Dr.Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle too political for BC schools?

Courtesy Wikipedia. Click on image.

Update: Charles Adler weights in on educrats and how they are ruining childhood with their politically correct agendas. (H/T Catherine). Where I disagree with Adler is his assuming everyone in the system, or everyone was part of the system at one time, are politically correct educrats. Obviously. I don’t see myself that way or I wouldn’t have written this post. That said, Adler is correct. People need to allow children to be children and use books like Yertle the Turtle to teach lessons, not conformity.   


You have to know that political correctness has replaced common sense when the Prince Rupert School District in BC considers the children’s Dr. Seuss classic, Yertle the Turtle, to be too political to use, either with students in the classroom, or in BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) materials that might be visible in a teacher’s car.

Now, I may not agree with the actions of either the BC government or the BCTF during and after their recent walk-out, but forbidding union materials in a person’s car sounds like political harassment and bullying to me.

For example, here are a couple of selected quotes from a Globe and Mail article by Wendy Stueck:

“A Prince Rupert elementary teacher has been told a quote from Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle is a political statement that should not be displayed or worn on clothing in her classroom. The teacher included the quote in material she brought to a meeting with management after she received a notice relating to union material visible in her car on school property.”

“The advice is in keeping with a 2011 arbitrator’s decision that found political materials must be kept out of B.C. classrooms, said Dave Stigant, who is acting director of instruction for the Prince Rupert School District and who met with the teacher to discuss what would and wouldn’t run afoul of district standards….”

So, why might Yertle the Turtle be a problem for the BC government or the Prince Rupert School District?  Well, it is a story that uses metaphor to show what oppression and bullying looks like.

In the case in point, Yertle forces his fellow turtles to hold him up, even when the turtles at the bottom are hurting and complaining.  In response he simply tells them to shut up and keep holding him up. Eventually, the bottom turtle burps and they all go flying and Yertle ends up in the mud.

Hmmm. In other words, in B.C. that is exactly how the teachers are feeling and the school district and BC government don’t like it one bit that they are being portrayed as bullies.

Well, as my regular readers know, I don’t agree with teachers strikes or work to rule campaigns, but I am definitely getting the feeling that the animosity that BC teacher’s are feeling is a huge problem that no amount of politically correct bullying is going to fix. In fact, it is going to make things even worse.  

Anway, the primary problem is, as I understand it, a decision by the BC Supreme Court that “working conditions were a teacher’s right,” that the BC government refuses to acknowledge. Personally, I disagree with the whole notion, as I have written about before, but that is irrelevant now.

I mean, when BC school districts are calling teachers on the carpet because quotes from a Dr. Seuss classic are “too political,” you know there is a serious breakdown, not only of communication but of respect.  You also have to know there is a serious problem when the BCTF and the government can’t even agree on a mediator.

Solution? Well, either the BC government has to take the BC Supreme Court decision to the federal court for a final resolution, or they have to simply put the “right” back in the collective agreement and get on with providing BC children with the education their parents expect.

However, if the BC government refuses to deal with this “political” situation, in the long term,  it is government officials and their school district administrators that are going to be covered in mud.

Paradigm shift needed by B.C. & Ont. teachers’ unions

Money does not grow on trees. Yet, even as the Globe and Mail headline shouts: “Ontario set to get tough with teachers,” those of us who know better yawn. We have seen this movie far too many times before — the belief that any thought of restraint is an insult to teachers.

Unfortunately, they have learned that lesson by always getting their way. Actually, I know of no time in the forty years I have been involved in, or connected to, public school education when salaries have not increased — even if only marginally. It’s always been upward, never a salary and benefits freeze.  

Ontario Government and Teachers’ Unions

One thing is for sure, Premier Dalton McGuinty, the Education Premier, and his Liberal Government cannot seem to say no to teachers’ unions. Actually, when I come to think of it, they can’t say no to any public sector union. Remember, while communicating wage restraint in public during the spring of 2011, they also signed a secret document giving the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) a wage increase.

And so, as Cary’s Mills’ states in her Globe column: “Meanwhile, the union for public secondary school teachers held a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the government’s offer, which it denounced as “unacceptable” and “an unprecedented attack on members’ rights.”

The Province of Ontario is broke and yet the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) refer to their offer as an attack on members’ rights. Hello? The current mess the Ontario Liberal Government finds itself in has attacked all our rights, our taxpayers’ rights. So, let’s just skip the political hypocrisy — given that the teachers’ unions spent millions of dollars on advertising to get the McGuinty caucus re-elected in October, 2011. Meaning, they as good as own him now.

BC Government and Teachers’ Unions

In British Columbia (BC), the conflict seems to be a bit different. For a year now, the BC Liberal Government has declined to restore rights taken out of a previous collective agreement (even though they were ordered to do so by the BC Supreme Court). Plus, the BC Government wants to make teaching an essential service — meaning they want to take away the right to strike.

Wow! So, there seems to be some backbone there.  Now, guess how the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) responded? As Wendy Stueck writes, also in the Globe and Mail, they will begin a teacher’s strike on Monday.

How can there be a paradigm shift?

What I am going to suggest is a paradigm shift — a shift in the way teachers’ unions look at demands — in terms of what is possible. Yet, that kind of shift, in BC at this point, is only going to happen if parents refuse to be held hostage. To avoid that, what they need to do is make alternate child care arrangements for their children, for however long a strike or work-to-rule lasts. They can get help from neighbours, relatives or they take vacation time from work. Whatever it takes. Because as long as it is about childcare, the unions are in control, not only of the provincial government, but of families as well.  

The same needs to happen in Ontario because McGuinty knows how angry parents got with Mike Harris in 1997. But Harris was right. There is only so much taxpayers’ money to go around. Ability to pay must mean something. Otherwise, it will be our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will be paying for the raises the teachers receive now. Without a doubt, people who work in the private sector have every reason to be very angry.


Endnote: I am not going to be a hypocrite. Both my husband and I are retired teachers, although only he has a full pension. Regardless, we both benefitted from positive collective agreements over the years. Meaning, I’m hardly anti-union. But, we are now in a new world. As such, it is my belief that it is long past time that teachers’ unions took a step back from confrontation and became part of the solution. Why? Because, there was a time when people looked up to teachers — something they no longer do.