Don’t legislate volunteerism

[attach]6878[/attach]We all want our schools to get back to normal, whether we’re parents, students, teachers or just interested in education.

The best way for that to happen is for the government and teachers to sit down and negotiate. It’s worked in the past, and if it’s done in an open and honest way, it will work again. It was the heavy-handedness of the McGuinty Liberal government that created this particular mess.

It’s too easy to believe, like the Progressive Conservatives do, that the government just has to order the teachers to take on extracurricular activities. It would seem to be a simple solution. It is neither simple nor a solution. History shows us that.

The Progressive Conservatives tried, and failed, with a similar approach 13 years ago. As a result, students lost years of extracurriculars under Tory premier Mike Harris. We cannot go down that road again.

Back then, an advisory group to the government found three obstacles to resuming extracurriculars. The first was a lack of respect for teaching and teachers. This demoralized teachers, caused stress and discouraged them from giving more. The second was the burden of new tasks on the teaching schedule, which resulted in less time for extracurriculars. The third obstacle was lack of resources. There were no funds for extracurriculars.

These three obstacles still exist. The simplistic approach of ordering people to “volunteer” did not work then. In fact, it harmed students by causing the loss of even more extracurriculars. We cannot repeat that mistake.

That’s why the legislature defeated the recent Progressive Conservative motion to have the government force teachers to take on extracurricular activities.

Over the last few months, I’ve talked with many parents in our neighbourhood and with many teachers who live here, both at their homes and at meetings. I found everyone is concerned about the students and their education.

Everyone wants a resolution to the current state of extracurricular activities.

Those who teach, those who counsel students, and those who support students with special needs want to agree on their working conditions in an honest give-and-take negotiation.

History shows us that when a coercive measure is introduced, more teachers withdraw from extracurricular activities.

Now is the time to learn the history lessons, to re-establish the respect, and to negotiate honestly with our teachers and education workers. It’s not a simplistic solution. It is the solution that will work.

Our students deserve a real solution, and we can give them one.