Thursday, November 23, 2006

What I wrote to my teacher's union rep

The following is a note I wrote to my OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation) representative regarding the "PAC (Political Action Committee) Files" publication they put out.

Basically the PAC Files is a mouthpiece for the small minority of N.D.P. and similar left-wing activist types in our union. They tend to "borrow" heavily from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, whatever the hell that is. Recently, our union circulated a survey regarding what we would like to see canvassed in the PAC Files. Below is my modest response:

Dear Joanne:
As our Branch President, I understand it is to you whom I am to address the PAC Files Member Input Survey. Thank you to you, to Mr. Uhrig, and to the Federation for the opportunity for so doing.

With respect, if I were to fill out the form provided, I would have to score ("-4") for all categories, as I feel that the publication ought to be discontinued in its entirety. It serves very little purpose other than a forum for the personal political views of a small minority of our membership and for the further dissemination of publications from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Periodically, our membership receive this publication in our school staff room mailboxes. Most routinely, after our Branch President and her delegates diligently slide one into each mail slot, they are even more quickly discarded into the recycling box placed below. Copies of the PAC Files accumulate in the recycling box as fast as snow during a raging blizzard. This is sad for two reasons. Firstly, people are not taking seriously the efforts of those who put together the PAC Files. Secondly, it is an affront to efforts to save our environment through the lessened use of paper.

However, I can scarcely blame those who see the publication, roll their eyes, and then toss it into the waiting blue box. The material that has usually been canvassed, at least in my seven years of teaching, has tended towards "global issues" (read "Bush-bashing") and not sufficiently close to those issues that affect teachers qua teachers. Interesting though these pieces may be, is it really appropriate for our federation to be expending resources on them, when we have bigger "political" battles to fight (eg. Bill 52)?

I must also object to the one-sided ideological bent that is routinely present in these pieces. The editors can claim that the publication is a "forum for discussion", but how much discussion is really taking place when only one side of these issues is ever really presented? Would the PAC files be open to submissions from pro-life groups, or those opposed to stem cell research, or those opposed to same sex marriage? Should a teachers' "political action committee" publication even be concerned with such?

Also, I have been bewildered with the PAC Files recent tendency, which in fairness has abated in the most recent issues, to merely reproduce opinion pieces from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. If we wish our membership to be subject to the editorial views of this organization, could we not just point them that way through the use of weblinks or subscription cards? What is the point of the political action committee spending federation resources to cut, paste, print and deliver something that is already available elsewhere? Do we really want our organization's political wing to consistently parrot the views of an outside organization that 90% of our membership have never heard of, let alone agree with?

Whatever the point of the PAC Files is, I submit that it is not an appropriate use of federation resources and ought to be discontinued forthwith. If the routine contributors to the PAC Files, other than the CCPA, desire a forum for sharing their personal political views I invite them to forego our limited federation resources and blog their thoughts, like the rest of the world.

If it is the will of the federation membership to have this publication continued, may I at least make one request in the name of the trees and the planet we are trying to save? The reality - and most of my colleagues at Sir John A. Macdonald would agree with me - is that a majority of copies of the PAC Files are ending up, unread, in the recycling bin. Can the PAC consider no longer printing the PAC Files, instead moving to an on-line version, or even one that can be saved in a .pdf format and deposited in a First Class conference? I understand that the federation also has issues with the Board's First Class platform, issues which I have yet to really understand. However, the fact of the matter is, like the First Class platform, the staff room, the mail boxes therein, the recycling bins and the buildings themselves are also Board-owned and controlled.

I make this submission with the greatest respect for those individuals who have given freely of their time to contribute to both District 21's Political Action Committee and to the PAC Files itself.

Rich Gelder
Sir John A. Macdonald branch
District 21

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