So the people of Nova Scotia woke up Saturday morning to announcements from school boards, province wide, that there would be no classes beginning Monday, Dec. 5th.
It was something Nova Scotians couldn't miss if they frequent social media at all, let alone actually live a normal life in the real world. Whether it was news organizations, teachers, political commentators, or just concerned citizens, my twitter and facebook feed was filled with comments regarding the "no school until further notice" message that appeared on every single school board website province wide.
tcrsb.ca Tri-County Regional School Board announces classes canceled until further notice
I was talking to a friend before posting this who is currently a student and the topic of NSTU (Nova Scotia Teachers Union) and their demands came up. I said I wasn't going to develop an opinion on it, because sometimes things are better left unsaid. The internet has enough opinions anyway, it doesn't need mine. I don't want to say whether the demands of NSTU are fair or not, I don't know much about them. That's why I won't comment on that, and honestly, I don't think anyone should have to. That's between the union and the employer — the teachers and the government.
However, there is something I will comment on which is related. All this strike-talk has shown is there's a deeper issue at hand here. That is the decline of our education system here in Nova Scotia and the government's inability to manage it.
When I was in school, there were many programs to choose from, but all this slowly got peeled away with, presumably, budget cuts. When I first started in grade 7, juniors, grades 7-9 had a number of elective courses they could choose from. Anything from technology and woodworking to music, yet near the end, all junior electives were eliminated and even the seniors had very limited choice in the courses they could take aside from regular classes like English, History and Mathematics. Any focus on classes that zoned in on student specific skills like we see elsewhere around the country was destroyed.
Take programming for example. A course I would have loved to take. A few years ago, a student I knew from Manitoba was learning GML (the language for the popular game developer IDE "Game Maker") in a programming class. I brought this up with a fellow student at my school knowing he would love to take such a class, let alone myself. GML was a specialty hobby for him, he had made some pretty amazing projects with it. I'm certain he would have aced the class in addition to expanding his knowledge of GML and other languages they would have taught. Programming is a worthy skill that is in much demand and pays well, but simply wasn't an option for us. Instead of expanding available courses, they were being reduced in what seemed to be a frantic effort to save costs.
I'm not sure if this is a failure of the administration, the school board, or the government... perhaps all played a role? What is for certain is I feel the public school in my local town was falling behind, and this seems to be an all too common theme I hear from countless others from all over the province.
Now I get it. Those on the right will say "unions go too far", those on the left will say the unions are "the people", they're "in the right". My take is usually it's somewhere down the middle, but at any rate, NSTU exists, and the teachers of that union made their decision on a strike mandate because they feel put-off by the government. Whatever your opinion is on that really doesn't matter, because they exist, get over it. The government instead needs to manage and work with them like the do in countless other departments. Disregard for this is nothing but a reflection on the lack of ability for this government to handle tough situations. Take note of that, Mr. McNeil.
The McNeil government has only shown disregard for even attempting to make it work. Stephen McNeil proved this to us single-handedly this time around by pre-recording his disappointment video before contract talks even collapsed. There is absolutely no reason why students couldn't show up to school Monday other than the government's faux-concern of "safety" in spite of measures in place to ensure it otherwise; this was supposed to be a work-to-rule after all. Sure, extracurricular activities would be limited, people still would have been miffed, but at least education could have went on.
No. Instead, we're left with paying teachers to do nothing. We're leaving students with gaps in education, and unfairly inconveniencing parents who are now scrambling for unexpected needed child care, not to mention the added cost burden that brings. Honestly, all this government has done is made one more angry voter, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Doing this isn't exactly a cost saving measure for a government the seems awfully concerned about costs, as we all know if any amount of time is lost it'll just be taken from actual vacation time, which isn't going to happen for free.
Which should go without saying, isn't all too pleasing for students to hear either, not to mention parents and teachers.
Oh yeah, and that friend I was talking to earlier? He was suppose to begin a work placement program come Monday after bringing a permission slip to school and filling out some questionnaire details. Who knows what will happen with that now? After all, he was told not to show up to school Monday morning by the government. The inconvenience of this does have a lasting effect and I'm certain this single inconvenience is just one out of numerous ones province-wide.
So what's to say about all this? Nothing more than disappointment I'd say. I know you could make the argument the politics behind it is"tough", but I do have this bit of advice for Mr. McNeil. Fix this. I don't care about the politics behind all of it, time is ticking and it is of the essence here. The longer we wait, the more impatient everyone, including myself, will get. People can complain about a spending money on a boat in Yarmouth or cutting the film tax credit and you'll be fine, but start outrageously affecting the lives of everyday Nova Scotians like this and they'll start looking to alternatives.
And now the waiting game begins...