Recently, I have become involved in researching, understanding, and advocating against any corporate involvement in Alberta Education’s curriculum redesign. As I’ve become more involved in talking to teachers throughout the province on this issue, I understand that there are a wide variety of opinions within the teaching community on education reform. Some teachers have told me that they fully embrace corporate input, others see them as a stakeholder to be consulted, and many teachers have questions, concerns or are completely against corporate involvement in the curriculum redesign.
The truly frightening part of these discussions is that many teachers who question corporate involvement in the redesign fear that if they publicly voice their opinion, there is a high chance that they could face repercussions from their employer. They feel that the risk is too great to publicly take a stance as a teacher against this issue.
It has been great to talk to other teachers about this and get their “behind the scenes” support. But since so many teachers are hesitant or unwilling to speak out against corporate input in the curriculum, we have to ask why do they feel that way? Are their concerns legitimate? Is speaking out against corporations and the Oil & Gas industry in Alberta too risky for teachers to partake in, even if corporate involvement could negatively impact what our students learn?
Many of the teachers I’ve spoken to are amazing professionals with excellent credentials within teaching and education. It is unfortunate that they feel they are within an environment that does not give them the freedom to speak their mind without facing repercussions from their employer, parents, etc.
I am able to speak my mind due to the great administration in my school. My administrators are social justice advocates and they give me the freedom to get active and politically involved in educational issues. Not all teachers have this freedom and I am certainly lucky that I am able to advocate for issues that I care about.
We have to question the systems and institutions that are in place that make teachers, and other professionals, feel like exercising their freedom of speech could result in negative consequences. To me, education is a pillar of democracy. Part of our role is to prepare students to participate in democratic life and work to strengthen that democracy for all of us. As teachers, another part of our role is to advocate for our students interests, learning conditions, and the direction of education. If we are unable to freely speak our minds on these issues, then what does that say about our schools, educational system, and democratic country that we live in?