Role models missing

Only lessons B.C.’s students are learning is grandstanding, bullying and inflexibility

Role models can be make or break for a child and the person they become.

With a strong adult influence, a child learns about right and wrong, contributing to society and  accepting responsibility. Without that guidance, the life journey is challenging and unclear.

But while parents are critical to how children evolve, there are others who are key to setting positive examples — specifically, elected officials and teachers. But as we have seen in B.C., the last few weeks have been less then stellar for both sides.

We have a provincial government that claims it would sit down and negotiate but wouldn’t budge even the slightest from its salary position. Negotiations only work when both sides are flexible, and isn’t compromise a fundamental we teach even the youngest child when trying to alleviate conflict?

When teachers legally pursued job action,  the government crafted legislation forcing an end to strikes and imposing restrictions on the terms of a yet-to-be mediated settlement. It’s not much different than a child throwing a tantrum and storming off the field with the ball because he doesn’t like the score.

And when debate in the Legislature apparently took too long, the government used its majority to halt discussion so it could ram back-to-work legislation through. What students can learn from this is that democracy is a terrific system until it gets in the way.

Now as for the teachers, they argue that the needs of children and their education are at the root of everything they are fighting for. But if class size and composition are truly a priority, why has the B.C. Teachers Federation continued to demand a 15 per cent wage hike? It’s given the government spin-doctors something to grasp on to, and it’s completely unrealistic when many students have parents whose jobs have been cut back or they have experienced a wage freeze.

But perhaps the most troubling development is the decision by teachers to withdraw from extracurricular activities over their frustration with the government.

That means teachers will no longer be making themselves available for after-hours sports or clubs. Such a move also places planning for graduation ceremonies in question.

It’s these programs, and not math class, that create the memories students will carry with them for the rest of their lives. In some cases, it is sports that may prevent a less-than-average student from dropping out.

As volunteers, teachers are within their right to walk away from extracurricular activities because clubs and teams aren’t part of the job. But by doing so, it’s not going to impact Education Minister George Abbott or force him to reconsider his stance. The only ones who will be hurt are students, and the lesson they are learning is personal relationships sometimes get cast aside.

At some point, both the government and the union have lost sight of the bottom line which is ensuring students have access to quality education.

Until both sides abandon the rhetoric and parochialism, the only lessons B.C.’s students will learn is grandstanding, bullying and inflexibility.

But most of all, they will get a harsh dose of disappointment.