Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Taking Back Our Education

Last week, I attended a rally at the Alberta Legislature concerning cuts to education, organized by high school students. Taking Back Our Education saw students abruptly leave classes at 11 a.m., board buses, and head to the Legislature.

Aided by several unions, #TBOE (as it was also called) was a huge success. Hundreds of students and those in solidarity filled the area around the fountain. It was a moment where I could really feel my age. It was also a moment that caused me to reflect upon how I have ended up in life where I am now.

Many people know who I am and what I do, but don't know much about my background. I graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.Ed in Secondary Education (English major and Music minor). I wanted to become a junior high Language Arts teacher. Although I was already into writing and photography, and had actually been doing those things professionally as early as high school and throughout university, I viewed teaching as stable and something I could fall back on if my writing career did not pan out.

Well, there is an old Yiddish saying along the lines of "People make plans and God laughs." And I am sure the Almighty viewed this one as a gooder. I graduated in the mid-90s, in the midst of the Klein government's ravages to education. I, like numerous of my classmates, never made it into a classroom. There were simply no jobs to be had. Those who were lucky enough to find a job often lost it if they did not yet have their permanent contract.

Fifteen or so years later, the Conservative government is still in power and are responsible for more education cuts which will result in the loss of teaching jobs. I can empathize with those young teachers and those who are just graduating with their B.Ed degrees about the uncertainty of their futures.

On the silver lining side of things, those of you who appreciate what I do should thank the Conservative government for the fact I am the activist I have become. If I had landed a teaching job, I probably would not have the time to go out and document protests against all the incredibly destructive things this government has done. And the sheer number of rallies I attend are testament to the fact that this government does a lot of really destructive things.

Wanting to become a teacher should not be a pipe dream. Cutting teaching positions equates to larger classroom sizes, lack of personal attention to students with special needs, and just a lower quality of education overall. We apparently have a government that does not realize that its greatest asset is not actually the environmentally destructive tar sands. It is our future generations. Attending #TBOE gives me hope that a generation of voters (most of the students were in grade 12, so were 18 or almost 18) is coming up who will really be able to effect some tangible changes in the near future.

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