Friday, February 17, 2017

Labour Education

Experienced a full day talking to co-op students. The day was to be about Health and Safety and it certainly was. However, a very astute teacher recognized the possibility of expanding the two sessions to provide some education about unions, labour councils and the labour movement. At one time discussions about labour and unions took place regularly in secondary schools. I had my own educated guesses as to why this faded away from the curriculum and to some degree these guesses were validated today. During a break today this topic came up and the next few lines outline more or less what appears to have happened. There may be other reasons, but this seems to be the essence. Starting in 1995, as governments and media became less and less worker and union friendly this trend was adopted by more and more of the community at large. Covering the topics of unions and labour took place in a variety of ways. The teachers did it independently, invited speakers to their classes and made use of union speakers from the speakers' bureau of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Such speakers spoke from the heart and aided immensely in a better understanding for students of the benefits of a strong and robust labour movement. The negativity towards workers and unions, as mentioned above, manifested itself into the community voicing concerns about this valuable addition to the students' understanding. As misplaced and inappropriate as denying of students a clear understanding of unions, labour and the engine for positive social change that unions and labour are, this took its toll on teachers and schools inviting speakers in and ultimately lead to the demise of widespread and responsible sharing of this information as teachers felt less and less comfortable bringing speakers in. This ultimately took us to the point where education about unions and labour is at best hit and miss, or as happened to me, took place because of an inspired educator. Denying students a deep and full understanding of unions and labour is denying them information that is as important and profound as anything in any history book. It denies them the history of people and events that formed the foundation of almost every positive social change we have collectively experienced.

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