In the pedagogical moshpit that is Academia these days, it is not uncommon for universities to bestow honourary doctorates upon well-known movers-and-shakers. You will see these august figures addressing graduates at convocations the world over, conferring upon those matriculating a variety of bon mots and occasionally suitable words of inspiration to carry the kids into the long years of indebtedness ahead.
In exchange, the celebs get to add the title of “Dr.” to their other official and unofficial titles. Indeed, some of these cats have honorary doctorates oozing out of their proverbials, and they are only too eager to gather more for the prestige that these lend to their already bloated personae.
Which brings me to a similar honour that should, assuredly, be bestowed at the end of the current academic year upon British Columbia’s own premier, Ms. Christie Clark.
Now, before you stick me with hot-pokers and place me on an autumnal spit, there is good reason to consider this seriously. And it has to do with the next-to-impossible task of inspiring B.C.’s citizens to engage in the political discourses of our times. This is, as any actual teacher will tell you, an extraordinarily difficult proposal: to enliven the kids and their minders to political consciousness and to care about what happens in the various houses of governance.
But Ms. Clark and her cadre managed precisely this over the course of the last several months, during the labour dispute between the BCTF and the Province, when we all thought school was out and there wasn’t any learnin’ goin’ on.
You will recall that, while we were all hoping those at the bargaining table would hammer out a deal by the start of September, Ms. Clark and her team of negotiators were doing just about everything possible to discredit their erstwhile employees, the teachers. Heaps of scorn and derision emanated from the premier’s office to the media to divide an electorate sick and tired of the protracted negotiations that were supposed to be underway.
Quickly, people eyed with leering suspicion those daring to take one side or the other. Teachers endured the execrable lashings of a government portraying them as lazy louts, griping over nothing more than the shillings that they might line their pockets with. Education Minister Peter Fassbender and Ms. Clark kept harping on about the “affordability zone” and how far out of focus were the demands of the chronically under-funded minders of our students.
On the other side, many were swayed by conspiratorial stirrings that the premier and her advisors had an alternate plan up their sleeves that would eventually disenfranchise the BCTF altogether and hand the whole public system over to the private sector to deliver the educational goods.
Confidentially, let me whisper to you all the great service that the labour dispute delivered.
The people of British Columbia listened to what was underway. As the debates took place in the public square and in newspapers, as screen junkies jumped into the fray themselves, there seemed to be a beneficent flowering taking place: the magnificent late-summer blooming of political consciousness in not only the minds of the tax-paying pawns of the province, but amongst their children, eager to get back to school.
Kids, some as young as middle scholars, began to realize: Hey! We have a stake in this shite too! And they began to ask questions. Lots of them. And then it became apparent: All the marvelous things that we so blithely take for granted in this province — the schools, the hospitals, the big companies that deliver our water and electricity -- all of these things are shaped by political impulses and decisions that we can affect if we get into the game ourselves!
Perhaps we should resist the bestowing of an actual honorary doctorate upon our embattled premier — we wouldn’t want to let so great an honour swell her head. But it cannot go unrewarded, Ms. Christy Clark’s plucky pedagogy. For many kids (and I dare say adults) in this province, Ms. Clark’s lessons have sparked a political consciousness that will serve them, and the rest of us, for decades to come — and all during a time when we thought school was out.
For this, and the many small mercies from Ms. Clark to come, I would like to suggest that a high school in her own riding, say Mount Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna, should consider inviting the premier to Grad 2015 and award her an honorary high school diploma. No doubt Ms. Clark will have many inspiring thoughts to share with those matriculating once this blessed year comes to its end. And, of course, they’ll listen with bated breath.
— Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com