Saturday, April 4, 2015

Open Letter: A Long, Stinky Rabbit Hole

(From My Facebook Page)

Hello Friends,

I'd like to share some thoughts about the Liquefied Natural Gas Industry in this province and how it relates to public education.

Now, before your eyes glaze over and you hide this post (and others from me) from your newsfeed, I ask you to reconsider. I know this is boring as shit. And I've gone on about it at length previously. (At parties, at premieres, at playgrounds, over coffee...)

This issue appears to be a long, stinky rabbit hole - entirely overwhelming once you start to look at it. (The government is counting on this so you DON'T look at it.) But the good news is, this rabbit hole is not all that deep. And it's worth the trip down to have a good look at something troubling going on right now in public education. 

Here's a recap:

1) The government is reformatting the public education system to attract foreign investment for the Liquefied Natural Gas industry. This is outlined in the B.C. Skills For Jobs Blueprint, announced by the Education Ministry last spring.

2) LNG requires fracking. "Fracking natural gas is worse for climate change than burning coal." - Marc Lee, Senior Economist, CCPA

3) The government has removed environmental studies from public education. 
(Education Minister Peter Fassbender doesn't want to, AND I QUOTE, "overload the curriculum".)

4) LNG isn't meeting predicted profits. Initial projections by the Liberal government were $1.25 billion by 2012-13. In fact, they only made $144 million. Also known as 11% of what they predicted.

5) The government says it can't afford to pay for class size and composition language to be restored to the collective bargaining agreement with the B.C. Teachers Union. (Public Education loses approximately $333 million annually as a result of this illegal removal of the language.) Yet the government can afford to redirect $3 billion over the next decade to the LNG, in spite of poor returns?

6) Teachers, economists and environmentalists are urging caution in this government's LNG agenda. The government refuses to concede.

7) Conclusion: Our children will pay the price.

Here's a deeper look:

Last spring, Liberal MLA, Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development said, "Since releasing the LNG strategy two years ago, we have taken concrete action to give companies certainty when making their final investment decisions..." 
What he means by that is that the government is reformatting public education to attract investors to a singular industry. 

Please read that again: 
The government is reformatting public education to attract investors to a singular industry. 

"Look at everything we're doing for you! We're changing education to train workers so you will get a return on your investment!" 

This is an obvious conflict for students which will lead to an increasingly diminished education system. Also, many parents will be forced to consider private schools they can't afford so that their children will get the well rounded education the government doesn't want to provide.

Mr. Coleman went on to say, "By working with industry, we've created a Blueprint that will create a seamless path from school to the workplace for our young people, provide long-term, well-paying jobs for all our communities and deliver a skilled workforce for B.C.'s growing LNG sector." 

Here's the thing, friends. Education isn't about training children to become workers. It's about educating students to become citizens. 

There's an important distinction there which involves critical thinking and autonomy.

Critical thinking won't be a skill students develop properly in school, particularly given that the Liberal Government has removed environmental studies from the curriculum. After all, the government doesn't want anyone questioning the profoundly unsafe ramifications of fracking in British Columbia. How can students look at an issue critically from all sides if they don't have all the information?

(Sidebar: In terms of environmental impact, Marc Lee also says that if the LNG goes ahead in this province, "It will be the equivalent of adding 24 million to 60 million cars to the world’s roads.")

Autonomy will be severely diminished by reformatting education to include a substantial focus on one industry. The government masks this agenda as promoting trades. However, there are so many trades facilities in schools across the province in disrepair right now; trades programs that are underfunded. If this government truly wanted to advocate on behalf of trades, why not invest in existing facilities and programs that badly need it? 

Also, this Blueprint actually works AGAINST those genuinely wanting to work in trades. As someone pointed out to me recently, if a huge portion of the students in this province are "encouraged" to pursue a career in trades, it will glut the market. There will be far more people looking for jobs than there will be jobs available. Jobs will be scarce and low paying. And as outlined in the Blueprint, there is a plan in place to attract out of province and out of country workers, further adding to the number of people looking for work and further driving down the pay. This is hugely beneficial for corporations but not so much for students. 

I would be pleased as punch if either of my boys went into trades, if that was their choice. But informed choice doesn't result from systemic manipulation. Autonomy only works when you have a chance to exercise it.

If you are in Vancouver, I ask you to join me at 12pm on Sunday, April 12th at the Vancouver Art Gallery. As concerned parents, we are gathering to advocate for a return of funding to public education. I will be speaking at the event. 

* Please note: The rally is not about the LNG. It's about education funding. I wrote this post to provide a sense of why I feel we need to speak up and insist on change.
The rally group's name on Facebook is Families Against Cuts to Education (FACE) - Vancouver & British Columbia. Check them out.

The school strike is long over. But the issues that deplete public education in this province remain. Our government is not onside. I don't have the money to send my kids to private school to get the kind of education I had in public school growing up. 

Our kids deserve better than this. Please join me at the rally. 

Let's keep this conversation going.

Enid-Raye Adams

Articles on this issue:

Your pal,
The Happiness Detective

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