In defense of B.C. teachers

Tom Fletcher's attempt to form a convincing argument hilariously demonstrated many precepts of bad argumentation.

Editor, The News:

Re: BCTF indoctrinating our kids (B.C. Views, March 7).

Thank-you, Tom Fletcher, for making me laugh; I’ve been down and in need of temporary up-lifting.

You should come to my school and helm our Irony Club, because in your attempt to form a convincing argument you have hilariously demonstrated many precepts of bad argumentation.

Here are a few:

• Undermine your credibility – in an unabashed opinion piece, you call yourself a journalist, and yet journalists are supposed to be objective and unbiased, not in every moment of their lives, but certainly in the media.

• Do not consider the obvious counter-arguments – this is elementary. If you refer to your opponents as having “left-wing groupthink,” you best not easily be accused of right-wing groupthink. If you cite an instance of “self-serving abuse of teacher authority” (which I think is apt in the case you describe), then acknowledge the self-serving abuse of authority our government is promulgating by stripping constitutional rights and contravening international labour laws.

Acknowledge, too, your self-serving abuse of your authority as a journalist in this subjective harangue. Like so many pundits before you, you seem to hope to make a name for yourself with extremities.

• Argue an assumed conclusion based only on opinion – obviously, everything the BCTF says is “glaringly false union propaganda.”

If one happens to believe any of it, one must be glaringly stupid. I mean, the facts are out there, right?

• Don’t investigate or critically examine your sources (especially if doing so might undermine your argument)– your one-cited study is only of New York City (one city) charter school – schools that can individually impose their own unique educational policies that render study results hardly transferable to non-charter schools.

Furthermore, the study just claims that student achievement is affected less by class sizes than it is by other factors, like frequent feedback from the teacher and a lot of tutoring, factors that are intrinsically dependent on the size of the class.

• My personal favourite because most ironic – use the same kind of over-blown rhetoric you accuse your opponent of using (“Susan Lambert announced … with a remarkable string of rhetoric”), with phases like “North Korea-style political indoctrination of six-year-olds”, “teacher tantrum”, “choke-hold of union seniority on school jobs”, and no less than four rhetorical questions – which is fine if you didn’t just disparage someone else for using rhetoric.

• Say things that just plain don’t make sense – the BCTF (which is a large group of teachers) didn’t take “the summer off”; those that can get summer employment take it, while the rest eat into their savings.

For many, this annual problem isn’t a choice.

Also, did you consider that maybe the teacher with the sign that read “it’s not about a wage increase, it’s about classroom conditions” actually felt that way?

Not every teacher feels exactly the same about all issues. We’re allowed to have our individual priorities.

Do you want to be a conservative (provincial Liberal), regurgitative mouth-piece or an investigative journalist?  Either is fine – the former is definitely the more amusing – but it is beyond me how anyone allows you to get away with trying to do both.

Michael Hanlon

Maple Ridge