48 Remembrance Day Assemblies

Schools, Politics and Other Stuff

Those who think public school’s most important function is to impart information need to look a little deeper into what schools teach kid, culture and  country.

Remembrance Day assemblies teach Canadian children how to observe Remembrance Day.

They did it well for me – 48 times.

After each of these 48 occasions, I came away from each with a sense of pride, in the contribution of our Canadian soldiers, but also in the appropriate respect with which our young people have learned to  treat this day.

Some assemblies were a bit melodramatic, some a bit schmaltzy, some a bit maudlin, and some (especially in High Schools) missed the Remembrance theme among anti-war songs and sentiment. (Ten minutes of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Imagine” by John Lennon can do that)

But in all 48 Remembrance Day assemblies I watched or organized, teachers and students showed such earnest respect for…

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Some Tough Words for BC’s Principals and Trustees

Some Tough Words for BC’s Principals and Trustees.

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Letter From The Premier

The Office of the Premier,
501 Belleville Street,
Victoria, B.C.
V8V 1X4

Dear Visa;

I am writing in response to your recent invoice, which states that my Visa bill has been overdue since 2002, allegedly to the tune of $275 million dollars per year, or $35,000,000.000 over the past 13 years.

As I explained in 2002, since I incurred this debt, I have changed my mind. I didn’t want to spend that money. As I’ve made clear to you in the past, I have decided not to pay this bill. It’s too much money and I won’t be paying it.

My lawyer, Mr. Fassbender has also told you several times that I won’t be paying, and my accountant Mr. Cameron, has explained that any money I owe you can only be paid on a net zero basis; made up in savings from other parts of my contract with Visa.

Despite the two court judgments you have that say I’m required to pay, I must repeat; I’m not paying. What is it you don’t understand about “I’m not paying”?

I must also say I find your demands ridiculous and your ongoing intransigence in negotiating about this matter disappointing.

$35,000,000? Where will I find that kind of money?
That’s way outside the little “affordability” circle I recently made up.

Besides, I’ve already given the money to friends and private credit card companies.

I am operating under a very strict balanced budget that does not include money for this kind of inconsequential nonsense.

I know it’s not the real Visa workers that are unreasonable – the average Visa worker would accept my explanation because they actually love their customers. It’s just a few management radicals that are forcing employees to be so continuously demanding and militant.

They’ve always had it in for customers who don’t pay their Visa invoices. I think most British Columbians would agree with me on that.
If you don’t believe me, listen to C.K.N.W. sometime.
The GVMF (Greedy Visa Management Force) is militant, radical and greedy and you don’t like your customers. It’s always all about you, isn’t it?
You say it’s about your customers, but it’s really about your always wanting more for yourselves.

I have offered Visa an emergency fund of 65 million dollars to make up for the amount owing. I would control the fund and I have promised to be fair in its allocation – what could possibly go wrong?

I find your unwillingness to accept my offer disappointing and not in the best interest of Visa customers and British Columbians.

As a result, I’ve instructed my team to persistently vilify Visa in the media and I am reducing the interest I pay Visa by 10%, effective immediately.

I have filed appeals to the two court rulings against me. I will continue to appeal as necessary and I assure you; you will never get one dime from me unless you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

Angrily, Christy Clark

cc Mastercard; American Express; Sears Canada; Treo Tolls

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The L.R.B. Ruling and B.c.’s Anti Teacher Dream Team

Posted on June 10, 2014 by jimnelson806

L.R.B. – A big Win For the Anti –Teacher Dream Team

Having fought the teachers virtually single handedly for the past twelve years, Premier Christy Clark now has impressive reinforcements to help her in her battle against B.C.’s teachers. Nothing demonstrates her new team’s commitment and talent more than their recent big win at the Labour Relations Board that says government can dock teacher’s pay over and above the lost salary they lose on strike days.

The ruling was a much-needed Liberal “win “ in the ongoing battle against teachers. It gives government a free hand to dock teacher’s pay as much as they feel appropriate.

For teachers, it’s just another lash, part of a continuing twelve-year flogging.

But for the government, consensus bargaining meanies after repeated court censure for bargaining in bad faith, the ruling was crucial; it is the first institutional sanction of their actions.

The ruling not only helps resurrect a tarnished public image, it’s also an invaluable future cudgel, to goad teacher’s into a strike which will save the government money, outrage talk show hosts, and help convince a long suffering public that teachers have been the problem all along, as we’ve always suspected.

So this L.R.B. ruling begs the question;

If you were a government whose bargaining strategies had been serially censured by international, national and provincial judiciaries, would you have rolled the dice on being indicted once more by the B.C.’s Labour relations Board?

No, you wouldn’t – unless you had a pretty good idea what the outcome was going to be; and Ms. Clark’s anti teacher dream team knew.

Whether the fix was in at the L.R.B. , or whether past labour experience assured a strategy that assured victory, is a moot point – the government knew going in that they would win this one.

Salary cutting retribution is a further example of the startling depth of Premier Clark’s malevolence towards teachers. But winning the L.R.B. ruling shows more than just how much Premier Clark hates teachers, it also demonstrates the experience and skill of a team capable and willing to develop diabolical labour relations strategies.

Finally, Ms. Clark has assembled an effective anti teacher dream team; a posse with the skill, the will and experience to effectively operationalize the Premier’s vendetta against teachers.

B.C.’s Anti Teacher Dream Team Christy Clark

It might, as some bloggers insist, be a result of a Freudian dislike of her teacher father. It could be lingering resentment over S.F.U.’s stripping her of her election as student president due to alleged unfair campaign practices. Whatever it is, it’s clear – Christy Clark doesn’t like teachers.

She has singlehandedly waged a war on teachers and public education since 2002, the year of the original sin; her contract stripping bill 22. Except for a brief sabbatical as a CKNW talk show host (when the lone negotiated teacher’s contract was signed), Ms. Clark has set the tone in the province’s fight against teachers to the point that she has lost credibility as even a supporter of public education.

But she needed help in her fight. She needed other voices to battle teachers, so she could remain above the fray,concerned, just like the long suffering public, as if a salary cut and ignoring Supreme Court rulings had nothing to do with her.

“Both sides should grow up and negotiate a settlement,” says Premier Clark. She now favours locking both sides in a room until they reach a settlement.

Peter Fassbender Now heading up public relations for the dream team is Education Minister Peter Fassbender. The seemingly reasonable Fassbender cut his political teeth as a School Trustee in Langley in the 1970’s; a school board reknowned as one of the loopiest and most regressive, school boards in B.C. The Langley School Board championed “fundamental schools” and banning books. Trustee Fassbender favoured the return of corporal punishment to the schools and was outwardly anti union;

“ The B.C.T.F. should clean up its act and stay out of education… “

We can all evolve in our beliefs, but Minister Fassbender’s words and actions show he has not evolved from his regressive Langley roots ; rather, he’s just polished his presentation a bit.

He’s smooth, seems reasonable, always regretful that the B.C.T.F. won’t be reasonable. The statesman’s veneer however, is thin and getting thinner.

Mr. Fassbender brings an urbane suit and political flair to the Premier’s team. He’s “looking out” for the taxpayer; trying so hard to crack the shell of a union that everyone knows can’t get along with anyone.

Peter Cameron

B.C.P.S.E.A.’s chief negotiator against the teachers, Peter Cameron gets the credit for this recent L.R.B. victory.

Remember how puzzled we all were at the seemingly confusing “lockout” conditions imposed by the government?

The partial lockout strategy was the brainchild of Mr. Cameron, drawn from his vast experience in labour negotiating and dealing with the L.R.B.

He began as a union labour representative (CAIMAW) and in 1992, was appointed Deputy Health minister in the 1992 N.D.P. government

He’s looked at life from both sides now and much prefers representing the management side of labour disputes, where he operates more freely, without having to worry about the pesky rank and file.

There’s nothing worse than a reformed smoker, and Mr. Cameron’s turn away from labour has hardened him as an adversary of the teachers.

Mr. Cameron is a veteran of the L.R.B. and teachers are woefully inexperienced, compared with the years of union and company squabbles Mr. Cameron has fought for and against.

Mr. Cameron’s lockout strategy with teachers came from a similar situation ( the Pascar ruling 1989) when he was furious that a company successfully used a similar lockout strategy against the union he was representing.

Clearly define the work day, explain how teachers are doing less work than usual and poof, you win at the L.R.B. Peter Cameron knew how to win at the L.R.B. because it had been done to him years earlier.

He knew they would win the judgment ; especially since he knew he had this next dream team ally refereeing at the L.R.B.

Brent Mullin

Labour leaders collectively groaned when Premier Clark re- appointed the anti labour L.R.B. chair shortly after she became premier.

Mr. Mullin’s ten year L.R.B, chairmanship has seen B.C.’s labour code continuously amended in management’s favour.

Mr. Mullin’s regime has made it easier for companies to fight unions and has also been inappropriately partisan, publically criticizing the economic policies of the N.D.P. Mr. Mullin.

B.C. is now the only jurisdiction in North America that doesn’t have both business and labour members on its labour relations board. B.C’.’s Labour Relations Board was an early model in North America, a vision of Bill King, Labour Minister to the Barrett government in the seventies.

The Board has gone south under Mr Mullin’s anti labour judgments, but the Labour Relations Board is still regarded as impartial by some, so their rulings give anti teacher strategies an air of institutional credibility.

In his role as the Russian judge, Brent Mullin is an invisible but invaluable member of Premier Clark’s anti teacher dream team.

And it may get worse….

Premier Clark’s anti teacher dream team has the polish, the experience, and the demonstrated amorality to fight and fight dirty.The division of labour is clear and focused,;

Minister Fassbender doing everything he can to paint the B.C.T.F. as unreasonable, while Peter Cameron searches for labour precedents that he can use to stick it to teachers.

With the L.R.B. chair in their pocket, and the media., led by C.K.N.W. chanting anti teacher rhetoric, things look bleak for teachers.

They have embraced the Premier’s “from my cold dead hand “ attitude and will not be deterred in this fight.

Don’t be surprised to see a different judge hear the government’s contract stripping appeal this fall, a judge much more friendly to the government. They may well win the appeal, the coup de grace the dream team will work night and day to deliver this victory.

Don’t underestimate the depth of Premier Clark’s determination to punish teachers and public education.

The anti teacher dream team’s only Kryptonite, is public opinion. Teachers have hard earned goodwill capital to spend and they have social media.

Past that they have each other, and their determination to save public education in B.C.

Follow Jim Nelson on Twitter – “@jimnelson806” Or his blog ; “Schools, Politics, and Other Stuff</p     Share this: Facebook2Twitter3EmailLinkedIn1GoogleMore

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The Tri-City News – NELSON: Drop ‘dry’ from the name and the aim of dry grads

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Teachers Are Heroes

Schools, Politics and Other Stuff

Teachers Are Heroes

When was the last time you heard a real testimonial about school teachers?
It’s time for one, because for our country’s teachers, it’s often a long time between positive strokes.

I feel about teachers the way some, (admittedly jingoistic) Americans feel about their armed forces. They are heroes.

The job teachers do for our country is impossibly challenging and heroic. They struggle daily against immeasurable odds: bureaucratic trivia, egregious political interference, daily increasing professional demands , low salaries, public criticism and general under – appreciation. It is incredible to me that they come back each day, to help our children grow and learn. Teachers are legitimately heroic in what they do for our country.

“ Oh, Come on”, you’re laying it on a bit thick. My son’s teacher ignores bullying and the Principal wastes money on … (fill in the blank)- and they get two months off…

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Private Schools Miss the Mark


The argument about how many sheckels private schoolers should pay to support their school choice is beside the point. The real  point is that public education will quickly deteriorate and fade if people are given any money at all to separate their kids from whatever they see as the riff raff or heathen of society.

Oh they’ll protest that that’s not it, but it is.

Private and Charter Schools have destroyed the American Public school system.The U.S.  system is two tiered. When a Chicago mayor closes dozens of public   schools,there is little uproar, because so many Americans – the richer ones with a voice, have their kids ensconced in private schools, so they oppose public education funding, teachers, and teacher’s unions.

If private schools offered a better education for those who can afford it , it would bad enough;  but they don’t even do that.  Private schools worship a false God. They, and the parents who enrol their kids there, buy into the false notion that competition, high stakes testing, rigour, uniforms, homogeneity, and compliance are what good schools push. Higher test scores are their measure of success. They’re wrong.

The Finnish school  miracle proves something just the opposite; that it is equity of experience, less competition, and an unshakeable community respect and commitment to public education and teachers that best promotes student learning and happiness ( if we care at all about that self esteem crap )

Private schools are taking us in  the wrong educational direction, and they will destroy public education in Canada as they have in the U.S.

The main reason we, in B.C. do so well in international measures is that we have shreds of a perennial commitment to equality in educational opportunity and because we have resisted the accountability movement and the test score overseer that reduces learning to a meaningless Fraser Institute rating.

And for those private schoolers who point to asian education models of rigour, testing, longer school days, and lots of pressure as the reason asian students do well, think again.

Finnish students score higher on international measures and their students have 20% less face time than Canadian students and almost no homework.  Korean students also do well on international measures , but their success is not due to their school’s hellish hours and exhorting of kids towards high grades. What Finnish and Korean schools have in common is a cultural reverence for education, the belief that education is the most important of society’s commitments. This is instilled in their children and is expressed to their teachers, who are well trained, well respected and well paid.

Private schools and home schooling rob children of that which is most important about growing up in schools – assessing and developing one’s relationship with a real world, with real diversity, with dumb kids and smart kids , those of little means and some who aren’t so nice or have special needs. Kids need this – not from mom or dad but in a safe place,away  from their parent’s world.

I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with parents worlds, it’s just that kids don’t or shouldn’t, develop on the dotted lines of their parents. A surreptitiously spectated  public school experience with as little intervention as possible, combined with good parental role modelling at home is a better recipe for children’s growth and learning than is over- parenting and insistence that kids grow up and learn to compete too fast – they have lots of time before they need to stress about mortgages and beating down the other guy in the business world.

Keeping kids at home, in the nunnery, or with the creme de la creme, is not only disastrous to the public schools it’s not as good for   the kids being home schooled or Crofton Housed.

Jim Nelson,

Port Moody

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Come On Gary



Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail recently wrote an op-ed entitled “ B.C. Teachers Go Back to War.” (Globe and Mail , Feb. 5th. I eagerly read it, having always enjoyed Gary Mason’s stuff and, as a retired public school Principal on a bloated public pension, (which is apparently ruining the Canadian economy), I’m still interested in the travails of B.C. education. 

But I finished the article feeling as if I had just read a column delineating General Custer’s gross inhumanity while placing equal blame on the Indians.

The column contains a good chronology and analysis of twelve years of questionable bargaining practices by the government and its team. 

Mr. Mason explains the government’s contract-stripping legislation in 2002 and 2012; both ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In addition, he clearly explains how Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin judged that Government bargaining strategy had been to goad teachers to strike in order to drum up public and political support for back to work legislation.

He also lucidly explains why teachers have never trusted the Liberal government and how they have proven unworthy of trust in the future. He correctly points out that the government’s main bargaining goal  “ten years of labour peace” given their behaviour, is now “laughable.”

One would think that having so completely impeached the government’s behaviour in bargaining with educators that Mr. Mason might be willing to conclude that B.C.’s twelve-year “battle” in education was caused by the unconstitutional, dishonest, and unethical behaviour of the government. The inescapable conclusion of Mr. Mason’s facts is that there wasn’t a twelve-year battle in education, but a twelve-year, one sided, drubbing.

That’s what his article proved; but it wasn’t what his article said.

 Not content to indict the government’s behaviour in bargaining with teachers, Mr. Mason, felt it necessary to “tell the other side” of the story; how the B.C.T.F. is equally culpable in the education “battle”. He offered considerably fewer facts to substantiate this part of the piece.

He says that for years, teachers were partially responsible for “ utter intransigence at the bargaining table.” One could be forgiven for thinking that it’s difficult not to be partially intransigent when one is offered zero, zero, and zero, or legislated back to work, or goaded into strike action. In fact, educators did accept contracts totaling 8 years; the five-year “Olympics” labour piece deal, 2006 until 2011 (for less than the cost of living), and of course, net zero for 2011, 2012, and 2013, only accepted in order to avoid punitive back to work legislation: hardly intransigent.

Mr. Mason also says that the B.C.T.F. has been a proxy for the N.D.P. for years. Is it surprising that educators might tend not to support B.C.Liberals , given the treatment they have received by successive Liberal governments; treatment that both the Supreme Court and Mr. Mason outline in such damning detail?

 Mr. Mason then indicts the B.C.T.F. for saying that it would take hiring 6,600 teachers to return B.C to the average Canadian student teacher ratio. 

“Where does all this money come from?” he says, implying that teachers are somehow responsible for the deterioration of B.C.’s public education system. I’m sure Mr. Mason was just as vigilant during the twelve years of education bleed –  “ hey, where are all these cut jobs going to”?

And what kind of a title is “B.C. Teachers Go Back To War”? Is that what we are to glean from a piece whose factual information not only indicts the government’s behaviour but simultaneously explains teacher resistance over the years.

 Gary Mason doesn’t usually have a blind spot on issues; he does on education.

He shows it with statements such as, “ Jim Iker… doesn’t seem like a hardened idealogue, there to push one agenda and one agenda only: complete control over all things education in B.C.”  That’s anger, and yellow journalism. 

Mr. Mason directs his acrimony towards the B.C.T.F. not teachers, a device used to great affect by those who like to allow people a target other than good old Mrs. McGilicuddy the grade six teacher; it’s the evil union not teachers who are unreasonable.

And he throws in the mandatory “pox on both your houses” statement – another anti- teacher cliché designed to establish teacher culpability; 

“… and as usual, it will be kids and parents caught in the crossfire, voiceless…”.

But as Mr. Mason so aptly explains, there was no crossfire – he and the Supreme Court prove unequivocally that there was only one side shooting. The other  “side” was alternating between ducking for cover and capitulating.

While Mr. Mason’s article contains solid factual information about government’s culpability for twelve years of discord in public education, it is spectacularly disappointing that Gary Mason, despite what he himself proves, still can’t bring himself to overcome his anti – teacher sentiments and identify, without equivocation, the only court identified villain of the piece.  


Jim Nelson


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“Obamacare” – the canonization of Barak Obama by an unwitting right wing.

Obamacare is heating up – the right may be hoist on their own petard…

Schools, Politics and Other Stuff

The term “Obamacare” is the clarion call of the American right. It may however, come back and bite them in the ass.

The right spits out the term “Obamacare” as often as possible, adorning it with simplistic rhetorical platitudes.

“… we need to repeal job killing “Obamacare” and re-capture our liberty…”

Obamacare the word, expresses the sound bite grievances of the Easy Rider rifle rack crowd. It says it all. It’s like a secret handshake. It says “he’s a socialist, “I hate government,” and “ he’s not like us”.

And of course it’s ultimate appeal is as an implicit sharing of the “n” word, like “eeny meeny miny moe, catch a tiger (wink wink) by the toe…”

But its ubiquitous use may ultimately hoist American conservatives on their own petard. “Obamacare”, the schoolyard taunt, will likely forever weld the Obama name to U.S. health care reform much like Roosevelt’s name…

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10 Years of Labour Peace With Teachers –You Bet 

 –  by Jim Nelson  


Christy Clark’s offer to negotiate a ten-year contract with teachers, although politically effective, is painfully cynical. Her feigned attempt to bury the hatchet with teachers will only exacerbate the more than a decade of damage to public education that she herself began more than twelve years ago.


The initiative is doomed before it starts. No public educator believes Ms. Clark is prepared or committed to do what it would take to repair the damage done to B.C. public schools over the past 15 years.


 Teachers will respond politely, perhaps even flirt with her extended olive branch; but they will only do so to postpone the inevitable onslaught they know will face when they have to say they are not willing to kiss and make up unless Ms. Clark recognizes the need for education in B.C. to catch up.


The Premier knows that the pre-requisite for labour peace with teachers is a major attitude and funding change; an increased budget commitment to public schools and educators.


She also knows that teachers would be silly to accept a ten-year contract agreement scant months before Ms. Clark will likely be un-elected.


She will wax poetic about forgetting past acrimony for the sake of our children. She will say she is willing to forgive and forget. She’ll strive to reason with an intransigent B.C.T.F. for the sake of our children, who she’ll site as the ones who suffer most from the broken bargaining system.


But she won’t offer additional funding or salary catchup. She won’t even offer cost of living salary increases. Instead, she will again suggest more stakeholder input, school choice, testing, and anti – bully programmes- but no funding or salary.


And that’s been her plan from the beginning. Even before she made the emotional appeal for ten-year labour peace in the schools. She knew exactly how this would go.


The Premier doesn’t want peace with teachers, she wants to profess her willingness to bury the hatchet and then when rebuffed, bemoan how our children will suffer despite her best efforts, while on cue, C.K.N.W. talk show hosts and glib bloggers jump on board to vilify the radical B.C.T.F.


She’s after political allies in an ongoing fight, not labour peace.


If she actually wanted labour peace, Ms. Clark would talk with teachers face to face first, not make pleas for conciliation through the media. She’d consult teachers about the running of public schools. Instead, she tells them what they’ll do, and eschews their counsel.


Beyond not wanting peace with teachers, Ms. Clark also doesn’t need peace with teachers. It’s cheaper and easier to double down on simultaneously cheerleading and disdaining public education. Her “gee I tried” strategy, is predictable and

counter productive.


Attacking the B.C.T.F while supporting “real” teachers is easy. It doesn’t cost any money, and on the heels of some horrendous bargaining strategies by teachers the last time, the public is eager for Ms.Clark to hit ‘em again. She won’t disappoint.


When teachers are hesitant to discuss her ten-year terms and they cite a 15 year deterioration in school funding and salary, Ms. Clark will graciously but firmly repeat her mantra that per pupil funding has increased every year, even though student enrollment is dropping, a sound bite that everyone can by now recite.


But the public won’t stay engaged past the repeating of this misleading old saw long enough to understand that small annual per pupil increases are more than eaten up inflation; by fixed costs which go up despite enrollments; things like lighting and heating buildings and carbon offsets. They won’t hear that the downloading of costs from government to local districts is a staggering increased expense – costs for learning disabled students, early childhood education, ESL, and countless other programmes, increasingly funded out of the per pupil funding. And they won’t know about the biggest download of all. The first action of Christy Clark as Education Minister was to effectively cut education funding by 5% across the board, by legislating districts to pay the final two years of a three-year teacher contract she legislated on teachers and school districts in 2001.


And that’s how an oft-touted small increase in per pupil funding is actually a significant budget cut year after year.


Premier Clark is searching for initiatives that make her appear empathetic but tough; rhetorical positions she can take and not worry that they might translate into any required action or cost any money.


Ms. Clark knows her opposition to the Enbridge pipeline makes her seem a champion for B.C., and she knows it won’t cost anything and probably won’t matter – she’ll likely lose the election anyway and besides Stephen Harper has already made the decision to go ahead with the project.


Her peace in education gambit is the same as her Enbridge strategy. It won’t happen, but it will help her appear conciliatory, outside the box, and tough.


Both her Enbridge pipeline stance and her education labour peace initiative are merely inexpensive political stunts to help her rebuild a tarnished image.


The N.D.P. were no friends of the teachers in the nineties with their legislated zero percent contracts and eroding of public education funding.


But what’s different this time with the Liberal government is how long the abuse of public education has been going on and the terrible effect it’s having on our public schools.


And what’s most frightening about Ms. Clark’s ten-year labour peace in education initiative is its transparent and monumental cynicism.  








 Jim Nelson is a retired school Principal and educator from Coquitlam School District #43.


His blog is at    “Schools, Politics, and other Stuff”

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