think of it as more like an egg marketing board.
The minister may claim that the majority on
the new "college" board will be educators just not members of an odious
union. The problem is most of the members of the College are members of
that union. Most of the members of the College are classroom teachers
in public schools. For a college to have effectiveness or credibility
with those members it must have a degree of responsibility to them.
They must quite simply, respect it. This "college" will be neither
responsible nor respected. It will be viewed for what it is, a
political set up.
As professional practitioners, public school
teachers know the circumstances they work in. They know what
constitutes effective teaching, they know the nature of teachers work
in public schools. To have a governing body for the profession
controlled by a group whose position is determined by a minister who
has limited understanding of the real work of teachers is akin to
putting airline passengers in charge of air traffic control, democratic
in theory, disastrous in practice.
The most insidious effect of this
"regulatory" rather professional categorization of teaching is that it
de-professionalizes teaching. Teaching in the eyes of regulators can
only be about what they understand.
In order to be effectively
governed by regulators the work has to observed and assessed on their
terms, ones they understand. So teaching becomes less and less a
creative undertaking, less and less a teacher to student relationship
determined by individual needs. Creativity and individualization are
just not receptive to regulation. As such teaching starts to look more
like a trade and teachers more like line employees than professional
So who cares? Teachers should first of all,
and parents and the public should pay attention too. The
beekeeper/undertaker model will not improve teaching. It will not make
De-professionalizing teaching by setting up a
watch dog agency that is about following rules will not make teachers
more responsive to their students and creative in their classrooms. It
will do the opposite. It will make us more wary. It will discourage
"creative risk." Most important it will stultify the joy of teaching,
the spontaneity, the energizing thrill of the teachable moment. Who is
watching? How might this be misunderstood? Will that get me into
trouble? These will be the questions that will direct our teaching not
"what is best for this child?" And who is the real loser then?
-- Pat Clarke, is the Director of
Professional and Social Issues for the B.C.
As the controversial reforms of the teachers’
college and the massive cuts to education by the provincial government
continue to blaze across the province, it should be once again noted
that the corporate elite media, namely the Global Canwest Corporation,
which owns most of our media outlets, is censoring the views of
teachers and public interest groups on these questions.
This commentary on the proposed changes to
the college, which governs teaching standards and practices in public
schools, was submitted by the BC Teachers Federation, the union of
public school teachers, to the Canwest owned Vancouver Sun. Given the legendary one-sided and often
outright dishonest reporting that has plagued BC’s supposed “newspaper
of record” on political and business issues over the last few years, it
is not surprising that it was rejected.
The Columbia Journal, as a pro-public interest, and
pro-labour community media, recognizes the pivotal role of teachers in
our education system. We feel that what teachers have to say
matters—almost as much as parents, students and taxpayers—and certainly
more than the BC Business Council elite and its Victoria politicians.
This column makes a strong case against the
college changes being implemented by the government. What do you think?