“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
We've had a a big week in Education. The homework is piling up.
OK then ! Let's recap this bad boy.
In Nova Scotia teachers are represented by a union led by president Liette Doucet. After their latest contract ran out they went in to negotiations with the Nova Scotia government led by premier Stephen McNeil and education minister Karen Casey.
You see the government came in on a mandate of good communication, fair dealing and working with unions. But somehow, after a short time in office, morphed into a kind of 'austerity' regime that has not been... pleasant to deal with.
Now there's lots to catch up on!
With a Golum-like fixation on the provincial treasury (precious!), and mistaking it for the economy of Nova Scotia, the Liberal government started to come up with all kinds of things that weren't in the script, er, policy platform mandate.
You know the list of surprises. Cuts to social services, health care, creative industries, pharmacare, and the most random stuff. Plus... economic development run amok. But, weird, the thing most people note is how much this government seems to feel like the last, and the one before that. Different details. Same disappointments.
So, when the teacher negotiation came up the government pressed the union to the wall and pushed hard... and the union gave in... but um, wait, the teachers didn't. The teachers said no, you don't understand, something is REALLY wrong in the education system and we can't keep quiet about it any more.
I know! Cray cray right!?
Now, really, we shouldn't have needed the teachers to tell us the education system is broken. It's freaking obvious. If they were canaries and this were a coal mine... well, it would be bad. And it's been bad for a long time... well, bad for some kids... and just not good enough for most. Our schools are not providing the kind of education we need to prepare our society for the future and it shows.
So, anyway, the negotiations started again. And the union gave in again and the teachers... well nothing changed for them... they said again... dudes... something's wrong here and you REALLY have to pay attention to it... "IT"... like, now.
But that wasn't enough... #notlistening #echochamber ...after running out of years of runway the union and the government ran out of time and the teachers said... dudes, there is really something wrong here... and... you're going to have to compensate us to keep putting up with it (IT) and taking the fall for it.
So let's talk turkey about bringing home the bacon. The government said what the teachers wanted would cost 5 gagillion dollars.
Would it? Is that a big number?
First the government quoted the number over the life of the contract instead of yearly, which is the way we talk about all our budget stuff. So, divide by 4. Then they exaggerated it by half. So divide by 2. Then they compared it to giving the teachers NO increase, so subtract off whatever the basic increase the most miserly austerity person might like. Then remember that the money is going to NS labour so subtract off another 20%-30% that the teachers will turn aorund and pay right back in taxes. Is it still a big number? For gracious sake someone do the math!
But no amount of money fixes IT. The money just pays the techers to deal with IT. This is the mystery of the piece because, for most folks, the "it" remains undefined or ill-understood. ( You're really going to have to go the secret sites to read more about this. You're not going to find it in the papers, radio or TV... )
But, hey... we all want the same thing and, instead of being jerks and going on strike the teachers said they'd Work To Rule, which is a pretty good tactic for drawing attention to all the extra great stuff they do without bringing the whole province to a screeching grinding halt. #teamunion
Then the government lost its mind. #teammcneil They said that if teachers only did their jobs children would DIE... death, danger, destruction!
(That wasn't true. But hey...)
So Saturday they closed the children out of the schools.
Now that got some people wondering. Can the Minister of Education do that? Well, I mean she did it, but isn't keeping kids out of school kind of the opposite of her job? We even blew the dust off the education act and read it and it turned out she probably didn't have the authority to do the thing she did.
So, um... that was awkward.
That was Saturday. That was dumb. And it was a big distraction.
Now it's Monday, and the only thing that REALLY happened is the government became clear on the fact that what they did on Saturday was wrong. #obfuscate #dissembling
You see the government's PR people and bureaucratic ideologues thought that they could make it seem like they were on the high ground of child safety, and at the same time make it look like the union's work action forced the children out of school. So then they could sweep in with back to work action and be done with the whole thing. And be heroes.
But it didn't work.
The thinkers out-thought themselves. The plot became too twisted. It wasn't that people couldn't follow. They, the audience, the public, just didn't want to. AND... there's a juicy rumour out there that some of the backbench Liberal MLA's didn't want to either... SCANDAL in NS politics. But really... how many times can you be made to look like a chump and take it? And you could hear the boos from the cheap seats all the way down to Hollis Street.
Then the premier called in sick. Cause... urghhhh... he clearly hates his job...
Then the house leader Michel Sampson, looking like a man diffusing a nuclear bomb in a sauna went out to say .... something... and then the minister tried to invent a time machine using like cardboard boxes and stuff.
(It didn't work)
And everybody marched around and nobody believed anything.
But eventually the lights came back on and the smoke cleared and everybody was OK and nothing had changed and we were back to where we were on Friday...
Maybe the time machine did work... except several more people look like fools than on the real Friday.
So let's talk about this!
See, last week Liette talked to everyone about the work to rule. But then on Saturday Karen talked to everyone and said no one talked to her. And she had talked to some unnamed, unaccountable bureaucrats and they talked her into the idea that all this talk was DANGEROUS and children would DIE. Which, when you talk about it, makes no sense... but STOP IT, that doesn't matter. Then everybody talked to everybody and got really mad and Liette said she did talk to Karen. Then on Monday morning Karen talked to the media and said she talked to Liette but Liette said they didn't talk until Karen talked.
Now, hang on... I've still got the talking stick... and it's a big one!
Then the media asked Karen if she talked to the premier and if they talked about this being not OK. They were all talking like... "What's your damage Karen?" And Karen said... well, she wasn't talking... she said that the media would have to talk to Stephen, but Stephen wasn't in a talking mood at that moment either - in fact, Stephen was MIA! Yikes. Still, Karen talked about talking but really no one in government was talking to the media and they all just walked away pofaced. Then the Premier didn't talk to anyone until he talked to Steve Murphy and everyone remembered how it was just a couple months ago that Stephen talked to a reporter in a harsh tone about how he wouldn't talk about negotiations with the media. It made his line of talk seem kind of... inconsistent. Then everybody was talking about how everything was all talk. And by the end of the day everyone was tired of talking.
And that's that... we're done...
No, wait... there's more...
See the teachers still don't have a contract and I forgot to say that the government has this plan to impose back-to-work style legislation that would prevent public sector workers from striking thereby pretty much making our whole system messed up.
Now what happens?
On the main story here's what eventually will 100% for sure happen no matter how much other silly buggers happens in between...
Government and the teachers union will come to an agreement that teachers will accept. Under our current system and boiling point public sentiment ( 212 F / 100 C) there is simply no other possible outcome. So, though everyone is huffing and puffing we might as well just settle down and get to that... like now.
But what about the subplots?
- Will the Education Minister resign?
- How much can the house leader sweat this out?
- Will the government make new labour laws?
- Will the premier become the angriest bird?
- Will there be more protests?
- Will there be more embarrassing media?
- Will the government fall or fall apart?
- Will Karen Casey's evil twin appear?
- Will a love triangle develop?
- Will people continue to talk?
- Will there be more hilarious misunderstandings?
It. doesn't. matter!
The only thing that matters is how soon we can get to a place to get at what the teachers are REALLY talking about and how we can create a new education system fitted to the shape of things to come.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.