Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!

When in Doubt, Blame Unions

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
When in Doubt, Blame Unions


Our friends over at Openfile (yay! someone on the local media scene is even newer than we are!) published some gratuitous union-bashing commentary by education consultant Paul W. Bennett yesterday. Bennett says public schools aren’t doing enough to integrate modern technology in the classroom, especially the things kids are most fond of, like  Facebook and smartphones.

The guilty parties, according to Bennett, don’t seem to be the school board or the Department of Education, both of whom have technology integration programs he apparently disapproves of. Nope, it’s the big bad Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, a “powerful organization representing 9,800 teachers” that holds “invisible influence” over the way technology is (not) implemented in schools.

Bennett backs up this accusation with…um, nothing. He links to a long, general anti-union report by the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies which mentions the word “technology” exactly once (I ctrl-F’ed it), and then references the union’s recent collective agreement, which he claims “put[s] teachers ahead of kids in the system.“ 

There are no quotes from anyone at the NSTU, no link to any news articles, press releases, position papers, nothing. But you know, unions are bad. And as every parent knows, teachers as a breed are very selfish people, never giving up lunch hours or after-school time to coach teams, direct musicals, run clubs, give extra help, or talk to kids and their parents about their problems.

Improvements could certainly be made in the way technology is used in many classrooms – use varies by subject and by individual teacher. But although kids of course need to learn to navigate the high-tech world around them, sometimes the last thing I want to do is stick them in front of a computer screen for yet another hour of the day.

Want kids to learn better? Want them to gain the life skills like critical thinking and problem-solving, essential for mastering all that new technology (much of which will be obsolete by the time any curriculum gets around to absorbing it)? Then give teachers smaller classes and the time and resources to do our jobs well (like they do in Finland) - the kind of things teachers' unions are known to fight for.

Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
363 words


on blaming unions

In my persnal experience, the people who blame unions for problems cause by others are often the ones who step on others as they attempt to climb the ladder of capitolism and power over. Therefore, Bennet's union bashing as reported in this article raises very large questions about the assumptions informing his consultation report and who will actually benefit should his viewpoint be adapted.

I'm looking forward to further analysis at bsichel's blog... and am glad someone is keeping an eye out on what's happening in our schools....

Here's an interesting article

Here's an interesting article that argues against using technology as a tool in the classroom, at least for young children.


"Why Are Silicon Valley Executives Sending Their Kids to a Tech-Free School?" by Liz Dwyer



Thwarting OnLine Learning

The overheated responses to my recent OpenFile Halifax commentary make me wonder whether the critics are actually commenting about that piece or are referring to some other "rant." Where in that Opinion column is there any "teacher-bashing" or even a hint of some "capitalistic" agenda? That's a real stretch!

Students are hungering for online learning and to gain access to the Internet they are, in many schools, compelled to go around the corner to a "free zone" outside of the education system. Surely this connot continue much longer...

The key questions considered in the piece are: Why are schools still in "locked-down" mode?  Why are Virtual Schools simply off-limits in Nova Scotia?

One of those factors is the Nova Scotia Teachers Collective Agreement which, according to the latest Annual Report on the State of Online Learning (Wayne State University), is the most restrictive of any province, limiting access to "seat time" in regulated classes within the instructional day. That Agreement limits how, when, and where students and teachers can access the Internet for teaching and learning purposes. (It's not a he said/she said matter)

You make a fair point in saying that the NSTU should not be held fully responsible for this because the MOE and the NSSBA are complicit in supporting that regulatory regime, limiting the potential of online learning in NS schools. The BCTF has shown far more flexibility in developing with BC Ed a new set of guidelines allowing far more utilization of the Internet and  taking a far more enlightened approach to "virtual schooling."

I still find it puzzling why the NSELC is promoting the "21st Century Skills" agenda (the Superintendents, MOE,, NSTU, and NSSBA consortium ) when they are actually supporting a regulatory regime that conspires against booth online learning and virtual schools.

To raise such critical issues seems to spark defensive reactions.  Let me assure you that many regular classroom teachers share my concerns but do not feel comfortable voicing them in public. My commentaries are mine and mine alone, giving me the freedom to raise uncomfortable matters.




The site for the Halifax local of The Media Co-op has been archived and will no longer be updated. Please visit the main Media Co-op website to learn more about the organization.