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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Education by Michael Stuart - Guest Blog

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Education.  It’s a small word, but a big topic in today’s landscape.  In British Columbia, it seems that education is becoming increasingly political.  Is that a good thing, a bad thing, or does it even matter?  That’s not for me to decide.  Before going any further with this little piece I’ve agreed to write for Melanie, I’d just like to take a moment to introduce myself to any readers who either don’t know me, or would like to know a little bit more about me.

My name is Michael Stuart, and I’m a second year student at the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  Born and raised in British Columbia, I spent 13 years as a student in BC’s public education system.  Politically, I am a staunch fiscal conservative with a great desire to protect taxpayer interests while furthering the efficiency of our expenditures.  Simply put – I want your tax dollars to go as far as they possibly can.  After all, you worked hard for them, and it’s important that you get value for your money.

Like I said in the opening paragraph of this piece, education is a big issue.  It seems that we can’t get through a school year without word of a dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the sitting government.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this isn’t an overly effective arrangement for students, parents, or taxpayers.  Where’s the community involvement?  Who’s out there truly advocating for kids while the BCTF advocates for two billion dollars in teacher benefit increases?  Who’s looking out for your kids while the government cuts funding to key areas in our system while ignoring teacher quality issues and inefficient spending practices?  To me, that’s where Melanie and her initiative come in.

I’ve seen numerous teachers attack Melanie for being anti-teacher because of her initiative, but the reality is that if you, as a teacher, believe that more parent and community involvement in education is a bad thing, you probably shouldn’t be teaching at all.  After all, education is a community good; it doesn’t belong to the BCTF or politicians in Victoria.  As the old saying goes – “it takes a village.”

My fight for education reform begins and ends with teacher quality.  I believe that, as a community, we have to stand up to ensure that our children (well, your children) have the best educators at the front of the classroom.  The BCTF continues to talk about class size and composition as though they are the only things affecting your kids’ learning; the reality is that neither of those things is of consequence without an effective educator standing at the front of the class.  I often find myself asking this question to those who seek me out (not naming any names) on Twitter – what’s better for a kid, an effective teacher in a class of 29 or an ineffective teacher in a class of 25?  The answer is so obvious that this question really doesn’t need to be answered.

The problem, right now, is that neither of the major parties in our education system today seems ready to fight for teacher quality.  The teachers’ federation is unwilling to admit that some of its members are better suited for careers outside of the classroom, and the government is unwilling to fight against the teachers’ federation’s well-oiled machine.  It’s a vicious circle.  That’s where community comes in.  You pay the taxes.  You’re the client.  Your children and their futures are at stake.  You, yes you, can take a stand.  Melanie’s initiative, Partners in Education, is a great avenue for folks like you and me to take that stand and fight for teacher quality.  As a former student, I know the difference that a good teacher can make in the classroom.  It’s like the difference between night and day.  So, with that said, why don’t we start talking?  Let’s start the conversation.  Let’s make sure that no child is left at a disadvantage because of an ineffective educator.

Thanks to Melanie for giving me the opportunity to write here.  I’ll continue to advocate for teacher quality, and I won’t give up until we see some change.  You can follow me on Twitter - @MichaelIStuart

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