Monday, September 15, 2014

What's the End Game?

So, as I mentioned in the last blog, public schools should be open, no matter what. Negotiations between government and teachers should take place outside of student learning.

In an increasing climate where public education is under threat, where government is methodically chipping away at public education and increasingly providing financial support for alternative private school options, we need to do everything we can to provide a dynamic, innovative, program of attraction in public schools. Here and now.  With the resources available, with the conditions we have right now.  While we continue to advocate for the resources and commitments for our students, we continue to work at providing best practice with the current conditions.  

How do we negotiate,  then, if we choose to refuse to use our previous and potent "bargaining chip"? How do we negotiate when the balance of power is heavily weighed in one corner - The Liberal Government?

I don't have any magic answers here, and I wish I did, but I do have some thoughts.

When I teach students conflict resolution skills, I begin by pairing the students  and having them face each other, grab elbows and try to use all of their force to push their partner.  The catch is, that when they have determined which of the partner's has more force (power), the partner with more power, let's up just enough as to create a field where both partners are keeping the tension. Both partners are working towards creating a maintaining a fluid field of dynamic force, while keeping it "balanced".

This little practice is what waging good conflict looks like. Both parties choose to hold the tension, stay connected, and move with the "dance".  The partner with the "most power", continues to agree to hold equal.  If you participate in this activity long enough, the balance of power changes and moves from partner to partner.  The most important value is not "winning" or claiming more "power".  The most important value is relationship.  Both partners hold on and work at finding the middle.

When both partners value relationship, conflict resolution can be a transformative opportunity.  Ideally, conflict helps all parties learn about each other and themselves. 

What do we do when the two parties do not have equal power and when the value of the individual with the greater power, chooses not  to move towards understanding, relationship and balance? When I pose the question to my students, it does not take them long, to understand that they need to give more power to the individual who has less power.  Students will come alongside the partner who is being "pushed over" and they will create more pressure, until the two sides are balanced.

The BCTF - Government dispute is not balanced. Although there is a growing attempt by parents, other unions and other political parties, it is no where near enough pressure to balance out the government tactics.  I am not suggesting here that the BCTF is all good and that the BC government is all bad.  There are layers of grey and complexity all over the place. 

What is important, though, is that the task of providing a balanced approach is collective.  When there is a huge imbalance of power when two community forces come into conflict, it is the community that decides whether they will mobilize to equalize the two sides.

Where is everybody?

We all seem to be passively waiting for "leadership" to take care of this for us, and I include myself in this "we". This blog is my small part in equalizing the balance of power and not waiting for leadership to fix this for us.

While the two sides are apparently still talking, I fear this is another ruse and resource depletion from the Government in order to set up back to work Legislation, now that parliament is back in session.  More resentment, more disrespectful rhetoric and more erosion of public education.  

I am thinking we are going to have plenty of opportunities to work at creating enough force to balance out the enormous inequity.

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