Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Educators and Enbridge

There was some "controversy" earlier this year when the media (main stream) picked up a story about the BCTF producing teaching materials about the Enbridge pipeline. I use quotes because I don't really understand where the conflict in the story came from. I was interviewed on the day of the large rally in Victoria organized by Defend Our Coast and asked if I thought it was apppropriate for the BCTF to produce materials with a point of view. Given that corporations and interest groups routinely produce teaching materials that are biased, I see no problem so long as the teacher uses a variety of sources, and this is precisely what the BCTF intended and even recommended. So where was the controversy?

Like many British Columbians, many teachers and educators are very concerned and aware of the issues related to the pipeline, tankers, the tar sands and climate change.  I noticed that at the Victoria Enbridge hearings, two recently retired teachers from the Victoria school district and one Victoria School Trustee (Diane McNally) gave presentations expressing their opposition to the project. Former teacher Janet Simpson expressed her exasperation with a hearing process so limited in producing any thorough or meaningful exploration of ideas:

"...what I have is 10 minutes, only ten minutes to try to express the magnitude of what we are going to lose.

10 minutes to attempt in vain to stop us from careening down a path that will result in 10 decades of environmental devastation. 

10 minutes to urge you to look beyond the short-sighted false economy that the tar sands and its related projects are creating.

10 minutes to ask why we have learned nothing about value-added resource extraction from our habit of selling raw logs.

10 minutes to point out what an incredible insult this is to every First Nation.

10 minutes to stress the value inherent in a fossil fuel and the folly in squandering it all in such a destructive way.

10 minutes to question why we should all pay such a huge price for Alberta’s diminishing prospects for sales of its polluting tar sand oil in the U.S.

10 minutes to remind you of the two major earthquakes within a recent month span and the effect of another one and its accompanying tsunami on supertankers moving down Kitimat inlet.  How prepared can we possibly be for the chaos that would result if simultaneous disasters occurred?  How much attention would one pipeline break gushing millions of gallons of oil into a remote, pristine river system get?"

Beyond viewing these issues as political/environmental concerns, teachers also take a pedagogical interest in the natural environment and teaching and learning. I was very interested to read this fall about a new Kindergarden program in Sooke based almost wholly in the outdoors, and the similar program in the Gulf Islands. World-wide, there is an educational movement stressing the importance of children just simply spending time in nature and organizing curricula around one's immediate environment.  Research indicates that there are a myriad of potential benefits, including behavioural, academic and simply an appreciation for our natural surroundings and our collective responsibility as stewards of the earth. (See, for example, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/people-in-nature/200809/how-nature-can-transform-education.)

The Enbridge hearings are a very teachable moment - for students, for schools, and for all of society.


  1. Why was there controversy surrounding the BCTF "teaching material" on the Enbridge Pipeline? There was controversy because that material was nothing more than propaganda designed to impact the minds of young, impressionable people who look up to their teachers as sources of good information. The BCTF logo itself showing up in BC schools crosses the line. Highly biased left-wing propaganda showing up in BC schools takes things to a whole other level.

    1. Practically every teaching material in schools these days has a logo and most of them are corporate. Sex ed videos made by Kotex, Financial planning from VISA are just two that I've seen. The BCTF materials would be used along with materials representing alternative points of view - as any lesson materials are. There are plenty of materials available from oil companies and environmental organizations. Why shouldn't a union produce something representing their point of view?