Recently, Canadians have demonstrated much chest beating in our staunch defence of the "freedom of speech". Especially the right to draw cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad it seems. Also in letting everyone everywhere know that we aren't afraid of terrorists, even if it means joining a war we know nothing about. On the home front, we have also proudly launched an "anti-bullying" offensive guaranteeing our "right to safety". Indeed, in Ontario, laws now exist to protect both teachers and students from assaults, threats and bullying, so our schools can be safe places of learning for all.
Unfortunately the underlying problems are a usually a lot more deep running and systemic than that. Far too often much of what we are really hearing at school from those in charge in all cases is "do what we say, not what we do". When we consider the behaviour of the very officials and administrators who should be enforcing these rights from on high, one must wonder: how can we lead by example as teachers, school workers, and staff when we are often bullied and afraid to really speak out ourselves? And if we can't then how can we expect the students to learn to speak and stand up for these rights too?
Four news links from my January Teacher Free Speech News + Views blog especially highlight my unease:
A Canadian survey of student classroom assaults against teachers shows that they are widespread across the country and go largely unreported. Why aren't victims speaking out? Why aren't the laws being enforced? Why aren't our school boards and unions clearly + forcefully standing up to protect us? More @ Open Season!
At the OECTA union offices a non elected "Personnel Committee" goes against the decision of a member duly elected provincial executive to renew the contract for a controversial General Secretary. Everyone is reportedly afraid to speak out or discuss the situation when asked about it. Who is really in charge then? What credibility is there that anyone really enjoys freedom of speech or from bullying within the teacher representative association? More @ Sun
In Toronto Ontario, Education Minister Liz Sandals issues a scathing report on TDSB Director and trustee abuse of public money, powers and trust. It highlights the "administrative culture of fear" within the school board to speak out against let alone report abuses to the ministry without fear of job loss or other retribution! If the MOE has passed laws against bullying and intimidation but school board staff are afraid to discuss or report these to the MOE itself, what credibility does the Safe School Act and our Health + Safety Laws have in practice? For admin? Teachers? Students? Parents? More @ TDSB
In Toronto, a TDSB school principal reports that "My students are afraid of getting shot!". One might ask how safe the principal is at the school too? If principals aren't confident that they can protect the students and teachers in their care, than who's really in charge or for that matter safe at the school? More @ Toronto Life
One strongly senses that these huge problems are only the tip of the iceberg! Dollars to donuts they also run deep and rampant throughout many of our educational organizations and institutions here in Ontario and across Canada. These recent cases show that we often don't truly feel free and safe to speak out in either the public or separate Ontario school systems against abuse. Considering the all affiliate teacher discussions on my site of the 2012-13 MOE debacles, I dare also say within all of our teacher + school worker unions too, including AEFO, ETFO, OSSTF and CUPE if the truth be known.
Grass root educators can well worry that our very own "freedom of speech" and the "right to safety" are but empty buzzwords. How can we expect to teach our students by example without our own backs being covered? If we are not safe as teachers, then how can our students be? Moreover, what are they really seeing and learning in practice about safety and free speech in such a hypocritical bind? Regretfully, the real message often being sent out is "do as we say, not as we do". Systemic abuse continues to run deep within the actions if not the words being so proudly and adamantly exercised with abandon in our brave new world of the 21st century. For shame and a poxy on all our schools!
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