With a provincial election scheduled for October 2007, ETFO members across Ontario will soon be planning how to support their chosen political party or how to campaign on issues. Is political involvement important for teachers? Here are four ETFO members who think it’s critical.
For some ETFO members, political awareness, if not activism, is an integral part of teaching. Nancy Kilgour believes that “teachers are responsible for doing whatever we can to ensure our students have every opportunity to succeed. “… Seeing children who are hungry, tired, or neglected because of their socioeconomic circumstances is a powerful motivator to get involved politically.”
Velma Morgan argues that being politically aware is the best defence against regressive policies that affect teachers and society as a whole. “If we are aware or involved when we feel strongly about an issue, then government will know that we are not apathetic and will take our concerns into consideration,” she says.
The Days of Action campaign during the early years of the Harris government was a galvanizing experience for Paul Dewar. “It opened our eyes to other issues and cultivated consciousness within the teaching profession about having a positive impact, not just at home, but around the world.” He cites the plight of African children suffering from HIV/AIDS as an example.
From his vantage point as a new MP, Dewar also sees the opportunity for more women to become involved in politics. “Teaching is a good training ground for politics. If we’re going to make a difference in improving the representation of women in politics, it makes sense that the change will come in part from professions like teaching that are predominately female.”
Political involvement enhances classroom work
Kari Lowry understands the opportunity she has to motivate her students about their potential as future citizens: “When I taught grade 8 history I wanted my students to realize that it was regular citizens who made Canada what it is today.” Velma Morgan also feels passionately about the need to make students aware: “By educating the next generation about the democratic process and the importance of being civically engaged, voter turnout and participation in the overall political process will increase.”
“My political involvement has helped clarify for me those things that are really worth ﬁghting for,” Nancy Kilgour says. It also helps her understand how decisions are made: “Even programs such as Reading Recovery, which have been so successful for many children, can become political footballs and maintaining them may require political lobbying.”