By now we have a decent understanding of the history of teaching from the perspective of the teachers federation itself. Here is a link to the BCSPEA’s account of the history although because of the direction of these articles the author feels it not necessary to portray both sides. The BCSPEA as a bargaining device for the parental side of the debate on ideal education is a welcome apparatus.
From the BCTF website “History of collective bargaining:
Teachers fought hard to get the right to bargain collectively, a right that is guaranteed to all under the conventions of the International Labour Organization. Canada has agreed to these conventions and recognizing those rights is an obligation of all levels of government. Over the years that collective bargaining has existed for teachers in British Columbia, teachers have negotiated significant improvements for student learning conditions, as well as teacher conditions of work. BC teachers have consistently opposed government actions that would create worse classroom conditions and take away the rights of teachers to bargain.
In 2001, the BC Liberal government removed the right to strike by passing essential services legislation. In January 2002, the same provincial government stripped all class-size, staffing, and workload provisions from the provincial and local agreements. Most of the provisions guaranteeing support for students with special needs were also eliminated.
The essential services legislation is basically a third party, the government, entering the negotiation field and tipping the scales against the teachers’ (and thus the children and society as a whole) favor. (more information here, and here) The government has incentive both politically and financially to force the teachers to go back to work, of course it does, however it does NOT necessarily have the legal authority to force the teachers back to their their job. It’s true that teaching and education are an essential services, however a catch 22 is created when the government can refuse to honor fair working standards while forcing the labor force back to work. Yet in an uneducated society it might be easy to convince the population that essential services legislation is the best practice. In reality the government essentially stripped the teachers not only of their right to strike and demand fair wages and working conditions, but the teachers were also stripped of any bargaining power they might have fought for throughout the history of teaching in BC.
This means society is again at the will and mercy of the government, while the governments’ main prerogative remains creating jobs for itself through political appeal. The circular issue is that those that aren’t educated well, are easy to appeal to.
Speaking of appealing, the Teachers Federation appealed to the Supreme court of BC suggesting that the governments’ actions were unconstitutional. Most of us are used to drama and American reality tv shows when it comes to legal affairs, and so we are used to laws not working in the favor of the common person. In Canada however, we do have well defined legal rights, unfortunately we are never generally educated on what they are and how to use them for our own protection. Again the BCTF shows by example how to do exactly that:
The BC Supreme Court reaffirmed that provincial legislation limiting teachers’ bargaining rights is unconstitutional, restored collective agreement provisions stripped in 2002, and ordered the province to pay $2 million in damages plus court costs.
So now we have seen our government impose legislation which the courts have clearly decided violates constitutional rights of our fellow citizens (teachers are in fact citizens too).
We have built a process of bargaining that really can’t budge because the lubrication for the process (ie money) is held up by a third party. This third party’s motive is based on its own sustainability by not allowing the demands of the Teachers Federation to be met. Government intervention destroys the bargaining process so a proper equilibrium solution cannot be met. It is extremely signfiicant the author points this out. This is what economists such as F A Hayek, Milton Friedman, and John Nash have been pointing out. Socialism in this form of government intervention, under the guise of bringing certain “services” to the peoples, has been shown to be the “Road to Serfdom“. This is a type of economic view we were not generally privy to under our educational upbringing in BC. Simply put socialism, or government intervention in social welfare, does NOT lead to ideal society, but rather leads to the type of society we do not aspire to be (rule by dictatorship and government sponsored censorship). The novel/movie 1984 is a metaphorical expression of the understanding that socialism leads to tyranny and suppression of freedom.
There is a great debate as to which way we should run our society, but the author would like to present an explanation that might sort out the conflict on this subject. We need to separate the difference between the means and the ends. The reality of our situation is that socialism leads to tyranny, big brother, surveillance state, uneducated, underfunded, essentially a starving society of all types of hungers. Socialism is an ideal- it is an ends not a means. This is well pointed out and well understood, however it is not in the educational curriculum the government presents us. Socialism as a means leads to a very sick society. I hope the reader understands the specific point here, the difference between an end and a means.
What is the Proper Means?
The proper means was outlined by Adam Smith, one of the most important minds of the recent few hundred years of man’s history. Smith painstakingly defined in his book The Wealth of Nations our entire global economy and how it creates wealth by the division of labor. He starts with the smallest example of a pin making factory, expanding further and further from the specialization of the pin making process to the monies for rent the laborers must earn so they can pay it, all the way up to nations and how they do international trade together. There has been much controversy about Smith’s theories, and interestingly it is speculated Smith tried to have all his books burned whilst on his death bed.
Smith’s writings gave rise to the concept of the “invisible hand” which is essentially the tendency of the markets to self adjust and seek to exploit opportunities between demand and price. The general idea is markets are best left to their own efficiency, and this is how each aspect of the global economy is allowed to amass great wealth.
This free flowing of the markets is the correct means, and many great philosophers and economists know that, however it is difficult to educate the general public on this concept since government systems are effectively set up to downplay this truth. People are left fighting for the wrong means, socialism, which really just gives governments more power and control for their own agendas. In the case of the collective bargaining issue the teachers face, all the government has effectively done is waste taxpayers money on unnecessary court battles which only served to clearly show the government is infringing on the peoples basic rights.
When asking yourself where the value of our educational system is going, where your tax dollars are going, look no further, government intervention is destroying the free flowing market of the bargaining process. This destruction is detrimental to the process by which the BCTF and the BCSPEA might be able to ideally negotiate the ideal education system for the ideal tax payer price.
This article was the author’s explanation of the current situation in regards to the bargaining process between the BCTF the BCSPEA and the provincial government. There is certainly many omitted details but the author thought it best to stick mainly to the facts that are relevant for the direction of the final article in this 3 part paper. In the final part the author will describe the very present day situation, and how it might serve as a possible solution to the seemingly unsolvable issues of BC’s educational crisis.