Father No Longer Knows Best

by Jersey Joe

On Monday, May 14, Line Beauchamp stepped down as Education Minister of Quebec. Not only did she leave the cabinet, she announced that she is leaving the National Assembly. As the student led protests continue with no end in sight, Ms. Beauchamp had come to symbolize the frustration on the part of the government in dealing with the so-called crisis. In her resignation announcement she appeared tired, drawn, frustrated and isolated. In effect she appeared like a mother, a mother whose children have misbehaved and she is at her wits end trying to come up with an effective action.  Meanwhile, dear old Dad, M. Charest stood behind her, right behind her, silently, but seemingly in sympathy. Had the TV screen been in black and white, they would have appeared to be a typical couple of the 1950’s. Maybe that’s why this has dragged on for so long.

The quintessential moment for this 50’s couple came when Dad left Mom to deal with the kids while he ‘wasted away in Victoriaville.’ While he and his cronies were ‘doing God knows what with Gods knows whom,’ the town did get trashed after all, poor Mom was left to listen to the kids complains for the weekend. To her credit, Ms. Beauchamp patiently listened, explained and seemed to come up with a ‘deal’ which would bring the dysfunctional family of Quebec back to its senses. No sooner had this happened then Dad, in typical male macho fashion took credit and crowed just a little bit, and a little bit too soon. Before they know what happened the kids spoke ‘with their friends’ who clued them in and, poof, the deal went ‘up in smoke.’

At this point, poor Mom saw no other choice but to throw up her hands and turn things over to Dad, as in, “I’m going to my mother’s. You deal with them.” Who can blame her? So far Dad has, in effect, asked his mother for help, in the form of former Education Minister Michelle Courchesne. Reports now suggested that M. Charest is going to resort to another 50’s tactic, ‘laying down the law’ [un loi spéciale.] The now tabled legislation would temporarily halt the spring semester for the minority of faculties paralyzed by the strikes, push up the summer holidays, and reconvene students in August so they can complete their spring session before starting the fall one in October. Again, a tactic straight out of the Fifties, punish everyone because someone, OK more than someone, is misbehaving. Only the ‘good kids’ will suffer.

It is not surprising that M. Charest is helping Quebec to relive the Fabulous Fifties, as he and his beleaguered government has been struggling against ‘modern organization’ which help to keep the province Quebec mired in a ‘not to be forgotten,’ or forgiven,  age. The Parti Québécois  and its separatist supporters have been trying to right the wrongs of the Fifties, too bad it’s the 1750’, with their ‘Je me souviens’ on the license plates a constant reminder of who lost on the Plains of Abraham a mere 250 years ago. Meanwhile the Société Saint- Jean- Baptiste is obsessed with keeping the face of Quebec French, as if there are any English signs left. And on the off chance should anyone scrawl any English words, there is the Office québécois de la langue française to erase them. Both of these are remnants of what might have been just causes in the 1950’s but are truly of no relevance now.

Quebec and its organizations, then, are using tactics that might have been effective half a century ago on the children of that bygone era. Is it any wonder that these ‘new kids in the streets,’ the kids of the 21st century are in no way responsive to, or impressed by these outdated and antiquated tactics?

[Why that is will be dealt with in a future post, Leave it to Beaver to Wreck the City]

–Just My Two Sense

[Previously on this Topic]

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One Cheap Trick deserves another


Put the End In Sight

— by Jersey Joe

What with the rumored or alleged deal between the Quebec Government and the protesting students falling apart as I write, CTV News Noon, the question becomes where to from here?

Back in the early days of my teaching career I quickly came to learn one thing. If there was something going on in my classroom that I did not like, ignoring it, hoping it would stop, letting it go till it somehow wore itself out, was NOT an option. After three months of student unrest here in Quebec, it is time the Liberal government of Premier Jean Charest took time to take a lesson from the old teacher. That is, of course, if they do NOT like what has been going on. And it is time that they took some action to preserve the democratic rights of the most overlooked group in all of this- those students who want to go to school, finish their year and get on with their lives.

In 1972 when a Common Front Strike, which included the provinces teachers, went on for too long, the then Liberal Government of Robert Bourassa decreed the strike to an end and also imposed a contract on the groups involved. These same Liberals would lose the next election in historic fashion to the PQ in 1976. Lest anyone think this is a Liberal phenomenon, in 1983 the Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque forced the Common Front back to work, imposed the infamous 20-20 loss on the workers and wondered why it lost the next election. One can understand, then, why this Liberal government might hesitate to take similar action here. Nor does is seem feasible to legislate the students back to school, since the protesting ones have shown so little regard for law and/or order to date.

But what this government could, and should do, is to uphold the democratic rights of those students who want to go to school to do just that. Some judges have granted injunctions to students who want to return to class, only to have them ignored by protesters whose physical and sometimes menacing presence have kept them out of the buildings, by CEGEP administrators who fear reprisals if they use security forces or dare to ask police to enforce the law, and the Montreal police themselves who reportedly say that these entry blockers are doing no harm by just standing there. Implicit in this is that someone has to get hurt before any action can be taken. This defiance of the law and the court decisions have heretofore been ignored by the government whose job I have always thought it was to make and uphold both.

The Liberal government, the duly elected majority government of this province, has a duty to reopen the schools and make sure those who wish to finish this school year can do so. Decree a set date for the end to this school year and stick to it. Those who are boycotting insist it is their democratic right to protest, which they do. These actions would in no way restrict that right. But those who wish to go to school have an equal democratic right. These proposed actions would make it clear where all students stood on the issue. Remember, there really is only one issue –that of the legislated tuition hikes, which as of the last government attempt at negotiations has now been spread over seven years. Those who favor or accept the hikes, however reluctantly, could go back to class. Those who oppose can stay out and protest, one would hope in a more peaceful matter.

All the rest, from ‘free school’ to ‘student boards,’ to whatever else has been bandied about can be settled in an equally democratic manner in the next Quebec election. I dare either of the opposition parties to propose free education as a platform, especially if they dare delineate how they propose to pay for it, in that election. Better yet, maybe the boycotting students could spend their free time, which they apparently have enough of, to form their own party and get a real life lesson, one where hiding behind masks in not an option.

As the Green Marchers chanted last night, “Don’t listen to CLASSE–go back to class.”

It is time for the government to ‘grow a pair,’ or better yet as attributed to Betty White, ‘grow a vagina, cause it can take a pounding.’ You made the law, you support the law, now enforce the damn law.

— Just My Two Sense

[Previously on this Topic]

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Red Riding Hoods

Red Riding Hoods

from Old Teachers Never Die

Being tall tales in the ‘life’ of Davis Stringer, former high school teacher, now retired, trying to come to grips with the world after teaching.

All Davis wanted to do was get to his meeting.

To this point the morning had been going pretty well. The predicted rain had held off so he was able to walk to the train without having to put up the umbrella and without getting wet. The train had been on time. Actually, according to his watch, it was a few minutes early – almost unheard of this with the AMT. Since it was the ‘Last Train to Clarksville,’ as he liked to call it, the train had fewer riders and more seats than the earlier ones. He had no trouble sitting alone with the wide window across from him giving him a clear view of the passing scenery and his Nano Touch entertaining him with an Eagles mix.

The train ride had been uneventful, no one out on Meadowbrook golf course yet, and the English Super Hospital was still an open shell. He’d navigated the platform of the ‘terminus’ without bumping into anyone or a safety pole, and had not fallen into the other set of tracks. From there he’d day dreamed his way, no set way, to Peel nearing Sherbrooke, letting red lights protect him and white crossing lights be his guide. He was going to be on time for the meeting. Of course, ‘on time’ to Davis Stringer meant different things at different times. If he were still teaching and this was a staff meeting, ‘on time’ meant about one minute before the set starting time so that he could take his usual perch in the rear, and only have to wait ten to fifteen minutes for the administrators to deign to show up. For this meeting with his fellow supervisors, it meant a good half an hour before so he could guarantee a seat in the back, and first shot at the coffee and whatever snacks might be provided.

‘Making good time,’ and then he saw whatever it was he was seeing. Whatever it was . … .  ‘Oh, shit,’  . . .  then he knew. He came to a halt on the corner along with some other equally helpless pedestrians as waves of young people- and here the terminology gets dicey: striking students, protesting students, class skipping students, along with those who just loved the fact that they could walk in these major thoroughfares with impunity and immunity wreaking havoc as they pleased, all these had been used to describe the mob that had pretty much dominated the Montreal scene for about two months now- moved along Sherbrooke completely blocking the road.

Davis weighed his options. He’d innocently encountered some of them in the Metro last month when the ‘En greve, de Maisoneuve,’ gang was getting off as he was trying to get on. A salmon against the current, he’d been bounced off the wall till they were gone. Pushing his way across was not an option.

As he stood feeling rather helpless he began to feel not right, an ‘old friend’ was coming for a visit. Mr. Anxiety was beginning to emanate from its hiding place in the left quadrant of his lower abdomen. It wafted up under his rib cage, his heart began to race and he was having trouble breathing.

 . . . . . All he wanted that day in 1982 was to do was teach his Second Period history class. But, it was a Monday morning and the kids were unsettled – nothing new there- and the ‘lessons’ of the previous week were like futuristic events to them, ‘You never taught us that,’ ‘Who’s he?’ and looks of abject disbelief stared at him as he played dentist, trying to pry things from their collective memories with the ease of pulling teeth from a runner.  And to top that off, there was some sort of disturbance in the hallway beyond his closed front classroom door. As would become the norm in any school he would teach in for more than one year, Davis’ room was one of those farthest from the office, administration, and help. [Later in his career he would muse about this. Was it that they did not want to think about him, or was he a hidden gem to be discovered by only a select few?] He knew if he did not deal with whatever was going on out there, no one else would. Steaming he flung open the door . . .  only to find himself face to side with a stream of humanity, kids, lots and lots of kids, high school types, but not from his school. Not one even remotely familiar face in the crowd, and all the voices were French.

In one of those moments where a person suddenly puts twenty and twenty together, he realized what he was seeing. Last week, the PQ government had announced changes to the educational system. One of the major ones was to be the raising of the passing grade from 50% to 60% for high school, CEGEPs and universities. Most teachers he knew had no problem with this. Who would want to be operated on by a doctor who got 50% on surgery in med school? But to the students, especially the fringe students for which east end Montreal was famous, this seemed a death sentence. He’d heard rumors that they were planning something, some attempt to shut down schools, get other students behind them, but did not know what, until now. Here they were, a mass of them, parading past the farthest reach of the school heading towards the main areas. He was facing them alone. In the same instant that the realization of what he was facing hit him, he moved in to ‘responsible adult mode,’ the one that all too often falls to the teacher.

As quickly and as violently as he had opened the door, he yanked it closed. And just as quickly he rushed to the rear door which stood open. He got to it, and tried to pull it shut only to have it be grabbed and held open by a rather large young man who looked questioningly at Davis. Whatever question was in this kid’s mind, Davis had no answer. He got the door half shut, or as the large kid holding it firmly now probably felt, half open. For the next ‘forever’ Davis stood in the opening between the mob and his class of students, trying to keep members of the mob out as much of it filed past. He felt as if he were on a high dive over an empty pool- to go forward was not an option but he could not back down either. Why couldn’t he just be standing naked on the Metropolitan in rush hour? As the mob passed and passed and passed, he stood, his right hand kept pulling pressure on the door knob, his left pushing any intruder away from the opening, his insides in total chaos. ‘Nope, can’t come in,’ ‘Uh, uh,’ ‘Sorry,’ ‘Not today,’ and other silly useless words come from his mouth as he continued this little game . . .  until another large kid came to the door and actually asked him what he was doing! “I’m just trying to close my door,” and in his best French, ‘fermer la porte,’ was the most eloquence he could come up with. This fellow, for reasons that Davis would always wonder about, nodded at the one who had been holding the door open, and then helped to close the door.

Davis, his class now ‘safely’ inside, leaned against the door proud of the fact that he had not wet himself.

“Mr. Stringer!” Danica was in his face. “Look! One of them tore up Toly’s notebook.”

‘Wonderful.’ Davis could see that the front door was now open, some heads were looking in, and Toly was waving two pieces of what used to be his history notebook. Again, in an instant Davis realized that Toly, pain in the ass that he was, and directed to never open that door as he had been, as all Mr. Stringer’s students had been told from Day One, one of his peccadilloes, had ‘naturally’ opened the front door for whatever insane reasons and was lucky it was only his notebook that had been damaged.

Davis moved to the front door, and witnessing the end of the mob march on, slammed it shut.

“But what about my notebook, Sir?” demanded Toly.

“Tell you what, Toly, you point out the one that did it and I’ll kick his ass.”

He turned to the class, “Now as we were trying to remember what we had done last week. . . “

Later that day, when calm had returned to RHS and Davis was sitting still shaken in the staffroom. He was approached by a female colleague. “Some of my students told me how brave you were placing yourself between those hooligans and your class.”

“Thanks,” was all he could say.  . . . . .

As he gradually got his heart rate to slow and the odd feeling in his gut to subside, he saw that he had somehow drifted a few blocks east as if once again trying to find the end of the mob as it headed west, but none was in sight this time.

He laughed to himself as he realized he was wearing his red checked A&E jacket. Most in the mob were wearing red, if some were only sporting little red squares of cloth pinned on the outer wear, the color symbol of the protest. And then he heard a familiar refrain, “En Greve, du Maisonnueve, En Greve, du Maisonnueve.” His old ‘friends’ from the Metro encounter were approaching.

‘When in Rome.’ He about faced himself and slipped into step with them. “En Greve, du Maisonueve, En Greve, du Maisonueve,” he began, fist in the air. Two young girls, er, ‘jeuns filles,’ looked in askance at his grey beard and craggy face. Without missing a beat he said, “Moi, je suis un professor d’histoire de U de M,” and he continued with “En Greve, du Maisonueve, En Greve, du Maisonueve.”

It took him two blocks to surreptitiously work his way to the north side of the crowd as he neared Peel once more.

“Au revoir, mes eleves,” and he was on his way up the hill.

After all, all he wanted to do was get to his meeting . . . on time.

Why not take a ride on the ‘last train?’