Would you sign a 10-year phone contract?

Teacher argues against long-term bargaining for the classroom.

Dear editor,

Sitting at my school’s graduation this year was lovely and emotional and everything you hope for when you are a high school teacher; a beautiful and poignant send-off of children to become successful and productive adults.

But (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming), during the ceremony the valedictorian said something I found quite profound. She said, “Most of us were in grade 1 in our first week of school when the tragedy of 9/11 happened.”

And it hit me. What a world these children have had to grow up in. A world of fear, constant world tensions and the inundation of security, intrusion and general societal paranoia. A world where distrust and an overabundance of precautions are now the norm.

And then the other shoe dropped for me. The government I work for wants to lock in a contract with B.C. teachers for 10 years. I am by no means suggesting the tragedy of 9/11 is the same as our contract struggle — not at all.

I just would suggest that we look at how much the world has changed since then and how changes in B.C. education that will be required in the next 10 years will be significantly thwarted if we don’t have a school system and a collective agreement that will be flexible and adaptive to students’ and teachers’ needs.

The world is changing. So is education. And while we call for a system that will be adaptive to 21st century needs, we are being told labour peace is the benefit of a 10-year deal. But what about the needs of a system to evolve? A 10-year deal thwarts and throttles that because so much cannot be negotiated for 10 years.

Of course I’d like labour peace, but to suggest a 10-year deal is good for B.C. is much like suggesting we all should just stick with the automobile we have now and not get a new one if the current one no longer runs or is fixable or needs new tires.

If asking to keep up with the cost of living and having contract rights that were illegally (not rhetoric here folks, but court-determined) returned is considered greedy, then yes, I am greedy.

If asking for the government of B.C. to respect both students AND teachers in this province by funding education (and yes, gasp, perhaps raise taxes to do it) is the stuff of pipe-dreams, then call me a smoker.

I notice that each year my municipal taxes go up. I don’t like it, but I understand it, because I know that my roads need to be fixed, that the police and firemen in my municipality deserve to keep up with inflation and items like this must be funded.

But somehow fundamentally our provincial government has gone to such a neo-conservative extreme that even the words “tax increase” are seen as heretical.

As we all were discussing in the staff room before the school year ended, nobody would sign a 10-year cell phone deal, why would we do it with our children’s future? And our careers?

Colin Plant, teacher

Saanich