The Ones Who Correct the Path of the Powerful

 

I am totally caught up in the story of Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Canadian Attorney General and Justice Minister who in recent weeks was demoted from her position in cabinet, then resigned as a Minister.

The Globe and Mail published a great story about her today – Why Jody Wilson-Raybould was destined to speak truth to power – an excellent article that really needs to be part of your reading this weekend.

In the article, Jody Wilson-Raybould is called a Hiligaxste or someone who corrects the path of the powerful. In indigenous culture, the Hiligaxste was a woman who grooms men for leadership roles. In our current culture, this means speaking truth to power.

This is such an important role today in our fractured society. No matter what level of governmental power one looks at, those in power continue to act with incredible impunity. In the case of the former Justice Minister, Liberal leaders, starting with Justin Trudeau have called Wilson-Raybould hard to work with. One MP even said she lost her post because she couldn’t speak French. The Prime Minister most recently stated she was moved because another minister resigned.

It is always difficult to speak truth to the mighty.

The attacks against Jody Wilson-Raybould are all very lame, but typical when those in power react to a strong-minded colleague who doesn’t easily back down – the Hiligaxste.

More people are standing up and saying things that are way out of the comfort zone of conventional leaders. In the United States, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is shaking up the political order by promoting a Green New Deal. While many people do not yet know what the Green New Deal (GND) is, the very idea of reworking the economy to mitigate climate change is too radical. Those in power are now warning that because of the GND, the hamburger and ice cream are now threatened.

I’m not making this up!

In truth, the GND is a new policy direction that truly looks to speak truth to power and offer something new.

 The GND is, at its heart, a form of social-democratic populism. Its intent is to involve the entire citizenry in the shared project of adapting to the 21st century, and in so doing materially improve the quality of life of the poor and middle class. It is an attempt to rebalance the economy and the political system, away from a monomaniacal focus on private goods, toward a more generous view of public goods and public purpose.

Vox  The Green New Deal, explained

It is encouraging to see these women defy the political hierarchy in their countries.

In another hopeful sign this week in Europe, thousands of students walked out of their classrooms as part of a coordinated walkout against climate change. Chanting “Save our planet”, these students are correcting the path of the powerful. While our political leaders – at least in Ontario – are fighting efforts to establish a carbon-tax  – Carbon-tax opponents don’t let facts get in the way (Globe and Mail, February 16) – students are speaking the truth that political leaders do not want to hear.

This is what it means to speak truth to power – whether it has to do with the politics of power and money or the inability of governments to see the looming climate change disaster, people like Jody Wilson-Raybould, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the student protesters are certainly the Hiligaxste.

For educators, what side do we want to be on?

The student protests in Europe were sparked by one student, Greta Thunberg who has been protesting outside the Sweedish parliament for weeks. It has not been an easy thing to do, but she is doing what must be done to correct the path of the powerful.

I am just a messenger, and yet I get all this hate. I am not saying anything new, I am just saying what scientists have repeatedly said for decades.

And I agree with you, I’m too young to do this. We children shouldn’t have to do this. But since almost no one is doing anything, and our very future is at risk, we feel like we have to continue.

Greta Thunberg – a Swedish schoolgirl with Asperger’s syndrome – sparked today’s action after protesting for weeks outside her country’s parliament.

Greta Thunberg, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – people doing the uncomfortable thing, people making the powerful uncomfortable.

It is important that these issues get talked about in the classroom. The momentum for change can be delicate. It can be dashed on the rocks of indifference if people do not support these new leaders. It can create a world of change if everyone wakes up and joins their voices with these people.

I have said this many times. Educators need to get their heads out of the sand and wake up. These people are leading important changes and they truly are challenging the status quo in their own ways.

If you support them their efforts could change our world. If you don’t, why not?

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Public officials should not destroy what they cannot understand.

nothing against this person, but Lisa Thompson is not an advocate for a strong public education system in Ontario

Like many concerned educators, I have been following the education news in Ontario as closely as possible.

It seems to me that the political leaders in our province are doing their utmost to follow the lead of the much more flamboyant political dilettante south of us when it comes to public audacity.

In the last few weeks, some crazy ideas about education have been floated out there.

First – let’s get rid of the kindergarten cap of 29 and the hard cap of 20 in grades 1,2 and 3.

As a former elementary principal, this seemed to be thoughtless and irresponsible hogwash. It was soon followed by another thought bubble – let’s see if full-day kindergarten is all that effective!

Again, as an elementary principal, I have to say that FDK was easily one of the most innovative and successful education initiatives that any government has proposed over the past thirty years. Especially in my last school in a high poverty community made up of immigrants from all over the world, FDK became the great leveller. Children who did not speak any English, who had never had the opportunity to socialize with other kids were all brought together in the same classroom.

It was a little hectic, but we had gifted, truly wonderful teachers and ECEs who worked hard to socialize these children. They had them all day. They made sure they got a good nap. They taught them how to play in a larger social setting, they brought them into a wider society.

I can say the same about the caps in primary and kindergarten. In the most important years of education, class sizes were kept small. No school in the province could sneak in more students and save costs through larger class sizes. In the most vitally important years, a calm learning environment was given a chance.

These wonderful innovations had one important thing in common – while they were great for kids and educators, they were expensive. The number one expense in education is staffing and small class sizes mean more teachers, more salaries.

We have been very fortunate in Ontario. Over the past two decades, we have had some truly visionary leadership in education, inspired and guided by some of the best minds in the education world. I have been so proud to be an Ontario educator.

Now, something has changed. Call it the rise of populism in Ontario or whatever you want, but the expert is now not needed or wanted. We can get rid of great policies by floating an idea out there with no consultation and absolutely no wisdom or vision.

A wise person once remarked that we are experiencing the death of the expertise era. In a populist wave, public ministers are moving into positions of power with little or no experience. But they are for the ‘people’ so experience no longer matters.

So, as a way to start turning things back to sober discourse on what is best for children, I am suggesting that the current Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson resign.

I have nothing against this person and good for her for becoming a public servant, but she doesn’t know anything about education and she is certainly not a strong advocate for a vital public education system.

She is being moulded as a hatchet person for the current premier who certainly has no love for public education. As you would expect, the Toronto Star has come out against Doug Ford as the anti-education premier – The results show education is enemy number one for Premier Ford, but there is a good point here. The current government is looking for the vulnerable points in our education system.

What costs lots but serves a population that certainly cannot speak for themselves?

Lisa Thompson really has little idea of what she is doing, but it is the job she was assigned and she is going to do it. Calling for her resignation will go nowhere, but the call does need to go out.

We deserve an excellent system. Our system is excellent. Public officials should not destroy what they cannot understand. In the end, we will rebuild, but why put children through all of this?

 

Has inclusive education gone too far? – The Globe and Mail debate

When I started this series of articles for the Class Struggle Podcast, I wrote that public debate on important public issues is sustained and encouraged through our media. A strong public press is essential in a healthy democracy and we are very fortunate here in Canada to have a vital and responsive media.

On Saturday, the Globe and Mail’s education reporter Caroline Alphonso wrote an important feature on the problems surrounding inclusion in Canada’s schools – Educating Grayson: Are inclusive classrooms failing students?

The article is an intelligent and sensitive report on the problems that take place every day in Canada’s schools surrounding inclusion. As a former elementary principal, I am well aware of these issues. Although I have not been in schools in the last two years, the problem obviously persists and the solutions remain elusive.

The Globe and Mail is sustaining this debate by publishing some of the comments to Saturday’s article. I have included two of them here:

From the comments: Has inclusive education gone too far? Educators and parents share their experiences

In 2018, I retired after 17+ years as an Educational Assistant (EA) in elementary schools. Over those years my job changed dramatically; from helping students (with varying needs) achieve their potential in class, to keeping students with often volatile behaviours from being a threat to others while in a “regular” classroom. Most, if not all, children want to belong and succeed at school. Teachers and EAs also want to make this happen. Too often, I have seen principals and parents put their own interests and opinions ahead of the best interests of the student. It becomes a fight about which adult is right, and the student’s true needs get overlooked. It is a terrible waste, made even greater when “experts” are brought in to observe briefly, and then chime in on what is best.

Please, parents and administration, gather and listen to the student, and the teacher and the Educational Assistant together. Set a few goals, be consistent at home and at school, and be kind and respectful of each other. You will see improvements almost immediately. Unfortunately this rarely happens. – MacKenzie96

Ms. Kahn is not wrong to want better services for Grayson. It is sad that services for children like Grayson are so limited. Underfunding special education programs pits parents against teachers and administrators. This undermines an education system that is the envy of the world (we rank #5 internationally according to the OECD). Please keep in mind that funding for education has been frozen for the last few years and special education in most boards has been cut. There are fewer Educational Assistants in my classroom than ever before. My fear is Mr Ford’s austerity measures aimed at health care system, social assistance and education will only make things worse. – Daysofmiracle

I don’t know if I have anything useful to add to these comments, but I do know that educators need to be part of this discussion.

This Thursday for this week’s Class Struggle on VoicEd Radio we will weigh in on this issue. As I have been saying, educators need to be heard on this issue and it would be great to see more writing from those who are active in the profession. We know there is a lack of resources when it comes to education and there are real human consequences to the underfunding that has been going on for years.

the next Class Struggle podcast will be this Thursday (January 10) at 8:00PM

The problems with inclusion are well known. Principals, especially in elementary school have been excluding special needs students from their buildings for years. These exclusions are hard to trace because they were never documented and were never part of any formal process. I remember many times as an administrator asking parents just to keep their child at home. They weren’t suspended, we just didn’t have the resources to keep them and others safe in our school.

These actions are taken by principals every day. When I excluded I always did this on my own authority. No one above me was willing to take any responsibility for these actions and when things went badly, I was the one who suffered the consequences.

Here is the problem. There are nowhere near the resources in the schools to deal with many special needs cases. As Caroline Alphonso mentions in her article, there are situations where a gifted teacher may be able to accommodate a special needs child, but such a situation is not sustainable, and not all schools have the talent to work successfully with challenging children.

More often the lack of adequate resources leads to disruptions and sometimes violence in the classroom.

In most cases, it is the educational assistant that suffers the direct consequences for the emotional outbursts of the child, but I know the results of poorly thought-out inclusion affects the entire school community, including children and parents.

The solution calls for a rebuilding of the inclusion model. Generally, the practices in Ontario at least are haphazard. Inclusion needs to be rebuilt from the ground up with a sharp focus on how best to accommodate the special needs child, their parents and the wider school community. Inserting the student into a regular classroom with some support and hoping for the best is just not good enough.

Such a rebuild will be expensive and I really don’t think we are there yet as a society to make the financial investment that it will take. Patching is cheap, rebuilding takes lots of resources and intelligent design.

I hope we have a good debate on Thursday. This is a problem that will just get worse until we face it head-on. Again, good for the Globe and Mail for keeping this important issue in the public eye. As educators, we need to do our part to make sure it stays there.

The Class Struggle Podcast – Where We Come From

I think it might be good if we all introduce our perspective on things, like where we’re coming from. We all have unique places that we are at and I think it would be good for listeners to get to know some of that!

Stephen Hurley

This is beginning to take shape. We have a name for our political voice podcast – Class Struggle thanks to Heather Swail and several co-hosts – Heather Swail, Derek Rhodenizer and Stephen Hurley. Stephen has made the suggestion that we all make our views and background known to listeners so our bias is evident. We are planning to do this on our first podcast next Thursday, December 27th at 8:00PM.

While this will be an interesting ‘live’ experiment, I think it would be a great idea to put down here some of our thoughts and ideas on where we are coming from. It takes a while to figure this out and at least for me I do better writing down some of these ideas first. If the other co-hosts want to do the same I will roll out their ideas here as part of this post.

I will start. My political beliefs are informed first by my faith. It is hard to believe this is still true because I no longer attend church on any regular basis, but I was brought up Catholic and I taught in the Catholic system for 31 years. Within that structure, I was mainly influenced by Catholic Social Teaching and the life and struggles of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a cleric and martyr from El Salvador who was canonized just a few months ago.

What was truly formative for me have been my travels to Latin America with students and teachers. Over the past twenty years, I have travelled there many times and I have learned lots about poverty, injustice and the abuse of power by the privileged.

All of this has given me a strong sense of community and a better appreciation of the importance of speaking out against hypocrisy and injustice. Working at my last school, St. Anthony here in Ottawa gave me a wonderful opportunity to put some of these beliefs into practice. It also led to lots of run-ins with my superiors which eventually led to my retirement. There was more work to do at my school, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to work for an organization that valued compliance over social justice.

Now I have been retired for two years and I have spoken out much more since that time. The issues I write about are diverse, but anything that smacks of injustice and the abuse of power catches my attention. Apart from writing, I try to do something positive by supporting Christie Lake Kids, an organization here in Ottawa that works to transform the lives of low-income children through recreation, arts and leadership programs.

I do think that teachers have a duty to speak out. We as educators play a unique role in a democratic society. We are responsible for passing on to a new generation the laws, customs and beliefs of our society. We are leaders by the very fact that we hold such an immense responsibility to the youth in our society.

This view is not shared by our large corporate-like school boards. Loyalty means to be silent and compliance is the key. I think we are selling our educators short in this corporate culture and teachers need to have the freedom to express their opinions and speak out against injustice when they see it.

That is where I am coming from and I hope in our new show we will tackle some of the big political issues that swirl around us in this society. Maybe not all educators see this as a role we should assume. That is fine, but I would love to hear people actually say this.

I will keep this blog rolling out new comments from now until our first podcast this Thursday. You can write a comment at the end of this blog or DM me and I will add your material to this post. This sometimes can actually change the nature of a blog post. I am all for that – the voice of educators is so important – let it be heard.

This being a rolling blog, I am adding comments directly to this post. Here is a comment from co-host Heather Swail.

 

Heather Swail here. My political ideas and opinions were at first informed by school and community. I too was educated in the Catholic system. A number of my high school teachers were CND active or former sisters who were very involved in the lives of the disadvantaged in Montreal; at least three of my teachers had lived in Central America and followed and spoke about liberation theology and social justice. Their few stories – they were humble about their experiences – and the videos and news items they showed us inspired me to learn more about the world and to study politics in university. I did an MA in Public Administration in social policy and knew that my vocation was to work in the public or community sectors. Since my 20’s I have participated in community projects and initiatives that have attempted to develop opportunities for those with little power. I was approached once to run as a school trustee, but was not interested in that life, especially with a young family. My style typically is more diplomatic and questioning, rather than pedantic and being on the podium (family members may have a different opinion!)

I have been formed as much as by what I heard, learned and witnessed, as by what I did not hear. Ours was not a political family, neither parent spoke about politics. But there was a strong current within the larger family of pro-status quo and business. On a few occasions, when young, I was told not to ask so many questions. Paul and I raised our children to be aware of politics and inequalities. Perhaps too much at times, they would remind us.

Now, as an educator of 12- and 13-year olds, I prefer to ask questions and see where kids go with their observations and answers. I am more of a storyteller than a lecturer, I think. I will directly instruct about contentious or difficult issues and then ask students to explore further. By exposing younger people to information about what is going on in this world – good and bad – I am giving them the chance to see beyond what is apparent and certain. Children this age are very passionate about equality and justice – they just need help finding the stories.

Adding to our post is Stephen Hurley. We now have three of our hosts writing about brings them to this podcast.

I’m Stephen Hurley and, after retiring from 30 years of teaching with Ontario’s Dufferin Peel District School Board, I continue to be passionate about the conversations in education.

When it comes to teacher voice, I have some very specific ideas, but I look forward to this voicEd Radio series in order that these ideas might be challenged, deepened and, quite possibly, modified.

I have to admit that I have always resisted any monolithic characterization of voices in education. I bristle when politicians, union leaders and others make blanket statements like, “Teachers believe this” or “our members will actively fight for this.” I understand the efficiency and even the effectiveness of making statements like this but, for me, they undermine the fact that everyone who walks this planet has a unique perspective that is formed over the course of a lifetime by myriad events, experiences and encounters.

I think that, if we’re going to take the idea of teacher voice seriously, especially in the public square, we have to be prepared to make space for the individual stories that give way to a sense of subtlety and nuance. Our current conversations in education, especially at the political level, are not informed by these subtleties and shades of gray.

I look forward to entering into the Class Struggle conversations on which we are about to embark. I look forward to the honesty, the discomfort and even the disagreement that comes from opening up a space like this.

Where is the Political Voice of Educators?

Educators no longer have a political voice and that is a problem.

I have written about this before, but now I propose to do something about that. More on this later.

I am not entirely sure why this is the case. Part of the problem is that most of us work for overly bureaucratic school boards where having a political opinion is anathema. Part of the problem, I think, is that educators have gotten so caught up in their professional discourse that they have forgotten that they still play a public role as opinion leaders in a democratic society.

There is no question that the popular leadership in our society is now played exclusively by the media. This week in Ontario the Globe and Mail is leading the opposition against a corrupt newly elected Progressive Conservative government who sees no problem with selecting underqualified cronies to the top position in the Ontario Provincial Police – see their latest editorial here – Globe editorial: To end the OPP scandal, Doug Ford has to make a U-turn.

The same government seems bent on dismantling new initiatives focusing on indigenous education, after-school programming and in-school tutoring. The earlier assault on the 2015 sex-ed curriculum still remains in effect even after consultations in Ontario overwhelmingly rejected the substitution of the outdated 1998 program. Now it seems the government is considering walking away from the consultation saying that it was ‘flooded by unnamed groups‘.

In the United States, media outlets like CNN and the Washington Post daily speak truth to power as they cover the chaos in the American political system. Today they are tweeting and broadcasting about the American pullout in Syria that has led to the incredible public falling out between Donald Trump and his Defense Secretary James Mattis. If you haven’t seen the astounding interview Wolf Blitzer did with Stephen Miller you really need to witness this.

I listen to lots of podcasts and read my fair share of education blog posts and one thing I can conclude is that teachers are not publically commenting on these stories – with the notable exception of Andrew Campbell. At this point, Andrew is holding the political mantle for all Ontario teachers. There needs to be more public discourse where educators express their opinion on the political issues of the day. There is a notable political vacuum out there.

So, here is my proposal. A weekly political column or podcast by an educator (me) on one political issue that needs more discussion. Maybe I will be alone on my show, maybe it will only air on Sound Cloud, but it needs to be done. I am not saying that I have anything really new to offer to the political debates swirling around us, but educators need to at least express an opinion.

Maybe people will join me, maybe not. No matter, teachers need to exercise their political voice and this needs to be done in a public forum.

The Changing Role of an Educator

This is not a post on how technology is changing life in the classroom. There are already way too many articles on this topic and I am really not all that interested in how Flipgrid is revolutionizing education.

This more about a different path for an educator – me.

I retired as an active educator, a principal almost two years ago. I didn’t retire because I couldn’t do the job anymore. I loved the chaos and energy that came with being an elementary principal. I retired because of the unrelenting pressure put on me by a vindictive school board that was committed to turning me out any time I tried to do something different. The last straw for them had to do with my efforts to update lists of eligible FSL teaching candidates for principals on a Google Doc.

In my last year, I was called into the superintendent’s office for a little ‘talk to’ even before the year started. My resignation letter was a defence against senior officials who were set on intimidation.

This, however, is not the main subject of this post. While I am still angry with the school board, there is nowhere to go with this so I just bury it in a dark place, unresolved.

More positively, I am finding my life as an educator continues. Now I have the wonderful responsibility of looking after my 91-year-old mom who moved to Ottawa from  Montreal at the end of the summer.

mom celebrating her first day in Ottawa!

What a wonderful situation. I am freed up from the day to day struggle of being a public (separate) school principal to focus on the woman who raised me and formed me. What a gift this is.

My mom’s residence is just five minutes from our house. She loves it there. One day I arrived to see her sitting on their lovely broad porch sunning herself in the early autumn sun. Eyes closed, big smile, she was so happy and at peace. She said ‘I just love to be outside’.

After a month in the new wonderful residence, she had a series of falls, one resulting in a fractured hip. The hospital was just a few minutes from the residence and I was able to be there within a few hours of the fall and sat with her as she went through all the preliminaries leading up to an operation to fix the hip.

We were at the Ottawa General, and I can’t say enough about the level of care and respect we receive there. I met at least four doctors before the surgery who carefully explained the procedure to me. The chief of emergency medicine talked to me about a procedure they were about to perform. He was a former student I worked with at Holy Trinity High School when I worked on the school’s leadership camp program. Now, many years later, he is a wonderful kind, gentle man who reassured us that my mom would be ok.

Now a month later, I go to the hospital almost every day. I am meeting with care providers, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They have become our happy medical family and they treat my mom with beautiful dignity and loving care. They have even set her up with a radio she can listen to in the hallway so she doesn’t miss any of the action.

Mom at the Ottawa General. She loves this place and the care she receives is first rate. We love it too!

This is my new life as an educator. Now, I am focusing on just one person and doing my best to support all the medical and health care workers who are helping my mom. It is far from the roles I played in the school system, but I am part of a system and I can see how all these people work together for the care of the elderly.

Family dynamics still play a role in all this. All the members of our family here in Ottawa help out. They visit mom when I need a break. But families are strange. While everyone here is a great help, my one brother living in Toronto refuses to have any contact with any of us and has shut himself off from any information on my mother’s condition. Again, as an educator, this is something I saw when working through difficult family situations. The only difference now is that this is happening within my own family.

Today there are lots of meetings to attend and phone calls to make as we arrange the transition of my mom back to her residence. We have a great, effective team working through this. I was getting emails about the transition as late as 8:30 last night – how great is that!

I am learning lots. We are so fortunate to have such an excellent health care system here in Ontario. We are doubly blessed to have a system that shows so much respect for the elderly.

I love my new role as an educator. I retired into a new role as a caregiver and I feel like I am doing something special.

That deep, dark place recedes more every day. There is so much good out there when you have the opportunity to look for it.

 

Christie Lake Climb for Kids – Linking People, Adventure and a Great Cause

It is really great when a project comes together.

A year ago we came up with the idea for Climb for Kids. The idea was to raise money for a program in Ottawa that is transforming the lives of low-income children throughout the year through recreation and leadership programs – Christie Lake Kids.

A venture like this works really well when you have lots of great community partners. First, we based our model on the wonderful initiative of Shawn Dawson’s – Dream Mountains. For eight years, Shawn led trekking trips to Africa, Nepal and Peru and in the process raised over $1 million for local charities. I had the wonderful privilege to take part in one of these climbs to Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2017. This was truly a transformative event that showed me how you can link adventure up with support for community agencies.

These projects are all about partnership and mutual support. Shawn continues to help us by offering his restaurant Fat Boys as a location for our group fundraisers. He has also helped us with training and is definitely part of our support community.

We also work with a group of travel agencies and businesses including Merit Travel and Exodus Travels along with Great Escape Outfitters and Sail. Merit was our go to travel support who were with us all the way, especially when the group ran into some significant troubles getting to airports in Peru. GEO provided jackets for the group and Sail gave the group discounts on equipment for the trip. Investors Group acted as a corporate sponsor who really helped us with some of our equipment costs.

We also had the wonderful assistance of a group trainer – Shaun Kehoe. Shaun started working with some of the group in February and we continued training with him right up until the beginning of August. His work with us certainly made us stronger for a very tough trek.

On a different level, there were countless sponsors and individual contributors who helped our group raise over $25,000 for CLK. This was $10,000 more than we expected in the first year of this project. A huge success for the first year of Climb for Kids!

Group members preparing for the trek in Peru

The best social enterprises are those with broad community support. Much of our success depends on the social capital we have raised over the past year. Our group of 17 trekkers were supported by hundreds of other people and businesses. We were united in the belief that it is really important to support transformative recreation for low-income kids in Ottawa. This is what binds us all together.

The real success for Climb for Kids lies in developing a legacy of fundraising. Our first year was a great success so now we need to begin work on year 2. We have a trip planned out, again with the assistance of Merit and Exodus. We will  announce the new trip soon and we will start looking for recruits for the second venture to take place in July 2019.

We want to continue to link adventure, fundraising and community into a dynamic social enterprise. As I have written, this is all about people. Our 17 trekkers were so well supported throughout the past year. We will continue developing with wonderful community into year 2. Ultimately, we are supporting kids and that is what makes this all so worthwhile.

We will grow our support, recruit new climbers and sponsors and we will trek again in less than a year. We are empowered by a terrific community.

Now is the time to recognize and thank this wonderful community. We are so grateful and we have gained so much and most importantly, we did all this together!

Getting underway – Vamos!

 

Teachers Stepping Up in Ontario

I did a quick informal survey of edutwitter this morning. I found the usual interesting tweets about education initiatives, conferences and new ideas. I was encouraged to see that teachers, especially in Ontario continue to push back on a number of local and national issues.

This is really important. Educators need to understand that especially if they are active on social media they have a role to play in making statements against policies and practices that are unjust and that need to be opposed.

Yes, all the other Twitter traffic in education is fine, but at a time when there is so much going on in the province and the world, can an educator actually have a public profile and not make statements about what is going on? If an educator doesn’t take a stand are they avoiding an important responsibility?

The issues are so important. VoicEd Radio, Derek Rhodenizer and Debbie Donsky are actively promoting Seven Fallen Feathers through podcasts, tweets and Facebook posts. Because of them, I am reading the book and am horrified by the long history of abuse and injustice against First Nations people that has yet to be resolved in this country. I knew about this sad story, but when you bring it down to single students, it really hits home – a huge shame against individuals and a people.

At the same time, educators are also reacting to the ludicrous actions of the new Conservative Government in Ontario who are unilaterally censoring public Health Curriculum for students, a document that received a full consultation including parents from every school in the province.

Now some people are publically declaring that they will continue to teach about social media, same-sex marriage, consent and other issues vital to the education of our students. As one parent stated – these are issues too important to be left up to parents – we all need to be aware of how these issues are being addressed in the public forum of our schools.

Associated with Seven Fallen Feathers is another issue, the ending of curriculum writing directed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Ontario Government is actively trying to head back to the old days, not only when it comes to Health Curriculum but also how we look at issues surrounding indigenous people in Canada. The blatant ignorance that prevailed up to the recent past is something the current regime wants to return to. All teachers worth their salt need to publically condemn this action.

Teachers teach. It is their vocation. To remain silent at this difficult time is not responsible. It should not be up to a valiant few to protest the actions of the new populist government or to publically examine our shameful history regarding indigenous people. It is the responsibility of all educators.

So, educators, continue to tweet about what you are reading and learning about this summer, but make sure you make yourself heard on social media about the bigger picture. Silence is acquiescence and we don’t do that.

 

A Manifesto for Changing how Canadians can Help People in the Global South

I am writing a series of articles on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. I am doing this because a good organization that has worked very well for change in the Global South is in deep crisis. Times are tough for social justice organizations, and they don’t all survive. They certainly do not survive if they cannot adapt to the changing climate in the 21st century.

Development and Peace was formed in 1967 by the Canadian Catholic Bishops. It was certainly a different time. The organization was based on Pope Paul’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio. In it, he said,

Development is the new word for Peace. Peace cannot be seen simply as the absence of war. It must be built daily, and it must strive towards a more perfect justice among human beings (Populorum Progressio, 76).

This is even truer today. The world is fractured by violence and an increasing amount of hate fueled in large part by the almost daily rantings on social media by leaders like Donald Trump. For true peace, we need intelligent development programs here in Canada.

At the same time, some Canadian dioceses are making the decision to withhold money raised for Development and Peace through the yearly Share Lent collections.

Interesting – they are using the same argument that is causing such a backlash in the Halton Catholic School Board. Apparently, there is pushback by some dioceses that the programs Development and Peace are supporting in the Global South are not ‘Catholic’ enough. This is not progressive, it is not helpful and we need to stay clear of such initiatives.

Since 1967, Canadian Catholic churches have raised money to fund development programs in the Global South and education programs here in Canada. Both are vital. Canadians need to learn more about what effective development looks like. It is simply not good enough to send over shoe boxes with school supplies in the hope that somehow this will lead to effective social change.

Effective change means empowering women, supporting organizations working for democratic reforms, developing local economies and strengthening youth networks. Development and Peace does all this and much more. It deserves the support of all Canadians. However, government support for Development and Peace continues to fall. It is one area that has not recovered from the challenging years of the Conservative Government in Ottawa.

As a result, the organization is cutting back on its support for programs in the Global South and probably education work here in Canada. The traditional funders are pulling back from their responsibility to help others in the wider world.

I worked closely with Development and Peace for six years as a National Council member. I have met many partners from the South who do really effective work to bring about social change. I really think if more people knew about the work of Development and Peace they would support their mission.

What is needed now is some sort of manifesto for change. The need is greater than ever before – but we continue to see a diminishment of organizations like development and Peace.

At the same time, more schools – public and Catholic are teaching about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. This is truly encouraging, but there needs to be an associated outlet for actions coming out of school initiatives. For example, the third goal calls for the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.

Development and Peace is uniquely positioned to do this kind of work.

So what could change look like? Here are a few steps to consider:

  1. gather a group of Canadians with public policy and development experience to reform the organization allowing for more flexibility and growth in the 21st century. Keep its Catholic, democratic roots, but give it a more effective management structure that allows for a national governing body that relies more on development professionals and individuals that can attract funding from various sources.
  2. change the nature of fundraising – Development and Peace has always relied on funding from Canadian Catholic dioceses and the Canadian Government. Having only two sources of funding is unreliable and results in a boom and bust cycle (generally, every three years). One of the primary goals for reform must be to develop a broader base for attracting funds including inviting major funders to sit on the managing body of the organization.
  3. emphasize Canadian over Catholic. Canadians have a real interest in helping others, but there are few organizations that reach out to them with intelligent, effective ways to support people and organizations in the Global South. It is fine to keep the Catholic roots of the organization, but an overreliance on formal Catholic institutions.

Maybe there are more steps to be considered. But right now three would be a great start. Can we really afford not to do our very best to assist the aspirations of people in the Global South who want to bring about change?

Can we turn our attention away from ourselves long enough to make a difference?

I really hope so.

How Can Canadians Get Involved in Supporting our Sisters and Brothers in the Global South? Part II

So, I think it is important to write a follow-up to this week’s post on how to create a more effective organization to connect Canadians to authentic development projects that really aid the Global South.

To me, there is a moral imperative here. That is why I am writing this series. The world is rapidly becoming a colder, more dangerous place. People who want to push aside the ‘other’, whomever that might be seem to have the dominant voice. We really need effective ways of connecting to those in the world who need our support.

So, how do you develop a more effective organization? How do you involve more Canadians in peace and development?

Development and Peace has been around since 1967. It is an arm of the Canadian Catholic Church and most of the people involved have been part of the traditional church structure.

The management structure, virtually unchanged in more than half a century is hierarchical. In this, it models the Catholic Church.

Local priests and parishioners are responsible for raising money for the organization through one big fundraiser – Share Lent – every year.

However, in some jurisdictions, this money is held back by people who feel the money is not being spent on projects that are Catholic enough. In this sense, this is similar to what went on with the Halton Catholic School Board who voted not to allow fundraising for projects and organizations that did not fit their narrow view of what was acceptable according to Catholic values.

This is an organization that has lost its way. Its management structure weighs it down while its reliance on traditional Catholic institutions cuts it off from the majority of Canadians who are open and willing to support intelligent development policies.

The managing structure of Development and Peace is dominated by an elected National Council. While it is noble to have a totally elected board of directors, there is no requirement for these directors to have any management or development experience. Like many boards constituted in this way, they are captive to the managers of the organization. In a very true sense, they are incapable of being independent managers of the organization.

Is there a way out of this well?

There has to be. Development and Peace does excellent development work and they have a great team of talented and experienced program officers who work with partners throughout the year. The organization has always been well-respected by the Canadian Government and receives millions of dollars every year to support their partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For any organization to survive for 50 years is a challenge. For an organization to thrive, however, it needs to question itself and look for ways to remain vital and relevant.

Development and Peace is in need of renewal. Canadians need a more effective organization to channel their resources to those in dire need. At a time of such darkness, a little more light is needed.

The question is, will they have the courage to make the necessary changes.