The Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) included in its demands an increase in staffing levels in schools for custodians, librarians educational assistants and so forth. This seems progressive–an attempt to encroach on the perceived inherent management right of hiring–and in some ways it is. The sanctity of the principle of management’s rights to determing staffing levels was questioned. However, this still is a purely quantitative question–how many workers are to be allocated to the given school system. There is no questioning of the adequate nature of the school system in its various aspects. The standard is still the present school system, and what OBSCU sought to vary was the staffing level of a presupposed fixed school system.
What is needed is a critique of the school system and not just quantitative changes. That was the purpose of writing this and other posts in this series.
When I was a French teacher at Ashern Central School, in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, I started to place critiques, mainly (although not entirely) of the current school system. At first, I merely printed off the articles, but then I started to provide a summary of the article along with the article. I placed the summaries along with the articles in a binder (and, eventually, binders), and I placed the binder in the staff lounge.
As chair of the Equity and Justice Committee for Lakeshore Teachers’ Association of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS), I also sent the articles and summary to the Ning of the MTS (a ning is “an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks”).
As I pointed out in a previous post, it is necessary for the radical left to use every opportunity to question the legitimacy of existing institutions.
The reference to Janet’s “intensive supervision” is to Janet Martell, superintendent of Lakeshore School Division at the time. Following a clinical supervision performed by Neil MacNeil, principal at the time of Ashern Central School (I will elaborate on this at a future date), Ms. Martell decided to place me on “intensive supervision,” which meant that I would be directly supervised by her.
Grading Systems and Equity in Schools
The attached article for the ESJ Ning is prefaced by the following:
The attached article refers to the ritual practice of grading (marking) in schools.
Janet, during the conference that was to lead to my “intensive supervision,” indicated that she and I could have a debate about whether formative and summative assessment were contradictory later on during the conference (I had contended that they easily could be in my response to Neil’s exemplary assessment). I declined such a challenge—given the context. [Summative assessment is the typical grading system in school, with either letter grades or percentage grades. Formative assessment is feedback by the teacher to the student for the purpose of improving the work of the student.]
The question that should be asked is: Would Janet have challenged me to such a debate outside that particular context? Would I have declined to debate her if the context had been different? The answers to those questions would be instructive about the nature of our society.
I prefaced the article with the following:
The following article, “An Amercian Ritual : Grading as a Cultural Function,” though dated, provides an overview of some of the equity issues surrounding grading. The author, N. Ray Hiner, points out that the grading system constitutes a constant experience of children and adolescents during their school years. It symbolizes, among other things, a reward system for students. Students become used to having their work quantified and, by implication, themselves quantified on a comparative basis. Grades are the currency or money of the school system.
The distribution of rewards in American (and Canadian) society seems to be a function of two principles. On the one hand, individual achievement should be rewarded. On the other hand, there should be equality between individuals. Equal opportunity is seen by many as a compromise between the two principles.
The two principles, however, can easily clash, and different grading systems approach one or the other end of the two principles most closely. (A superintendent, Janet Martell, contended that formative assessment and summative assessment hardly need clash. This was in the context of the employer-employee relation, with her being a representative of the employer and I being an employee. Given the imbalance in power in such a relation, I did not think that a debate with the superintendent would achieve anything. However, if any principal or superintendent would care to enter an open debate with me (provided they do not represent an employer vis-à-vis me), I am open to engaging in such a debate. By the way, the superintendent evidently believes in outcome-based education and criterion-referenced assessment.)
The author argues that different grading systems are more or less egalitarian and more or less achievement-oriented. The least egalitarian but the most achievement oriented is, ironically, criterion-referenced grading systems (which the Manitoba Department of Education has adopted in the form of learning outcomes). The author does not elaborate to any great extent why it is the least egalitarian, but it can be surmised that students with more “cultural capital” at their disposal (based on family background and resources) will achieve more than those students with less cultural capital; there is no equal opportunity to counteract such inequality of cultural capital.
Slightly more egalitarian but still achievement-oriented is norm-referenced assessments, where individual students are assessed in relation to each other rather than to objective criteria. The author’s reason for claiming that it is more egalitarian than criterion-referenced assessment is that the bell-curve mechanism for assigning grades will ensure that those who achieve average performance will, on average, receive an average grade (or at least a pass of C).The majority will pass; in criterion-referenced assessment, there is no such guarantee.
A more egalitarian model of grading is based on effort and less on individual achievement. Those endowed with superior cultural capital or resources may rest on their laurels and so make less effort and, accordingly, receive a lower mark than someone who makes a greater effort even if achievement is wanting. There is a greater possibility for equality of opportunity based on effort in this model.
Blanket grading is even more egalitarian but much less dependent on individual achievement since all students receive the same grade. Minimum requirements are specified, but they are set so that everyone can achieve them. This form of grading is rare.
The most egalitarian grading system but least based on individual achievement is a no-grade system. The reasoning behind such a grading system includes the view that irrelevant distinctions among individuals arise that have no place in a democratic society. Furthermore, grading results in class distinctions, with an arrogant minority considering itself to be superior to those below them on the basis of grades (and future life opportunities). Grading also alienates a large part of the student population and leads to low self-esteem among many students. Finally, those who advocate a no-grading policy do not denigrate achievement. Achievement is its own reward and does not need an external reward system.
The no-grade policy, as far as I can determine, was instituted in the Dewey University Laboratory School from 1896 to 1904 in Chicago. Grading only came into consideration when college entrance examinations came into question:
“The oldest members of this united group (who normally would have been classified as Group XII) were given special tutoring and review courses in preparation for their college board examinations, which were complicating the program. Had the group consisted solely of those who had followed the consecutively developing program of the school, and had it not been hampered by the demands of college entrance examinations, the various courses for the oldest children doubtless would have followed a far different and more logical plan, hints of which appear in the records” (K. Mayhew & A. Edwards, (1966).The Dewey School: The Laboratory School of the University of Chicago, 1896-1903. New York: Atherson Press. (Original work published in 1936, p. 237).
The author argues that a particular grading system will undoubtedly generate vigorous debate. After all, it is a cultural instrument.
Hiner was too hopeful. The shift to outcome-based education in Manitoba, for instance, does not seem to have generated much debate.
A particular grading system is indeed a cultural instrument and, indeed, any grading system is a cultural instrument.
Is not a grading system needed when there is a market for workers? If there were no grading system, how would students be restricted from entering university? How would employers be able to differentiate more easily different kinds of potential employees? If all who attended obtained a high-school diploma or a university degree, how would allocation of workers to different employers be effected?
A summative grading system seems to be tied to a market for workers. Without a market for workers, would there be a need for a summative grading system? If so, why?
There are many questions, but educational researchers rarely ask such questions. Most educational researchers are more concerned with asking questions that relate to the present school structure (or a variation within such a structure) rather than questioning the premises of such a structure and engaging in research related to questioning those premises.
Educational research needs to become more critical. Education, after all, is supposed to generate critical thinking.
What kind of grading system, if any, would be most equitable and just? Under what social conditions?
Grading systems form an essential oppressive aspect of the experiences of hundreds of millions of children throughout the world–and yet you would not know it when reading leftist literature, which often ignores such daily experiences. Janet Martell, the superintendent of Lakeshore School Division, where I worked, implicitly understood the importance of the grading system by attacking my characterization of summative assessment to be in contradition to formative assessment.
The left should take note, should it not, about what the representatives of employers considers to be important and what such represenatives conceive as a threat? Such observations would permit the left to focus on fault lines in the point of view of such representatives in order to attack them since it is a weak point in their defenses.
Jacqueline Kirk and Michael Nantais wrote an article titled “Reimagine Lakeshore: A School Division Change Initiative for the Twenty-First Century” (in pages 317-342, Educating for the 21st Century: Perspectives, Policies and Practices from Around the World, Suzanne Choo, Deb Sawch,
Alison Villanueva and Ruth Vinz, Editors).The authors are hardly uninterested researchers. They themselves participated in the Reimagine Lakeshore project. From page 337:
A key part of the Reimagine process was the use of action research. Each year,
schools, teams of teachers, and individuals could apply for funding to pursue an
innovation in one of three pathways. Two university researchers, the authors, supported these projects.
The authors assume, throughout their review of the process, that the modern school system only needs to be reformed–not restructured in a radical manner to meet the learning needs of children and adolescents by integrating their nature as both living beings and as intellectual/spirital beings (which is what The Dewey School in Chicago tried to do between 1896 and 1904). They assume, in other words, that children’s and adolescents’ learning needs are mainly symbolic and academic (see “Is the Teaching of Symbolic Learning in the School System Educational?” in the Publications and Writings section of this blog, found on the home page, for a critique of this view).
This lack of critical distance from the modern school system is reflected in their persistent positive evaluation of the project. They use the noun “excitement” several times in describing the reaction of the employees in the Division to the project. From page 334:
Data analysis indicated a high level of engagement and excitement[my emphasis] throughout the school division, particularly in the first phases of the Reimagine process. While direct involvement of teachers and administrators in the process was voluntary [my emphasis], approximately 67 % of survey respondents at the end of the second year (61 % response rate) indicated medium to high levels of participation, and only 11 % reported no participation.
As I argued in my last post, “Teachers are employees and thus subject to the economic pressure and influence of their employer.” The authors simply accept the claim that “direct involvement … in the process was voluntary.” What would happen if most teachers did not participate in the process? Did some teachers feel coerced economically or socially in any way to participate due to their situation as employees? The authors are blind to such a question. They assume throughout that participation was voluntary merely because it was declared to be voluntary.
This lack of critical distance can be seen in other things they wrote. For example, from page 336:
Much of the excitement across the division seemed to arise from the culture of trust
and risk-taking that was encouraged and nurtured.
As for risk-taking, the following is supposed to express an environment of risk-taking. From page 331:
The school division supported the plans with necessary resources and freedom to
experiment without the fear of failure. This support was exemplified when a school
trustee stood and stated, “The board is behind you. We want you to try some things
in your classrooms; if those don’t work, try some other things. It’s OK to fail.”
Firstly, merely saying that failure is acceptable can hardly compensate for the economic power that an employer actually holds. Teachers know that. experiments were to occur always within the confines of the power of the employers over their heads. Secondly, even if teachers felt that they could experiment, the experiment was always defined in terms of the modern school system. The following is thus pure rhetoric. From page 336:
One focus group participant explained that the division gives them “permission to think outside of the box, permission to try new things, to fail forward, to take chances and to take risks . . . I think that’s really powerful.”
To think outside the box–within the boxes called the modern school system and the curriculum–such is the limits of “risk taking” and “permission to fail.” The process was rigged from the beginning. That some teachers fell for the rhetoric is probably true, as the quote above shows, but this does not change the fact that it is school rhetoric that hides the reality of the limited changes possible in “Reimagine Lakeshore.”
The authors refer to several researchers in justifying their views. Let us take a look at one of their references: Michael Fullan. Mr. Fullan has written several works on educational change and school leadership. His arguments are couched in terms of the modern school system, with proposed changes being merely modifications of the modern school system–like “Reimagine Lakeshore.” Since some of the schools in Lakeshore School Division (such as Ashern Central School) are similar to urban inner-city schools (with parents whose income is relatively lower than the average), the criticism of Fullan’s approach by Pedro Noguera, in his article titled “A critical response to Michael Fullan’s ‘The future of educational change: system thinkers in action,'” Journal of Educational Change, Volume 7, is appropriate. From pages 130-131:
… by neglecting to discuss context, and by that I mean the reality of social and racial inequality in the US (or for that matter Canada and the UK) and its effects on school performance, Fullan inadvertently contributes to the narrow, de-contextualized, ‘‘blame-the-victim,’’ thinking that characterizes much of the scholarship and policy in the field of education. In the field of education, generalizing about what schools or educational leaders should do to promote successful practices and higher levels of achievement, simply does not work given the ‘‘savage inequalities’’ (Kozol 1991) that characterize American education.
At the most fundamental level, the educational leaders in impoverished areas must
figure out how to get those who serve their students—teachers, principals, secretaries and custodians, to treat them and their parents with dignity and respect. This is an especially great challenge because in American society, the institutions that serve poor people are rarely known for quality service.
Mr. Noguera’s own approach is itself, of course, limited since he refers to school bureaucrats as educational leaders–as if they were not part of the problem. Nonetheless, he does recognize that neglect of consideration of the social and economic conditions of most students and their parents is typical of school reform.
Fullan in turn criticizes Noquer’s own critique: Michael Fullan, “Reply to Noguera, Datnow and Stoll, Jan 2006,” Journal of Educational Change, Volume 7. Mr. Fullan’s response to Mr. Noguera’s critique is hardly adequate. From page137:
I have two main disagreements with how Noguera positions his argument. First, he
assumes that my eight elements of sustainability are only conceptual. What could he have thought I meant by the ‘‘in action’’ part of ‘‘System thinkers in action?’’ From where did he think I derived the main elements? In fact, these elements of sustainability consist of conclusions from my own and others’ work on the very problems Noguera brings to the fore. All eight, starting with the first, moral purpose, are devoted to matters, strategies, actions focusing on raising the bar and closing the gap in student achievement. The majority of the work involves working with schools in disadvantaged circumstances, and none of it is distant research let alone abstract theorizing. It all concerns working in partnerships with schools, districts, and states ‘‘to cause’’ improvements relative to the very issues highlighted by Noguera. I can see how he might have been misled and frustrated by the broad strokes in my paper, and I should have used some concrete examples (see Fullan, 2006), but to interpret what I said as merely theoretical misses the action-basis of my message.
There are many problems with this response. Firstly, the claim that Mr. Fullan’s model for school change is grounded in real schools that existed in “disadvantaged circumstances” in order to “raise the bar” and “close the gap in student achievement,” as already noted, merely assumes that “non-disadvantaged” schools form the standard for judging whether the reformed schools have ‘raised the bar” and “closed the gap in student achievement.” In other words, Mr. Fullan accepts the present modern school system as adequate for meeting the learning needs of students. This is hardly the case.
Secondly, is there proof that students from schools in disadvantaged areas, even with such school changes, can actually “raise the bar” to the level of the assumed “non-disadvantaged” schools and “close the gap in student achievement?” Thirdly, even if that were the case, there would still be competition between graduates for jobs on the market for workers–and the market for workers would sort them out according to the needs of employers, with some being assigned lower positions within a hierarchy of workers. Fourthly, even if there were not a hierarchy of positions, graduates as workers would still be used as things by employers (see The Money Circuit of Capital).
Mr. Fullan also pulls the old trick out of his hat of arguing that it is necessary to offer solutions to identified problems rather than just criticism. From pages 137-138:
The second problem I have concerns Noguera’s failure to offer any solutions or even
lines of solutions to the critical issues he identifies. He devotes several paragraphs to a series of tough questions, such as, ‘‘In communities like Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles and Buffalo what should schools do to meet the needs of the children they serve? What type of reading program should the vast number of inexperienced and uncredentialled teachers in Los Angeles employ?’’ and so on. There are few people in the field who are more relevant to these topics than Pedro Noguera, but if you really want to be relevant, do not just ask the questions, start providing ideas relevant to action. I know Noguera is actually engaged in such action as his great book City Schools and the American Dream (2003) attests to; I just wish he had provided some of this wisdom to the issues at hand in this exchange.
Identifying problems forms part of any necessary solution–they are not separate. Indeed, the proper formulation of a problem goes a long way towards its solution, as John Dewey, a major American philosopher of education, noted (Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, page 108):
It is a familiar and significant saying that a problem well put is half-solved. To find out what the problem and problems are which a problematic situation presents to be inquired into, is to be well along in inquiry. To mistake the problem involved is to cause subsequent inquiry to be irrelevant or to go astray. Without a problem, there is blind groping in the dark. The way in which the problem is conceived decides what specific suggestions are entertained and which are dismissed; what data are selected and which rejected; it is the criterion for relevancy and irrelevancy of hypotheses and conceptual structures.
Furthermore, conceiving solutions to problems in schools that are defined in abstraction from the problem of the existence of a market for workers and the existence of a class of employers–as Mr. Fullan evidently does–is to limit solutions to window-dressing. Systemic change in the modern school system, if needed as a solution, is excluded from the start. Solutions to problems are to sought that coincide with conditions that reflect the modern school system.
Ms. Kirk and Mr. Mantais, in conjunction with Ayodeji Osiname, (M.Ed. Candidate, Brandon University), Janet Martell (Superintendent, Lakeshore School Division) and Leanne Peters (Assistant Superintendent, Lakeshore School Division) presented at the 43rd Annual Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) Conference (2015) in Ottawa. The title of their presentation is: ” Reimagine Lakeshore: A Reflective Analysis of a School Division Change Initiative.” It is the same school rhetoric as analyzed in part one, so there is no point in referring further to it.
In the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents MASS Journal (Fall 2013), pages 12-15, Ms. Martell and Ms. Peters published an article on Reimagine Lakeshore titled “Excitement, Energy and Enthusiasm: Lakeshore School Division and the Process of Change.” The article is full of school rhetoric, such as “Teachers from all 10 schools in Lakeshore volunteered to work with their colleagues to imagine a different kind of classroom, with different ways to learn and to teach,” or the following (page 12):
In late December 2012, I l[Ms. Martell] aid down a challenge to all of our teachers, “By September 2014 we have to be doing something radically different[my emphasis] in each and every one of our classrooms. We are no longer serving the needs of our current student population.”
Obviously, their definition of “something radically different” is rather conservative. I take it that the reader will be able to determine whether the actual Reimagine Lakeshore was “something radically different” or not.
The authors provide one additional detail that is worth noting (page 13):
One of the key components of the Learning Vision has been reading comprehension.
In order to make this a reality, all teachers received professional development and support from literacy consultants in teaching reading comprehension strategies to students. The division developed a Standard Reading Assessment (SRA) that is administered to students twice per year to track levels of comprehension and to determine areas for direct teaching. Although this presented considerable challenges, it became instrumental in shifting teachers’ thinking from the idea that teaching reading is the job of the language arts teacher to the idea that all teachers who put text in front of students are teachers of reading.
Learning to read in various disciplines is of course useful, but the focus on learning to read rather than learning about life in general and human life in particular, with reading as a means to that end, reflects what I called in one article the fetishism for literacy.
I will leave this school rhetoric for now. Students, as living human beings, deserve much, much more than this school rhetoric: they deserve the best that this society can offer all children–but that requires a radical change in social and economic conditions that are governed by a class of employers. In conjunction with such change, school changes will proceed to repair the division between human beings as living beings and human beings as spiritual and intellectual beings. That is the real radical challenge of our times–not the pseudo-challenges thrown up by school bureaucrats.
One final point: Social democrats and social reformers underestimate the extent to which it is necessary to incorporate constant criticism of such rhetoric in various domains. They thus underestimate the importance of an ideological battle not just in universities but in the community and in the workplace. The ruling class ideologues, on the other hand, persistently engage in ideological endeavours to achieve their goals. Reimagine Lakeshore is one such endeavour. Where were the social democrats? They were nowhere to be found.
I sent, among other things, a table that contained some of Francesca’s and my experiences with the WCFS [Winnipeg Child and Family Services] (I will be posting a modified version of this table (the updated version is more inclusive) on this blog, much of which I have included in this series of posts. I also sent the material to the Manitoba Minister of Justice and to the Manitoba Minister of Education. I also began to send the material to government institutions outside the province of Manitoba.
The social-democratic or reformist left rarely address the many oppressive experiences that workers experience on a daily or weekly or monthly basis. Indeed, they often idealize public services and, thereby, do a disservice to workers. By not recognizing the often oppressive nature of many social-service agencies (government or state institutions), the social-democratic or reformist left contribute to the move among workers to the right. Of course, the self-righteous social democratic or socialist left then criticize such a move. The social-democratic or reformist left should look at their own practices and engage in self-criticism–but they rarely do.
Indeed, given the level of public (government) oppression experienced by the poorer sections of Canadian citizens, immigrants and migrant workers (measured this time in terms of level of income), it is hardly surprising that many of them would support tax cuts and a reduction in “public services.” Support for austerity has at least some basis in the oppressive public service–and the disregard for such oppression by the social-democratic or reformist left.
The table below is the modified version. It should be read from the right-side downward, chronologically, and then the left-side.
I refer to myself as “Dr. Harris” since I have a doctorate (a Ph. D). I referred to myself like that since workers as social-service agencies, in my experience, treat less educated persons in a more oppressive manner (I only obtained the doctorate in 2009).
The table below should be read in the context of points 1-4 on the right-hand side of the table (before the court-ordered assessment), and from point 5 onward on the right-hand side of the table.
Apprehension of Francesca, Dr. Harris’s daughter, by the WCFS, March 10, 2010
Non-apprehension of Francesca, Dr. Harris’ daughter, by the Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS):
1. Claims that Dr. Harris blocked his daughter’s path;
1. False accusation of sexual abuse by mother at the suggestion of the Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS) during mediation, 1996;
2. Claims that Dr. Harris frightened his daughter;
2. January, 1997: Francesca begins to complain to Dr. Harris that her mother is using a wooden stick and a belt on her buttocks (she would say, “nalgas,” (buttocks) “cincho” (belt), “cama” (bed) in Spanish.
3. Claims that Dr. Harris indicated in a letter that he had choked Francesca at an earlier date; there was no mention of throwing tea (that came later—probably a fishing expedition to find any reason to justify the CFS’ actions in apprehending Francesca. To what extent Francesca was manipulated by CFS, the RCMP or other authorities remains unclear.
3. False accusation of sexual abuse by mother once again through the WCFS, 1997;
4. Claims that Dr. Harris indicated in a letter that he had thrown Francesca to the ground;
4. July 1998, perhaps: Beginning of formal complaints by Dr. Harris about use of a belt and a wooden object to discipline Francesca by mother to WCFS. He decided to do so after discussing the issue with a friend. The friend pointed out that if Dr. Harris did not inform the “authorities,” he could be accused of hiding the child abuse.
5. Claims that Dr. Harris has mental health problems (by the WCFS lawyer in front of a judge).
5. Claim by Dr. Harris’ lawyer that the court-ordered assessor, a social worker, was sympathetic to Dr. Harris’ views (probably so that Dr. Harris would openly express his views).
6. Dr. Harris is forbidden to see his daughter—with the threat that he would face legal consequences.
6. Dr. Harris did not see the court-ordered assessment by the social worker until the day of the pretrial hearing—contrary to procedure, which required him to have access to such an assessment before the pretrial hearing in front of Judge Diamond. When Dr. Harris tried to talk to his lawyer about the contents of the assessment (full of lies and inaccuracies), his lawyer replied, “Don’t talk politics to your daughter.”
7. Dr. Harris at first fights against these falsehoods.
7. Claim by the court-ordered assessor (and consultant to the WCFS), in his 1998 assessment that Dr. Harris’ claim of physical abuse was “somewhat ridiculous.”
8. When a judge, during a pre-hearing trial indicates that even if the court judged in Dr. Harris’ favour, there would be no recourse except to have Francesca be released in the custody of one of the parents (and since neither Francesca nor Dr. Harris wanted to live with each other), Dr. Harris acquiesces. However, he then drafts a table and sends it to Premier Sellinger, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice, among others, with the subject heading “J’accuse.”
8. Claim by the court-ordered assessor (and consultant to the WCFS), that Dr. Harris was indoctrinating Francesca in “the evils of capitalism”
9. Sometime after September 10 but perhaps before October 6, Dr. Harris believes, he contacted the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in order to file a complaint against the CFS. The Commission informed Dr. Harris that the time for filing a complaint had expired.
9. February, 1999: Beginning of Francesca’s physical hostility towards him: punching, after mother found in contempt of court and did not permit daughter to see him. Francesca wanted to know why he did not want to see her and punched him often because of it.
10. October 6, 2010: Darrell Shorting, worker for Anishinaabe Child and Family Services in Ashern, Manitoba, calls the school where Dr. Harris is working and says that he knows what Dr. Harris has done, namely, choked his daughter and threw her to the ground. Mr. Shorting obliges Dr. Harris to tell the principal at the time (Mr. Chartrand) that Dr. Harris is under investigation.
10. April 1999: During the civil trial, there were only two issues: whether Dr. Harris sexually abused Francesca, and whether he was continuing to indoctrinate—supposedly—her in Marxism. The issue of Francesca’s physical abuse by the mother was simply buried and did not form part of the trial. The judge considered the mother’s accusation of sexual abuse to be unfounded—especially when she made another accusation that Dr. Harris had sexually abused Francesca the night before.
11. Dr. Harris is put on administrative leave for perhaps one week. The staff, he believes, are told that it is medical, so Dr. Harris feels obliged to leave Ashern every day early from Ashern.
11. The social worker who wrote the court-ordered assessment testified under oath that he would search for material that would indicate that Dr. Harris’ “indoctrination” of Francesca was harmful to Francesca (he implied that he had no proof at the time). By chance, Dr. Harris met this social worker about a week later. The social worker claimed that he was still searching for material. The social worker provided no such material to Dr. Harris—ever.
12. Lakeshore School Division decides to have Dr. Harris placed in the clinical supervision model for the year. Dr. Harris passes this assessment.
12. Dr. Harris files a complaint against his former lawyer; the Law Society of Manitoba rejects it out of hand.
13. March 31, 2011: Dr. Harris files a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission against Child and Family Services.
13. Letter to WCFS, January 20, 2000: mother used wooden object on Francesca because Francesca used the computer.
14. April 4, 2011: Dr. Harris is placed under arrest by Ashern RCMP and that he had been under investigation since September of last year. There were three charges: that Dr. Harris choked Francesca, that he pinned her arms violently and that he threw tea at Francesca and hit her with the tea (the latter charge was a new accusation that had never been made before).
14. Dr. Harris files about a sixty-page complaint against the social worker who wrote the court-ordered assessment to the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers now that the mother was once again physically abusing Francesca. The only issue for them was whether Mr. Ashley displayed any open hostility towards Dr. Harris (shouting, for example). They dismiss Dr. Harris’ complaint without any explanation.
15. April 9 (Saturday), 2011: Dr. Harris had the custom since he arrived in Ashern of going to “Just My Kind of Bakery” on Saturdays at 12:15 p.m. For the first time ever, several RCMP officers (some in street clothes) sit opposite Dr.Harris at “Just My Kind of Bakery” in Ashern.
15. Letter to WCFS, January 28, 2000: (occurred on January, 2000): mother used a wooden stick to discipline Francesca near her hips for not eating her vegetables. Another occasion: her mother pulled her hair for not eating her cereal.
16. April 16, 2011: Several RCMP officers once again do the same thing.
16.February 15, 2000: to WCFS: mother slapped or hit Francesca on the mouth
17. May 2011: Dr. Harris is informed by the new principal that he will no longer be teaching high-school French.
17.Various threats by mother: Not sure when: mother told his daughter not to tell anyone about her so-called discipline because the police would take Francesca away. Not sure when: mother told Francesca that she would rip her face off. Consequence: Francesca refused to talk about the physical actions of her mother.
18. September 2011: Dr. Harris is assigned to one special needs student for the morning—a glorified educational assistant. Dr. Harris’ heart starts pounding due a rapidly increasing stressful situation.
18.May 4, 2000: Discipline with wooden object and belt.
19. October 26, 2011: The new principal, the superintendent, a representative from Manitoba Teachers’ Society and Dr. Harris have a meeting. At the meeting, Dr. Harris is informed that he will once again be placed on clinical supervision. The MTS rep states, in private, that the school is the principal’s school and implies that Dr. Harris would need the principal’s approval to place articles in the staff lounge critical of schools.
19.September, 2000: Mother told Francesca that she would smash Francesa’s teeth if she gave her father food from her lunch bag.
20. November 16, 2011: The charges against Dr. Harris are dropped—without explanation.
20.October 10, 2000: mother slapped Francesca in the face; her lower tooth was bleeding
21. December, 2011: The new principal provides Dr. Harris with a copy of his clinical supervision. Dr. Harris replies with a 43-page rebuttal, which MTS rep reduces to 30 pages. The MTS rep indicates that the new principal’s assessment report does not reflect very well—on the principal.
21.November, 2000: mother hit Francesca with a belt buckle.
22. .Late January or early Feburary, 2012: Another meeting with the new principal,.the superintendent, the MTS rep and Dr. Harris. The superintendent mentions the fact that Dr. Harris had cancer and the arrest. The MTS rep says nothing about this. She places him on “intensive clinical supervision,” which is to begin on February 16, which means that he would be directly under the supervision of the superintendent.
22.January, 2001: Francesca indicates that she will no longer tell Dr. Harris that her mother is hitting her since she was afraid that her mother would find out that she had told him.
23. Dr. Harris goes on sick leave as of February 16, 2012.
23. February, 2001: Mother slapped Francesca in the head—Francesca cried.
24. Dr. Harris resigns from Lakeshore School Division, June 2012.
24. February, 2001: Mother pulled Francesca’s ear so hard that Francesca cried. Dr. Harris had to promise Francesca that he would not tell the WCFS about this as well as the slap in the head.
25. Before Dr. Harris leaves for Toronto in 2013, he reads an earlier version of the table in front of the Manitoba legislature during a protest against the CFS (mainly aboriginal women protesting the apprehension of their children).
25. Mother hit Francesca in the head with a book several times: not sure exactly when: before March, 2001.
26. The mother pushed Francesca to the ground: not sure exactly when: Before March, 2001
27. Mother slapped Francesca in the head several times, not sure when: before March, 2001
28. March 15, 2001: Letter from WCFS: no need for protection, Karen McDonald
29. January 13, 2003: Letter from Rhonda Warren, Assistant Program Manager, stating: “Whether we agree or not regarding the issue of corporal punishment, it is not illegal for a parent to use such practice and in absence of injury Child and Family Services does not have the authority to demand change. It appears from your lengthy correspondence that you and … [the] mother have very different childrearing practices.” This implies that the mother was using corporal punishment.
30. Francesca becomes violent toward Dr. Harris toward the end of August 2003. He takes her to her mother’s residence and refuses to see her until she can promise to refrain from punching him.
31. September, 2003: According to Francesca, the mother proceeds to rip up the swimming goggles Dr. Harris bought for her swimming lessons; the mother smashes the watch that Mr. Harris gave his daughter; she rips up a doll that Dr. Harris had gave her and throws it into the garbage can.
32. October, 2003: The mother’s nephews from Guatemala visit for a few months. Dr. Harris resumed seeing Francesca. Despite the court-order clearly indicating that Francesca was to be with him until 7:00 p.m., the mother orders Francesca to be home by 12:00 noon for her skating lessons—at 2:30—or, she tells Francesca, she will phone the police. Dr. Harris refuses to acquiesce; he would take Francesca home, he tells Francesca, at 1:00, like last time. Francesca begins poking him in the face with wooden sticks from a kit that he had bought her. He takes Francesca back to the mother’s place, indicating once again that he would not see Francescauntil she learns to control her violent behaviour. He also indicates to the mother that she has no legal right to interfere in his access rights.
33. January 22, 2004 : Letter from Mr. Berg, Assistant Program manager, threatening to consult its legal counsel and to phone the police. “We as a Branch, will not be investigating your most recent disclosure regarding your daughter and your ex-wife. I will instruct our Crisis Response Unit to screen all calls from yourself from this date forward particularly if they reference your wife and the quality of care your daughter Francesca Harris is receiving. As a Branch responsible for child welfare matters in the city, we will respond to legitimate calls. If in the future our Branch staff follow up on a referral call from yourself and we determine that the call is unfounded and malicious in nature, we will be consulting our legal counsel and the police to consider legal action.” The year before, the letter dated January 13, 2003, from Rhonda Warren, implied that his daughter’s mother was using corporal punishment. This year, Mr. Berg implies that Dr. Harris was making false claims. The issue was not just between Francesca’s mother and Dr. Harris; it was between my Francesca’s mother, the WCFS and Dr. Harris—as it has been from the beginning. Subsequent to a complaint against the WCFS to the Ombudsman’s Office made by Dr. Harris concerning this letter , the Ombusdman’s Office wrote the following (May 12, 2005): “Our office has investigated the concerns you raised and have concluded that the position taken by WCFS as outlined in their letters of January 13, 2003 and January 22, 2004 is not clearly wrong or unreasonable. Accordingly there is no recommendation that can be made on your behalf.” Subsequent to a meeting in June 2005, the Ombudsman’s Office wrote a letter, dated January 9, 2006, which contained, among other things, the following: “It was agreed that our office would send you a further report after we had the opportunity to pursue one of the issues which remained outstanding. This issue related to the tone/wording of the letter addressed to you from WCFS dated January 22, 2004 which in part stated: If in the future our Branch staff follow up on a referral call from yourself and we determine that the call is unfounded and malicious in nature, we will be consulting our legal counsel and the police to consider legal action.’ You advised us that not only did this paragraph leave you confused as to what you should do in the future should there be further incidents about which you were concerned involving your daughter’s care, but you felt this paragraph implicitly threatened you with police action.” … WCFS is now aware that the tone and choice of wording of the letter in question gave you the impression that they felt your complaints were not legitimate and that you would be subjected to police involvement. We have confirmed that WCFS will respond to you as specified in The Child and Family Services Act.” Dr. Harris replied to the Ombudsman’s Office that he was little concerned about the tone of the letter but about the real threat to use the police.
34. June 28, 2004: Mother hits Francesca in the nose, causing it to bleed as well as the mother throwing a wooden stick near Francesca’s face. On July 5, 2004, Dr. Harris take Francesca to the Children’s Advocate office, where Francesca is interviewed. The person who interviews her, Janet Minwald, then talks to Dr. Harris. She indicates that there has been a disclosure this time about physical abuse. Apparently, it took the WCFS several months before it interviewed my daughter.
35. After this time, Dr. Harris generally tried to limit his connections with the WCFS since the WCFS was clearly not doing its duty to protect Francesca (probably because he is a Marxist). Francesca was afraid to call the CFS from her mother’s home for obvious reasons and, according to Francesca, the school refused to let her call Child and Family Services. Dr. Harris therefore bought Francesca a cell phone so that she could call the WCFS herself. She had the number programmed into the phone. She had to hide in the washroom to call them.
36. 2007-2008: Francesca, lacking sufficient attendance in grade 8 for the school year 2007-2008, had to repeat it. Dr. Harris purchases distance education courses for Francesca for the summer. Francesca takes them with her for her holidays during the summer—and does not work on them.
37. Francesca begins to live with Dr. Harris in Ashern, Manitoba, in late August, 2008.
38. Dr. Harris decides to home school Francesca, creating a plan of studies.
39. Francesca falls behind in her studies.
40. When Dr. Harris confronts Francesca about her lack of studying, she becomes increasingly violent by, for example, digging her elbow in his ribs when he tries to teach her.
41. Around November, 2008, Francesca throws a metal lid at him, barely missing his head. Dr. Harris puts her in a headlock and force her to the ground, refusing to let her go until she promises not to throw anything.
42. Probably in December, Francesca punches Dr. Harris in the face. He reacts by pinning her arms.
43. During Christmas holidays, while his daughter was visiting her mother, Dr. Harris visits the doctor since he is not feeling very well, and there is an increased amount of blood in his urine (he had had traces of blood before, but not to that amount). The doctor prescribes some medication.
44. He starts to bleed more and more profusely when urinating. He begins to have pains in his right kidney. He contacts the doctor, and the doctor contacts a urologist (Dr. Bard) to have a CT scan.
45. When his daughter returns in January, Dr. Harris and Francesca continue to argue because of her lack of studying.
46. Since Dr. Harris did not have his permanent contract as a teacher yet, he tried to hide the fact that he was urinating blood by cleaning up any blood that splashed on the floor in the school washroom
47. Dr. Harris, while trying to teach Francesca, tried to show her that he was sick by showing her that the toilet bowl was full of blood. This had no effect on Francesca’s violent behavior.
48. While he tries to teach Francesca, she continues to act violently towards him. While drinking some tea, Francesca, digs her elbows into his side; he flings the tea, some of which hits his daughter in the face (fortunately, the tea is not so hot that it physically hurt her).
49. Dr. Harris takes Francesca back to her mother’s place on approximately January 28, 2009 and gives her mother a letter, indicating that he did not ever want to see Francesca again.
50. February, 2009: CT scan reveals that Dr. Harris has a large tumor in his bladder. Dr. Harris still does not want to see his daughter.
51. March 2009: Dr. Harris is diagnosed with invasive bladder cancer and has partial surgery to remove part of the tumor (it is too big for surgery to remove all of it). Dr. Harris informs Francesca that he has cancer, and they start to see each other again—although Francesca does not want to talk about the cancer and the possibility of her father dying.
52. June, 2009: The intern for the chemotherapy oncologist informs Dr. Harris that there is a 60 percent chance that he will die within the next five years.
53. June-August, 2009: Dr. Harris undergoes chemotherapy. It seems to work.
54. February or March, 2010: Dr. Harris opts for radiation therapy as suggested by his urologist Dr. Bard instead of removal of the bladder. Radiation oncologist refuses to perform the radiation because the bladder is too close to the lower intestine. Dr. Harris opts for surgery to move the lower intestine out of the way by means of a mesh so that radiation can occur.
55. March 10, 2010: The surgeon provides Dr. Harris with a note that indicates that he will have surgery on April 19.
56. March 10, 2010: Dr. Harris gives his daughter a copy of the note (and a book on evolution in order to try to have her read something that contradicts the Bible).
The following is a critical look at the reforms proposed and implemented in Lakeshore School Division, in the province of Manitoba (I worked for this Division as a French teacher from 2008 until 2012). Such reforms illustrate the extent to which school rhetoric is rampant in schools these days. You would not, however, know it if you read social-democratic or social reformist articles–most of the authors talk about defending “public education this” and “public education that” without ever engaging into inquiry about the adequacy of such public education.
On December 9, 2014, in EdCan Network, Leanne Peters, Janet Martell and Sheila Giesbrecht published an article titled “Re-imagine Lakeshore: Design, Education and Systems Change” (see https://www.edcan.ca/articles/re-imagine-lakeshore/). At the time, Leanne Peters was assistant superintendent of Lakeshore School Division, Janet Martell was the superintendent and Sheila Giesbrecht was Student Success Consultant, Manitoba Education. In essence, they were all unelected (appointed) school bureaucrats.
It is full of school rhetoric that the left should criticize.
School Rhetoric of Representatives of a Public Employer
In December 2012, Superintendent Janet Martell laid out a challenge to the school division. She told staff and board that “we were no longer meeting the needs of the students in our classrooms and we need to do something dramatically different.” Teachers were working hard and they wanted the best for the students, but we just weren’t having success.
School Rhetoric, or Putting Words into Teachers’ Mouths: Ignoring the Employee Status of Teachers
The teachers agreed and we embarked on the process of “Re-imagine Lakeshore.”
The Re-imagine Lakeshore process was designed to examine current practice and imagine new ways to improve practice. The division collaborated with one of our co-authors, Dr. Sheila Giesbrecht of Manitoba Education, who laid out a design-based school improvement process to help guide Lakeshore’s work. Teachers listened with extreme interest as the design process unfolded.
What evidence that the teachers listened with “extreme interest?” Ms. Martell provides no evidence We are supposed to just believe–on faith–that such extreme interest existed.
Phase 1: Understand (December 2012 – January 2013)
To begin this work, teachers came together to understand their divisional context.
As employees, teachers “come together” by means of an external contractual process of employment, with the unity of the workers not being due to their coming together and willing a common goal, but through the will of the employer defining the goal independently of them. From Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume 1, page 451:
They [the workers] enter into relations with the capitalist [or public employer], but not with each other. Their co-operation only begins with the labour process, but by then they have ceased to belong to themselves. On entering the labour process they are incorporated into capital [or the public employer]. As co-operators, as members of a working organism, they merely form a particular mode of existence of capital [or a public employer]. Hence the productive power developed by the worker socially is the productive power of capital [or public employer].
Belonging to a union may modify this situation (depending on the unity of the workers in their wills to achieve common objectives or goal), but it does not by any means radically change such a situation. For instance, Lakeshore Teachers’ Association, the union for the teachers, pursued certain goals (such as obtaining two paid personal days in their collective agreement), but the establishment of the general goals of Lakeshore School Division does not form part of the voluntary deliberative process of the teachers and other workers.
One specific goal–defined by the school bureaucracy and not by teachers and other workers–was evidently the integration of computer technology into teaching practices:
Teachers responded to surveys about their ability to integrate technology into their lessons and provided data around the teaching strategies they regularly employed in their classrooms.
Who determined that the integration of technology was vital (really meaning “computers”–as if technology and computers were synonymous)? Further, did the teachers voluntarily provide data? If they provided no data, would they face any negative consequences?
One general goal of Lakeshore School Division is “student success.” What does Ms.Martell mean by success? We await with enthusiasm what that may be.
School Rhetoric of Success Defined According to Quantitative Graduation Rates–Nothing Else
Teachers worked through their school and catchment area data, graduation rates.
It is, of course, necessary to determine the present situation if you are going to specify the problem and offer relevant solutions. However, we see here an implicit assumption of what “success” means–graduation rates. Presumably, if all students graduated, then there would be substantial success. If they all graduated within four years (grades 9 to 12), then there would be 100 percent success, presumably.
We can compare such a goal with the goal of having every individual student developing their potentialities in diverse ways (physical, emotional, aesthetic (capacity to enjoy art), artistic (capacity to produce art), kinesthetic, mathematical, scientific, empathetic and so forth) to the maximum of their abilities. From John Dewey (1916/2004), Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, pages 186-187:
If what was said earlier about originality of thought seemed overstrained, demanding more of education than the capacities of average human nature permit, the difficulty is that we lie under the incubus of a superstition. We have set up the notion of mind at large, of intellectual method that is the same for all. Then we regard individuals as differing in the quantity of mind with which they are charged. Ordinary persons are then expected to be ordinary. Only the exceptional are allowed to have originality. The measure of difference between the average student and the genius is a measure of
the absence of originality in the former. But this notion of mind in general is a fiction. How one person’s abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher’s business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind, individual method, originality (these are convertible terms) signify the quality of purposive or directed action. If we act upon this conviction, we shall secure more originality even by the conventional standard than now develops. Imposing an alleged uniform general method upon everybody breeds mediocrity in all but the very exceptional. And measuring originality by deviation from the mass breeds eccentricity in them. Thus we stifle the distinctive quality of the many, and save in rare instances (like, say, that of Darwin) infect the rare genius with an unwholesome quality.
The power to define “student success” is hidden by the use of apparently scientific words, such as “explore”:
They explored divisional successes and examined ways in which the teachers modeled exemplary practice. Finally, the community responded to a student success survey and helped to further define the “successful student” and the “successful school.” Teachers, administrators, students and the community collaborated to develop common understanding around the character of Lakeshore School Division.
Exploration requires the freedom to explore–to search, think and define problems freely. Being employees, where is there evidence that teachers freely explored issues? Further, who defined “divisional successes?” If the school bureaucracy define it in one way and teachers in another way, how is the conflict resolved?
Who defined what “student success is?” And how? There is the claim that “teachers, administrators, students and the community collaborated to develop common understanding”–but under the dictatorship, of course, of the school bureaucracy, which represents the employer. Participation is hardly equal among the different “partners” (for the idea that employers are dictators, see Employers as Dictators, Part One).
Defining Success at the Micro Level But Ignoring Problems at the Macro Level
Phase 2: Problemate (February – March 2013)
During the second phase, teachers worked to describe the specific challenges faced within their school. Using the narrative and quantitative data collected during the Understand Phase, schools created a “problemate statement” to define what they wanted to improve within their own school. For example, one school’s statement was: “To raise the bar and close the gap for every child.” The process of understanding and creating a problem statement was difficult. Developing a problem statement meant that both successes and challenges had to be faced head-on. Schools continued to dig deeper during this phase and were challenged to work with open mindsets. Each school worked to create a focused design challenge that they wished to address through this school improvement process.
There are undoubtedly always problems that any school will face that are unique to that school: hence “teachers worked to describe the specific challenges faced within their school.” However, are such problems to be solved by a school, or must larger social structures be changed to address certain problems? For example, Ashern Central School can be characterized as similar to many inner-city schools in Winnipeg: the level of income of many parents is limited. Defining improvement in any school is purely reformist and will never address many of the problems in schools–ranging from an alienating curriculum that focuses on “academic learning” at the expense of the lived bodily experience of many students–to defining success purely in terms of “graduation rates” that involves quantitative measurement of “success” through grading practices (marks or grades).
Phase 3: Ideate (April – June 2013)
During the third phase teachers worked to develop new ways of approaching the design challenges they developed in the second phase. Working in cross-divisional cohorts, they identified 14 common themes and challenges based on the schools’ problem statements. These included technology integration, instructional strategies, whole student approaches, relationships, parental involvement, and facilities. Teachers gathered on their own time to conduct research, share ideas and look at ways to enhance their own and divisional practices. During this phase teachers worked to extend their professional knowledge base, skills and ideas. They also worked to explore new ideas and strategies.
As for teachers meeting on their own time–probably true–teachers do work a lot, in general. However, some of this is due to the nature of the work–and some due to implicit hierarchical pressure to do so. It is difficult to separate what is freely done outside school time and what is done out of fear of retaliation by management. See the above section “School Rhetoric, or Putting Words into Teachers’ Mouths: Ignoring the Employee Status of Teachers.”
School Rhetoric and Educational Research
During this time, Lakeshore School Division became part of Brandon University’s VOICES Project and with that came additional support and funding to expand Lakeshore’s school improvement work. Several teachers participated with learning tours and additional professional learning around the 14 themes. Teachers shared their new understandings both informally and formally across the division. Prior to this process, this level of research and conversation had been unseen. One teacher remarked, “I haven’t read so much educational research since I graduated from university years ago!” The cultural shift was deepening.
The reference to “educational research” expresses a lack of critical thinking. Most educational research, assumes that the present school system constitutes the standard. It goes around in circles by engaging in educational research while assuming that its object of analysis is the only possible one (with minor changes only possible). Such an approach is of course conservative. As I wrote in one publication (see in the Publications and Writings section of this blog, on the homepage, “A Deweyan Review of the Chicago Teachers’ Union Publication The Schools Chicago Students Deserve: Research-Based Proposals to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education in the Chicago Public Schools (2012)“:
The basis of the research—both the document itself and the sources used–however, is the present school system, so the structure of the present school system constitutes the standard for determining what good education is. Since the modern school system emphasizes academics, research based on that system is bound to do so as well—in a vicious circle. The research, based on a school system that emphasizes academics to the exclusion of the human body (or the latter as an afterthought or add on), then reinforces a school system that emphasizes academics to the exclusion of the human body and so forth. There is really no alternative vision to the present school system but merely a variation on an old theme despite the good intention of being critical.
There is a lesson to be drawn from the above: the social democrats or the social reformers underestimate vastly the extent to which future workers (students) are indoctrinated into accepting the present social system. There is so much rhetoric thrown around in schools (and elsewhere, such as social-service agencies and organizations) that there is little wonder that workers become cynical of the possibility for real change. And what do social democrats do? They, for the most part, remain silent–rather than engaging in constant critique of such rhetoric. Or they themselves participate in such rhetoric by referring to “social justice in schools,” “fair contracts,” “decent work,” and so forth.
Let us now look at Phase 4:
Phase 4: Experiment (September 2013 – June 2014)
During the fourth phase of the process, Lakeshore teachers and administrators focused on trying out some of the skills and strategies they had explored during the Ideate Phase. This involved enhancing existing practices and innovating and trying new approaches. Experiments included using class iPad sets within various settings, developing interdisciplinary classrooms, reimagining learning spaces, experimenting with flipped classrooms and developing project-based approaches. One of the most powerful moments in the process came when trustee Jim Cooper stood up in front of the teachers and said, “The board is behind you. We want you to try some things in your classrooms; if those don’t work, try some other things. It’s OK to fail.” This attitude of openness and acceptance allowed teachers to imagine, innovate and experiment with new educational strategies and ideas. The divisional culture shifted to allow teachers to adopt new mindsets around what it means to teach and learn.
Experiments involved using a particular form of computer technology in various contexts–but evidently within the framework of the existing bias of a curriculum focused on literacy and numeracy at the elementary level and academic learning at the junior and senior high-school levels. As I wrote in my article “Is the Teaching of Symbolic
Learning in the School System Educational?” (in the Publications and Writings section of this blog, found on the home page):
Evidently, then, symbolic learning forms the core of the modern school curriculum at the elementary level and continues to form a central aspect in middle and high school curricula with their emphasis on academic learning.
Experiments also involved using interdisciplinary classrooms. Presumably, such subjects as language arts and social studies could be combined–as was the case for English language arts and social studies in grade 9. However, as I have pointed out in another post, the Canadian social studies curriculum is biased and indoctrinates students by not teaching them how and why employers exist (see, for example, A Case of Silent Indoctrination, Part One: The Manitoba History Curricula and Its Lack of History of Employers and Employees). Combining curricula will not change this fact. Nor will it change the focus on academic learning and symbolic learning.
“Reimagine Lakeshore” was really not very innovative. It was a top-down initiated process that lacked any real critical thinking. Its reimagination–was to imagine a rehashed school system that merely modifies a few “variables” (such as integrating a few subjects within a predominately symbolic and academic curriculum that itself is biased).
A critical look at this “reimagining process” will continue in a second post by looking at some “analyses” of this process as well as one source that such analyses rely on to justify their views.
This is a continuation of a previous post that illustrates how politically biased the capitalist government or state and its representatives (such as social-democratic social workers) are when it comes to determining real situations–especially when a person self-declares as a Marxist.
Just a recap: I filed a complaint with the Manitoba Institute of Registered Workers against a social worker who had written a court-ordered assessment concerning my wife at the time, myself and my daughter, Francesca Alexandra Romani (ne Harris). I am using the initials S.W. for the social worker. Mr. S.W., claimed that my claim that the mother of my daughter was using a belt and a wooden stick to physically abuse her, was “somewhat ridiculous.” Mr. S.W. was much less concerned about determining the truth of this claim (which is in fact true) than with my so-called indoctrination of my daughter in my “Marxist ideology.”
Since the civil trial in April 1999, my daughter complained of the following (as of February 18, 2000—it should be noted that the following does not include the many times Francesca told me that Francesca’s mother had hit her before Feburary 18, 2000): 1. Her mother was using a wooden stick on her buttocks; 2. Her mother used a belt to spank her on the same area; 3. Her mother grabbed Francesca and forced her into the apartment building; 4. Her mother had grabbed Francesca’s throat in the elevator and warned her not to tell me that her mother had hit her; 5. Her mother shoved Francesca to the floor on two separate occasions; 6. Her mother hit Francesca on the head with a book; 7. Her mother pulled Francesca’s hair; 8. Her mother scratched Francesca with a comb.
This contrasts with Mr. S.W.’s allegation, as noted in the last post, that ” Mr. Harris’ explanation for contacting the Agency [Winnipeg Child and Family Services] was somewhat ridiculous. He said that the child had made some vague indications that she may have been spanked.”
Mr. S.W. was much less concerned about the truthfulness of Mr. Harris’ claim (which is true) than with Mr. Harris’ Marxists ideas.
The Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers rejected my complaint, claiming that Mr. S.W. did not contravene the code of ethics of registered social workers in Manitoba.
I then filed a complaint against Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS) with the Manitoba Ombudsman, and during their so-called inquiry, the WCFS threatened me in a letter with consulting their legal counsel and phoning the police on me. The Manitoba Ombudsman found the actions of the WCFS to be reasonable both before the letter and the letter itself:
Our office has investigated the concerns you raised and have concluded that the position taken by WCFS as outlined in their letters of January 13, 2003 and January 22, 2004 is not clearly wrong or unreasonable. Accordingly there is no recommendation that can be made on your behalf.
So far, the Winnipeg Child and Family Services, the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers and the Manitoba Ombudsman proved themselves to be anything but institutions that reflected any kind of fairness or equitable treatment. Quite to the contrary. They either involved oppression in one form or another or justification of such oppression by vindicating an oppressive institution.
The social-democratic left rarely take this integrated nature of the oppressive powers linked to the capitalist government or state into account when formulating tactics and strategy. Indeed, many on the left even idealize such oppressive features by calling for, without qualification, the expansion of public services–as if such public services were not riveted with oppressive features.
Immediate Family Context, Or How I Failed Francesca, My Daughter, the First But Not the Last Time
As I indicated in my last post in this series:
In my next post, I will fast forward to 2007-2008, when Francesca skipped school so much that she was obliged to repeat grade eight in 2008.
I started my Ph. D. in 2002 and received a scholarship for three years, from 2002 until 2005, which helped financially, gave me some time to work on my studies without having to work as much as a substitute teacher, and enabled me to register Francesca in extra curricular activities without going into further debt (I owed around $16,000 from student loans associated with attending a bachelor of education program between 1994 (when Francesca was born) and 1996).
After 2005, however, I had to increase my work as a substitute teacher and, despite this, I increased my debt (by 2008, I had a credit card debt of around $7,000 and about $20,000 in student debt).
In the 2006-2007 school year, Francesca attended Elmwood High School, an inner-city high school not too far from the house where she lived with her mother. I was concerned about the impact her experiences at that school would have on her–as well as the kind of friendships she was establishing. (I had substituted at the school only a few times; my experiences did not impress me. For example, I substituted in one class that could lock from the inside. I had a key to the room where I was substituting, but it was in my jacket in the classroom. One student got up and left for no reason, and I followed him outside. Some students locked me out of the classroom. I had to go to the office and have the vice-principal open the door. I can certainly understand why students would do what they did in the context of an oppressive classroom setting–but I did want my daughter to learn something as well.
For the school year 2007-2008, her mother agreed to have her attend River Heights School, a middle-years school where I had substituted as well. The teaching, as far as I could see, was more rigorous, and there were more opportunities for extra-curricular activities.
However, my need to earn a living and my work on my doctoral dissertation led me to fail Francesca by not ensuring that everything was working out well at the new school. Her uprooting from her friends, and my lack of monitoring her situation, led to her skipping school more and more (I assume–her mother had fully custody–but I could have been much more active in ensuring that she felt more at home in the school and, if not, at least tried to talk to her and support her in attending. Francesca, it is true, erased messages that I received from school concerning her attendance–but that is hardly an excuse for my lack of rigor in monitoring the situation.
Furthermore, I should have known that something was wrong. At one point, she stole coins from one of my drawers. At another point, I had dropped her off for her swimming lesson at the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg, and I received a call; the police had been called. Francesca had been caught stealing money from a purse in one of the lockers. Francesca was not charged–I convinced the police that this would not happen again. There is a difference between personal theft, which is wrong and theft from large stores and from companies–I told Francesca I do not do that not because it is wrong but because it is not worth the consequences of possibly going to jail or at least a criminal record. On the other hand, Francesca’s own defense of herself in front of the police was impressive.
In any case, I failed Francesca by not monitoring her situation. Not for the last time.
As I wrote in my last post in this series:
By that time, not even her mother could control her. Nor could I. Francesca had been violent towards me since 1999, when her mother refused to let me see Francesca or let Francesca to see me for almost three months.
In 2008, I obtained a position as a permanent teacher in September 2008, in Ashern, Manitoba, a very small town about 160 kilometers north of Winnipeg. Francesca’s mother agreed to have Francesca live with me since her mother could no longer control her. I decided to home school Francesca while living in Ashern and teaching there. I enrolled Francesca in distance education courses in June 2008, and I gave her the courses. She then left with her cousin, Laura, for Kelowna, a city in the province of British Columbia. I expected Francesca at least to work a bit on the distance education courses during the summer of 2008. She never did. That was the beginning of our problems.
Since Francesca was going to be taught by me by means of home schooling and distance education, I set up a schedule for the various courses. For example, for the social studies course, I wrote the following:
Assumption: Two days of work before August 31 and every day working on social studies Studying every day working on social studies until finished.
With such a start date, it is necessary to finish about 4 pages of the distance education package per day. The 4 pages do not mean just 4 pages of reading. It means that whatever is assigned for the 4 pages must be read or done and understood. For example, on page 3 of Lesson 1 for Module 1, it is necessary to become familiar with the Table of Contents by doing the exercise.
Module 1 August 21=Lesson 1, page 4 August 26=page 8 August 31=Lesson 2, page 12 September 1=page 16 September 2=Page 20 September 3=Lesson 3, page 24 September 4=page 28 September 5=32 September 6=Lesson 4, page 36 September 7=Lesson 5, page 40 September 8=Lesson 6, page 44 September 9=Lesson 7. page 48 September 10=page 52 September 11=Lesson 8, page 56 September 12=Lesson 9, page 60 September 13=Lesson 10,page 64 September 14=page 66, Review for Test 1 September 15=Test, Module 1 September 16=Review test, Module 1
How I Failed Francesca, My Daughter, A Second Time
We started to argue shortly after we moved to Ashern. Francesca did not study as she needed to if she were going to finish grade 8. In retrospect, I should have either hired a tutor (if possible since Ashern only had a population of 1,400) or registered her in the school where I was going to teach. I was afraid, though, that if I registered her in the school where I taught, she and I would have further arguments that would spill over into my workplace and, I could lose my job. For those who abstractly consider this irrelevant, I will simply point out that economic security forms a vital component of why the working class has a tendency to fight for socialism (see Marc Mulholland (2009), “Marx, the Proletariat, and the ‘Will to Socialism’,” Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory,” pages 319-343, Volume 37, Number 3; and by the same author (2010) “‘Its Patrimony, its Unique Wealth!’ Labour-Power, Working Class Consciousness and Crises: An Outline, Consideration” pages 375-417, Volume 38, Number 3.
The social-democratic left do not even talk about the conflict that members of the working class often face between their existence as members of a family and as members of the working class (wage workers, or workers who must subordinate their will to an employer) and how this contradiction ties into government actions. It is ironic because many movies and tv programs do just that–in a conservative manner, of course. How many reading this post have not watched a movie or tv program where the protagonists experience a conflict between the existence as family members, as members of the working class or as members of the state?
For example, Raju Das, in his book Marxist Class Theory for a Skeptical World, recognizes that family relations aid in identifying the class interests of family members. Thus, he writes (page 42):
A woman who is a school teacher and married to a working class man is not in the same class location as another woman school teacher married to a male ceo (1989d: 328). So the class location of husbands and wives should be treated as a function of both direct class location and their mediated location. Sometimes they can have a common class location and sometimes different.
Mr. Das is primarily concerned with indicating the primacy of class position or location (relative to, for example, being a member of a family); this is important, but from a practical point of view of how to organize the working class into a class capable of overcoming those class recognitions, we need to acknowledge and take into account the relationships that retard class consciousness or accelerate it.
Being a member of a family can do both. On the one hand, being a member of a family can make workers more militant as they struggle to maintain and improve their family life. On the other hand, it can also make workers more conservative when being a family member results in acceptance of subordination of the worker’s will to the power of the employer. For example, I remember one worker in the capitalist brewery where I worked (in Calgary, Alberta, Canada), who explicitly stated that his family was more important than his job. Of course, what a person says and what a person does need not coincide, but to ignore the importance of the family to members of the working class, organizationally, is bound to be fraught with problems.
Or it can result in contradictory tendencies since workers can be pulled in opposite directions simultaneously. Blindness on the part of academic Marxists to these issues indicate the extent to which Marxism as theory has become divorced from Marxism as practice.
In any case, I made the wrong decision by trying to homeschool Francesca on my own. We generally worked on her studies together after supper; before supper I prepared lessons and marked other students’ work. I worked late at night and on the weekend on my doctoral dissertation (which I finished in 2009, the following year).
Our arguments became more and more heated as it became evident that Francesca was falling further and further behind. I was becoming the person and father that I did not want to become–an oppressive father by pressuring Francesca to keep to the schedule. I had to revise the schedule several times, but it was always in need of revision.
One time, when we were arguing over her studies, Francesca, who was in the kitchen, picked up a pot lid and threw it at me like a frisbee. The lid nearly hit my face; she could have easily hurt me. I walked up to her and put her in a headlock, forced her to the ground, and obliged her to state that she would not throw anything further at me. She promised not to do so.
I do not to this day regret doing this; Francesca was out of control and could have easily thrown a knife at me.
Another time, we were arguing about her studies, and she punched me in the face. I pinned her arms in order to prevent her from hitting me again. I do not regret doing that either.
There was another time, however, which I do regret. We usually studied on the futon in the living room (where I slept). Francesca obviously felt tense when we were studying, and when she did not understand something, she would dig her elbows into my side.
One day, I was sitting on the futon, with Francesca on the right. We were studying, and I was drinking some tea. She began to dig her elbow into my right side, and it hurt. I responded spontaneously, and the tea went flying from my hands. Unfortunately, some of the tea hit Francesca’s face. She started to cry. Fortunately, the tea was not hot enough to burn her–but it could have been.
Yes, I stand condemned for hurting my daughter. The mitigating circumstance is that, unknown at the time, I had invasive bladder cancer, and the cancer had blocked my right kidney (it no longer functions). That is why I was having pain on my right side, and that is why it hurt when Francesca dug her elbow into my right side.
I had had drops of blood in my urine on and off for some time (usually at the end of urination). I had gone to the doctor’s office when I lived in Winnipeg, but he discouraged me from getting a scan because of the expense–it was a time of cutbacks, and he also discouraged me from having a cystoscopy (he said it was not a pleasant procedure–which it is not. But having cancer is also not pleasant). He thought it was a urinary infection and prescribed some antibiotics. The blood went away, but it returned when I was living in Ashern with Francesca–but it was much worse than before.
I started to urinate blood–my urine was red rather than yellow. After the incident with the tea, I showed Francesca this by showing her the toilet, which was filled with blood. This had no effect in her increasingly violent behaviour towards me or in the advance of her studies.
I went to see the doctor in Ashern, and he at first recommended antibiotics, if I remember correctly. Eventually he recommended a CT scan.
Francesca also started to communicate with her mother; undoubtedly, she was complaining about me and our relationship. She wanted to return to live with her mother.
I felt that I could not handle Francesca anymore, and since she was indifferent to my health, I also responded inappropriately by indicating that I never wanted to see her again. I failed Francesca again.
In early January, I took Francesca back to her mother’s place. Within a couple of weeks, though, Francesca and her mother fought again to the point that Francesca started living with her cousin, Laura, who already had children and was foster parenting. I did not communicate with Francesca, though–I was still hurting from her apparent indifference to the deterioration of my health.
The Experiences of a Sick Worker
In the meantime, I tried to hide my sickness from my employer, Lakeshore School Division, until I obtained my permanent position as a teacher, by cleaning up red spots that splashed on the men’s bathroom floor.
In January or February, I believe, the Ashern doctor informed me that the CT scan indicated that I had a tumor, but that I should not worry–in most cases tumors are benign.
In March, 2009, I was diagnosed with invasive bladder cancer. I waited for about two weeks before I communicated with Francesca.
I had surgery, but my urologist indicated that the tumor was too big to remove entirely through surgery without removing the whole bladder. He recommended chemotherapy followed by radiation.
In the meantime, Laura, Francesca’s cousin, was married to Sean, whose mother started to tutor Francesca. I also paid for an independent tutor for Francesca. She did finish grade 8.
In June 2009, the chemotherapy oncologist had his intern inform me that I had a 60 percent chance of dying in the next five years since the cancer had penetrated the muscle; I told Francesca this. He recommended the removal of the bladder. My urologist, who was also a professor at the University of Manitoba, informed me that surgery was the typical treatment for bladder cancer in North America whereas in Europe doctors usually tried chemotherapy followed by radiation to see if the tumor could be eliminated. I chose chemotherapy.
The chemotherapy worked during the summer of 2009. There was no visible cancer after the nine weeks of chemotherapy.
Francesca, in the meantime, started to attend St. James Collegiate in grade 9 and continued to live with Laura.
My urologist still recommended radiation treatment, but for some reason it took a long time before I saw the radiologist. After some time, the radiologist informed me that she refused to perform the radiation treatment because she claimed that my intestines and my bladder were too close together. She did indicate, however, that there was a procedure for placing a mesh inside me in order to shift the intestines out of the way in order to receive radiation treatment.
I reluctantly agreed to the surgery. The surgery was scheduled on April 19, 2010. Before that, on March 10, I believe, I received a letter from the doctor who was to perform surgery. I had to provide the letter to my employer in order to obtain time off.
Francesca and I were not getting along at the time. She was becoming more religious and refused to hear anything about the theory of evolution or my Marxist ideas.
Francesca’s Apprehension by the Winnipeg Child and Family Services: Oppression by a Welfare Service
On March 10, the day that I received the letter from the surgeon, I went to Tim Horton’s across from St. James Collegiate. I was going to tell Francesca about the surgery, show her the letter and also give her a book on evolution. She was, however, if I remember correctly, with another friend. She was taking the bus to return, I assumed, to Laura’s place. I decided that I would make a copy of the letter and put the book and the letter in the mailbox at Laura’s place.
I made a photocopy of the letter at Shopper’s Drug Store along the way, and then was going to go to Laura’s place by cutting across from Portage Avenue, ironically between the Manitoba Teachers’ Society building (McMaster House), on the one hand, and the building where the MTS Disability Plan office was located (as well as the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association-see illustrations below).
I took this route because Francesca was living on Nightingale Rd, where Laura, her cousin, lived; this was a shortcut that Francesca had showed me (see map below).
However, as I was turning to enter the shortcut, I saw Francesca walking towards this shortcut; she had obviously taken the bus, had gotten off and was going to take the short cut. I drove a little further on, parked the car, got out and gave her a photocopy of the doctor’s letter and the book on evolution.
I left to return to Ashern, Manitoba, 166 kilometers north of Winnipeg (where I worked as a French teacher); that evening, however, I received a phone call from the Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS) indicating that Francesca had been apprehended by the WCFS and that I was forbidden from seeing her–on pain of being arrested. It was claimed that I had cornered Francesca and that she was afraid of me. It was also claimed that I had choked Francesca some tima ago, thrown her to the ground and that on another occasion I had pinned her arms.
I fought against this oppression for the next month. The WCFS sought custody from both parents, and I attended a meeting with a judge and the lawyer for the WCFS. The lawyer tried to insult me by asking whether I had ever been “psychologically assessed,” to which I responded by asking him the same question. I indicated to the judge how Francesca had been physically abused in various ways. The judge indicated that if the issue went to court and he were judge and the WCFS lost, then he would have no choice but to grant custody either to me or to the mother. Given Francesca’s and my present rocky relationship, I could not fathom our getting along together. Furthermore, now that it was probably that Francesca had played some part in the false accusations of choking her and throwing her to the ground, I felt that I could not trust her.
Of course, I did not feel that Francesca’s mother should have custody given the history of physical abuse.
I went to court one final time, indicating that I would abandon custody–but without prejudice.
The whole experience was very stressful.
On April 19, I had surgery in Winnipeg at the Health Sciences Center, but I had a lung infection and stayed in the hospital for 16 days. Francesca visited me once, and when I tried to talk to her about the claim that I had choked her and threw her to the ground by reminding her that I had put her in a headlock and forced her to the ground until she agreed not to throw anything else at me, she claimed that the choking and throwing her to the ground was a different occasion. Since there was no other occasion, my suspicion that she played some role in her apprehension by the WCFS was confirmed.
Expression of My Opposition to the NDP, a Social-Democratic Government
Once I left the hospital around May 5, 2010, I stayed with a friend in Winnipeg for a couple of months. Since I knew that I had not choked Francesca nor threw her to the ground, her apprehension by an organization that was instrumental in contributing to her physical abuse and her violence towards me angered me, to say the least. I began to send emails to the New Democratic Party (NDP, the social democratic party in Canada); the NDP were in power in the province of Manitoba. In one email, I titled it “J’accuse”–a take on the following (from Wikipedia):
I sent, among other things, a table that contained some of Francesca’s and my experiences with the WCFS (I will be posting a modified version of this table (the updated version is more inclusive) on this blog, much of which I have included in this series of posts. I also sent the material to the Manitoba Minister of Justice and to the Manitoba Minister of Education. I also began to send the material to government institutions outside the province of Manitoba.
Return to Teaching Before My Arrest by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)–and Revelations
I returned to Ashern in the summer of 2010 to prepare for teaching. The surgery had failed–the radiation oncologist still refused to perform radiation because, she argued, my intestines were still too close to the bladder.
On October 6, 2010, Darrell Shorting, of the Anishinaabe Child and Family Services, called me at school. It was recess time (Ashern Central School, where I worked, was a grade 5-12 school). He stated that he knew what I had done, namely, choked Francesca and threw her to the ground. Mr. Shorting obliged me to inform the principal at the time (Mr. Chartrand) that I was under investigation.
I was put on administrative leave for perhaps one week. The staff, I believe, were told that it was medical, so I felt obliged to leave Ashern early every day early.
I had a subsequent meeting with Randy Chartrand, the principal, and Janet Martell, the superintendent. I categorically denied having choked Francesca and throwing her to the ground.
Lakeshore School Division decided to have me placed in the clinical supervision model for the year; my performance as a teacher was evaluated by Randy Chartrand, the principal at the time. I passed the assessment.
During the 2010-2011 school year, a few curious experiences arose with the RCMP. It was my habit to go, every Saturday at 12: 15, to a coffee and bakery shop called “Just My Kind of Bakery,” about a block and a half from where I lived. (see photo below). I read the Saturday Winnipeg Free Press there. I could have easily walked to the bakery, but I also often worked on either preparing lessons or marking student work after having read the paper and needed . I also generally bought groceries afterwards. It was more convenient to take the car with the newspaper and school work.
One time, I left the house where I lived at around 12:15 on Saturday, as usual, on a fall day, and I saw two RCMP cars enter the alleyway behind the row of buildings that included Just My Kind of Bakery. They went to the end of the alley, turned right and then turned right again–going towards Just My Kind of Bakery. I did not make anything of it–until I arrived at Just My Kind of Bakery. I took the shortest route to the bakery, but to park at Just My Kind of Bakery, I had to cross the yellow line. When I got out, the RCMP officers from the two cars approached me, and one of them stated that what I had done was illegal–I had crossed the yellow line. When I asked how I was supposed to get to Just My Kind of Bakery, he stated that I could approach the bakery from the other side in order not to have to cross the yellow line (the same route that they had taken–although they did not say that). Of course, apart from this instance, I had never seen the RCMP ever enforce this “law” during the three-and-half years that I lived there.
Sometime afterwards, I believe, I moved to the window seat in Just My Kind of Bakery because I wanted to be able to identify my accuser, Darrell Shorting. I suppose the workers there felt “threatened”–but my purpose was a typical claimed right of an accused–to confront one’s accuser. I had been charged and condemned for physically abusing Francesca without a trial; I wanted to know who was it who was accusing me (apart from the fascist organizations called Child and Family Services, whether in Winnipeg or in Ashern).
Ashern Anishinaabe Child and Family Services
Relation of Just My Kind of Bakery (Indicated by Fork and Knife) and Ashern Anishinaabe Child and Family Services
Another time, I was going to the school when it was dark to obtain something from the school in preparation for lessons; I saw an RCMP car nearby.
I forget exactly when, but Francesca contacted me, and we began to see each other. It must have been in 2011, before April 4. By coincidence we went to see a movie called “The Dilemma,” with Vince Vaughan as actor, among others. The dilemma was whether Vaughn, who saw his business partner and friend, should tell him that he had seen his wife kissing another man. My dilemma was whether I should confront Francesca with the false allegation of choking her and throwing her to the ground. After the movie, I dropped her off, and I decided to talk to her about it. We talked on the phone, and I indicated that I had not choked her nor threw her to the ground. She said that it did not matter since she forgave me. I insisted, however, that I had done no such thing. If I remember correctly, she hung up. When I tried calling back then and other times, there was no answer.
It was around the same time, or perhaps a little earlier, that Francesca was temporarily living with the parents of the husband of Laura since one of the teenagers who lived under Laura’s care had apparently tried to commit suicide, and there was blood in the house. I went to see Francesca there, and she told me for the first time that she had been sexually abused by Juan Ulises, the common-law husband, when she was a child. Given that she still claimed that I had choked her and threw her to the ground, I did not believer her at the time. Now I do. I attributed her earlier violence towards me to her mother’s physical abuse. However, even after she admitted that I had not choked her nor threw her to the ground, she insisted that Juan Ulises had sexually abused her. Her extreme violence towards me can be ascribed both to the physical and emotional abuse of her mother, the lack of action by the WCFS, the Progressive Conservative government and the NDP social-democratic government (elected in 1999)–and her sexual abuse by Juan Ulises.
My Arrest and Harassment by the RCMP
Just before the spring break, I noticed that two RCMP cars were parked outside the house where I lived and had flashed their lights.
After spring break, on Sunday evening, there was someone stamping outside the house–and when I looked outside, there were a couple of flashes of light from one of the RCMP cars. I heard a knock on the door, got dressed and opened the door. There were two RCMP officers at the door. They indicated that I was under the arrest. When I asked what charge, they asked whether I wanted others to hear about the charges or whether it would be better to hear about them inside. I “invited” them inside. They informed me that I was charged with three counts of assault of Francesca. I asked them what the charges were. Two of the three were the same allegations as the Winnipeg Child and Family Services–choking Francesca and throwing her to the ground. The third allegation was new–assaulting Francesca by throwing tea at her. The RCMP officer also indicated that I was not to approach Francesca and not to leave the province; otherwise, I would be put in jail. I was fingerprinted at a later date.
On the following Saturday (April 9, 2011), for the first time ever, several RCMP officers (some in street clothes) sat opposite me at “Just My Kind of Bakery” in Ashern, probably to intimidate me and to ensure that I was no longer looking out the window to see who Darrell Shorting was. One of the officers, not in uniform, was the father of one of my former French students at the secondary level. On April 16, 2011, several RCMP officers once again do the same thing, including the father once again–this time in uniform.
(As an aside, it may be that Darrell Shorting is the same person who complained about how children in First Nations communities should be kept in their own communities rather than shipped to Winnipeg under the “protection” of Winnipeg Child and Family Services (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/cfs-is-new-residential-school-system-says-former-cfs-investigator-1.2788730 ). If so, then Mr. Shorting saw fit to falsely accuse me of choking Francesca and throwing her to the ground and contributing to Francesca’s legal separation from me. Mr. Darrell, Shorting, as the article shows, was a former CFS abuse investigator for Aninshinaabe CFS.)
An Oppressive Working and Living Atmosphere
I returned to school next morning to teach. Curiously, one of the parents of a student I was teaching wanted to attend my class. I “agreed” to this.
Subsequently, at a teacher’s meeting, in May 2011 I believe, Neil MacNeil attended. He was a former teacher at Ashern Central School who had taught their for around 30 years. He was a principal in another school in another town within the same school division, but he was going to become the new principal at Ashern Central School during the 2011-2012 school year. At the meeting, he stated that he wished he could teach French since the French program was going downhill–which in itself I found inappropriate and humiliating since it was I who taught French.
Later that month, I was informed that I would no longer be teaching French at the high-school level (grades 9-12)–but I would still be teaching French in grades 6-8 (another teacher would teach French at the grade 5 level). Jennifer Bjorg, the daughter of the former French teacher whom I replaced once she retired (Darlene Hanlon), would be teaching basic French at the high-school level.
I enjoyed much more teaching French at the high-school level. It was optional for students, and most students wanted to be there and learn French. Since I did not like teaching basic French in the earlier years–especially since it was obligatory although many students did not really want to learn it–the stripping of my seniors French class resulted in an oppressive atmosphere for me.
Near the end of August, when I went outside, I found that one of the windows of my car had been smashed. The rock was still in the car. I went to the RCMP station a few blocks away to report it. The RCMP officer said that they could do nothing and that fingerprints could not be obtained from a rock. Nothing was done about it. There was no inquiry into the vandalism at all–further proof against the idealized version of the police by the “Marxist” Herman Rosenfeld (see, for example, Reform versus Abolition of Police, Part Two).
The oppressive atmosphere where I worked and lived increased substantially when I was assigned the position of a glorified teaching assistant by having to supervise one special needs student instead of teaching the seniors French classes in September, 2011. It was humiliating, and my heart started to pound excessively in September 2011. Furthermore, I was placed on clinical supervision once again–with Neil MacNeil as principal, not Randy Chartrand.
I started to have problems sleeping at night due to the pounding heart. I started to take sleeping pills–which did not reduce the pounding heart, but they at least permitted me to distance the pounding heart sufficiently to sleep. I also started to drink a maximum of a cup of red wine every day (a measuring cup since I knew what alcohol could do to a person–my father had been an alcoholic and died when he was 50). (In fact, I started to drink red wine twice a week because my former supervisor for my master’s degree and Ph. D. Rosa Bruno-Jofre, who had cancer around the same time as I did, recommended a book “Foods That Fight Cancer.” In that book, the author recommended drinking red wine since it had a concentrated chemical not as easily metabolised if a person ate only red grapes. Drinking red wine every day, though, was due to the oppressive situation).
The whole situation was oppressive. Ashern is a very small town–around 1,400 people. I never stated to anyone that I had been arrested, but the three charges were to be addressed when a judge was to hear the charges. I did not attend personally (I hired a criminal lawyer “at a reduced rate” because I was a member of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society–Josh Weinstein It cost me around $3,000). Obviously many people knew about the arrest. I could not rest neither at work nor at home.
I also started having problems teaching French with some of the students. I always had classroom management problems in the grades 7 and 8 levels, and they intensified as the year proceeded. I also experienced the oppression of the principal hovering around the classrooms where I taught, looking in whenever he wanted.
Of course, the threat of being jailed if I tried to communicate with Francesca was also oppressive.
In October, I believe, I started to see Gene Degen, a counsellor for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at the Manitoba Teachers Society building–the very building where I allegedly cornered Francesca and frightened her. I also inquired about going on sick leave.
The extent of the feeling of oppression can be seen from a series of communication between Adele Field Burton, case manager for the Disability Benefits Plan of MTS and me:
— On Wed, 11/2/11, AdelleFieldBurton<email@example.com> wrote:
From: AdelleFieldBurton <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Apology To: “Fred Harris” <email@example.com> Received: Wednesday, November 2, 2011, 8:44 AM
I am sorry if I have offended you or misunderstood what you were trying to say. It was not my intention.
You are entitled to apply for benefits if you are medically unable to work.
I am here to help if needed.
AdelleFieldBurton, BA BSW CCRC
Disability Benefits Plan of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society
I find the contents of your email interesting–in its naivety.
Fact 1: I went to see a brand new doctor since my previous doctor had left Ashern (a typical phenomenon in rural areas, so I am told).
Fact 2: I only indicated that I was under extreme stress; I did not elaborate.
Fact 3: The doctor listened to my heart.
Fact 4: I had an EKG.
Fact 5: He prescribed to me a drug and told me to look up on the Net its effects.
Fact 6: I looked up on the Net the drug and discovered that it was addictive.
Fact 7: I purchased the pills–with the intention of taking them for the purpose of addressing my immediate concerns–my stress as expressed in my increasingly intensified heart.
Fact 8: It was the pharmacist who informed me (not the doctor) that the pills would likely have no effect for the period of the prescription; it would be necessary to take the pills for probably six weeks to notice any effect.
Fact 9: I have been taking over-the-counter sleeping pills to try to sleep; although they do not alter the pounding heart, they do allow me to exist in a state of semi-sleep, with the feeling (though not the fact) of a pounding heart to be less intense;
Fact 10: You presumed that I refused to take the pills based on my Marxist beliefs;
Fact 11: My immediate concern is my constant pounding heart and a solution to that–not in 6 weeks henceforth.
Fact 12: Neither the doctor nor you seem to recognize what stress involves and what the person under stress needs.
Opinion: I do not appreciate your “aside” etc. You apparently have little understanding of the situation.
As an “aside,” on November 15, I have a cystoscopy. On Novemeber 17 I will have a CT scan. Anyone who knows anything about those who have experienced cancer can infer that at least some will be nervous about such procedures because of the possible outcome of a a negative diagnosis. Indeed, I had a conversation yesterday with my advisor for my Ph. D. about this since she had colon cancer at the same time as I had invasive bladder cancer.
Furthermore, on November 16 is the court date. Couple that with the clinical supervision and the humiliation of being shifted to “teaching” one student for 8 weeks and for being denied the right to teach senior-high French this year (despite having taught it for three years in a row), my stress level is quite comprehensible.
I will address my problems and my needs without your help. Should I need assistance, I shall contact another person from MTS.
Rest assured that I have no intention of ever contacting you again.
Dr. Fred Harris, Marxist
— On Mon, 10/31/11, AdelleFieldBurton<firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: AdelleFieldBurton <email@example.com> Subject: RE: Stress Leave To: “Fred Harris” <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: “Roland Stankevicius” <email@example.com>, “AdelleFieldBurton” <firstname.lastname@example.org> Received: Monday, October 31, 2011, 5:15 AM
I am sorry to hear that things are feeling worse for you.
I guess there are a couple of things for clarification.
Although you are certainly under stress, this is not a diagnosis, it is a cause. In order to take time off work for medical reasons you need to have a note from a medical doctor that states you are unable to work for “medical reasons” (that includes psychological). If your doctor is prescribing an anti-depressant then likely feels you are exhibiting signs of depression. I do have clients who chose not to take medication as a first line of treatment, preferring to use talk therapy first. My approach to that is – Unless there is a past history of mental health problems where medication has been useful, I think it is reasonable to try counselling first but if after 6 months, the depression (etc.) is not improving, then medication becomes a part of “appropriate care and treatment”.
So I guess the first thing is to see if your doctor will support your going off work for medical reasons. If he does, then I can refer you to a psychologist – I would try to chose one who I think might fit for you.
If your doctor does not support medical leave and you still feel that is necessary, I can refer you to a psychiatrist who would just provide a medical opinion on whether you could work and provide treatment recommendations. It would mean one, two-hour visit. I would be clear with him about your concerns with psychiatry and I believe that your concerns would not be well-founded. There is really no other way to confirm your medical status if your doctor does not agree with time off.
As an aside, it sounds like you may be choosing what you consider to be the “lesser of two evils”, so I still wonder about your ability to participate fully in sessions with the psychologist. In any case, I would rely on the psychologist’s assessment of whether that was taking place. I wish there was some way we could help without impacting your philosophical beliefs but I am not sure what that would look like. The plan document is very clear about appropriate care and treatment.
In November 2011, the charges of assaulting Francesca were dropped–with no explanation at all.
I was to begin teaching an English class and a math class in November 2011, which I did–as well as the grades 6-8 French.
Neil MacNeil, the principal, submitted his clinical supervision report in December, 2011, evaluating my teaching during November and December 2011. I responded with around a 42-page critique, but I submitted it to Roland Stankevicius, a staff officer at the time with Manitoba Teachers Society (and later General Secretary), for comment. He recommended reducing it in certain places (and eliminating all evidently emotional language), so the final response was around 32 pages. Mr. Stankevicius indicated at the time that the clinical supervision report reflected badly–on Mr. MacNeil:
— On Mon, 12/19/11, RolandStankevicius<email@example.com> wrote:From: RolandStankevicius <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RE: Response to Clinical Evaluation To: “Fred Harris” <email@example.com> Received: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:32 AM
I have tried to play the role of editor here. Cut down on the length, improve tone. The strikeouts should be deleted in my opinion and the yellow highlights added.
You have provided a very scholarly response but it needs to be shortened. I hope you agree with my suggestions. Please call me over lunch to discuss.
Best to get this put away. You have made your points here. NM does not look good in a lot of how he states his observations (in my opinion).
(I will be publishing, in several parts, my reply to Mr. MacNeil’s assessment sometime on this blog.)
However, Janet Martell, the superintendent and Mr. MacNeil had other plans. Mr. MacNeil, Ms. Martell, Leanne Peters, assistant superintendent, had a meeting with Mr. Stankevicius and me on February 13. Mr. Martell mentioned my cancer and my arrest–without Mr. Stankevicius responding at all to this. I was to be put on “intensive clinical supervision”–which meant that I would be put under her supervision–all supposedly to provide supports for my teaching. However, Mr. Stankevicius, a staff officer at the time with Manitoba Teachers Society (and later General Secretary) indicated that it was a prelude to my being fired. The starting date was to be February 14, 2012 (see letter below):
Fred Harris Box 473 Ashern, MB R0C 0E0
February 14, 2012
Dear Mr. Harris:
Intensive Guided Supervision
This correspondence is further to our meeting on February 13th, 2012. Also in attendance at the meeting was Neil MacNeil, Principal, Ashern Central School, Roland Stankevicius, MTS Staff Officer, and Leanne Peters, Assistant Superintendent, Lakeshore School Division. During this meeting, we discussed the need to move you from a clinical model of supervision to the Intensive Guided model as per Lakeshore’s Regulations and Procedures.
This change in supervision is necessary as your competency in providing a quality education to our students has been brought into question and your teaching is deemed unsatisfactory by myself, as determined in consultation with Neil MacNeil. We clarified the procedures and reviewed, in general terms, the elements and expectations of good teaching and professional responsibility. We discussed the opportunity you would have to assist in determining supports required to meet the expectations. The timelines, in a broad sense, would run from today’s date until the end of April 2012. At the conclusion of the timeline, I will convene a meeting of all participants to determine the outcome of the Intensive Guided Supervision. Possible outcomes are as follows:
Recognition that the plan to achieve satisfactory teaching was successfully completed, or
A recommendation to the Board of Trustees for termination of your contract.
A second meeting has been scheduledfor Friday, February 17th at 9:30 a.m. at Ashern Central School to develop a plan for Intensive Guided Supervision. The plan will include:
a clear description of the areas requiring improvement,
a clear description of the expected changes in those areas requiring improvement,
a description of resources available within and outside the division to assist the teacher to improve teaching performance,
the timeline for satisfactory improvement to occur,
the meeting dates to review progress, and
an outline of the evaluation process and timelines which shall be followed, including expected dates of reports, both interim and final.
At this meeting, you will have the opportunity not only for input into the process, but to request clarification of any component of the supervision model, which will ensure you are in complete understanding of the Division’s expectations. If you are successful in meeting these expectations and demonstrate your desire and ability to continue to do so, no further changes in your performance will be necessary.
I am optimistic that regardless of what has happened in the past, progress can be made to the benefit of all concerned.
CC: Personnel file
Neil MacNeil, Principal, Ashern Central School
Leanne Peters, Assistant Superintendent, Lakeshore School Division
Roland Stankevicius, MTS Staff Officer
On February 16, 2012, I had a meeting with Mr. Stankevicius and a lawyer for MTS at the MTS building (McMaster House):
Marni Sharples <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wed., Feb. 15, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.
Coordinator, Teacher Welfare
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society
191 Harcourt Street
Winnipeg, MB R3J 3H2
‘ (204)837-4666 Ext. 239 or 1-800-262-8803
6 (204) 831-3077 or 1-866-799-5784
—–Original Message—– From: Fred Harris [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: February-15-12 12:36 PM To: Marni Sharples Subject: Re: Meeting – Thursday, February 16th
On February 16, 2012, I had a meeting with Mr. Stankevicius and David Shrom, a lawyer (probably a labour lawyer–he has since been on an arbitration board). Mr. Shrom informed me that the issue was grievable, meaning that the issue could be grieved on the basis of collective agreement provisions (but he did not specify, if I remember correctly, which provisions could be used to justify the grievance). However, he (or Mr. Stankevicius) indicated that, despite being grievable, I would still have to undergo intensive clinical supervision while the grievance was in process. Since I had no further desire to work for Lakeshore School Division (or for that matter any other employer), I decided not to pursue the grievance and made a deal to agree to resign if I was “allowed” to work one day in March to qualify for short-term disability until I qualified for long-term disability;
Bureaucratic Rules for Going on Short- and Long-term Disability
Fred Harris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sat., Feb. 18, 2012 at 9:29 a.m.
I received a doctor’s note yesterday for two weeks. I will fax that to the Division office. I also explained to the doctor the situation in relation to std [short-term disability], and he stated that he had no problem with signing another doctor’s note afterwards.
What are other conditions for std? Seeing a doctor regularly? Other conditions attached? What is the level of benefits?
I understand that I will have to work at least one day in March. In what would that consist? And where? I am unconcerned about the other teachers knowing about the situation–they undoubtedly will be curious. However, I have no desire to see Neil.
I do have some questions. Is std to be a bridging gap for ltd [long-term disability]? However, I skimmed through the ltd plan, and a condition for ltd is that the teacher still be employed. If the idea is to negotiate a deal and terminate, then I would not qualify for ltd. So I am unsure of this.
I also am wondering about prospects for future employment in other divisions. I would probably start out as a substitute teacher, but then again I do now know how difficult it is to be on the substitute teachers’ list in various divisions. Any ideas?
I also, as you know, plan on going to Toronto. Whether this year or next I am unsure. What probable impact, if any, would this have on working in Toronto, at least initially, as a substitute teacher?
— On Fri, 2/17/12, Roland Stankevicius <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Roland Stankevicius <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: FW: Lakeshore short term disability insurance (std) To: “Fred Harris” <email@example.com> Received: Friday, February 17, 2012, 12:24 PM
Hi Fred, I heard your voicemail message. I am in the office call if you are available.
Further to the previous email.
The note for next week can be “on sick leave for an indefinite period while under doctor’s care and will be reassessed on 28th February.”
The matter is that you need to be ‘not on sick leave’ for at least a day (at work) on or after March 1st. It is a bit complicated but basically you will be transitioning from one medical leave to the other and therefore will need a second medical note after March 1st.
My email to a doctor involved specifying what was required to satisfy the short-term provisions of the disability program:
From: Fred Harris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 02:09:46 p.m. EDT
Hello Doctor Faltas,
I am a patient of yours who saw the psychiatrist, Dr.Morier.
Lakeshore School Division requires a doctor‘s note, with two parts to it.
The first part should indicate that I was capable of working on March 23 (whether formulated as alternative work or simply as work is your decision).
The second part then should indicate that I was not capable of working as of March 26. The MTS representative (union representative) suggested that the wording should indicate that I am incapble of performing full-time teaching duties due to general stress and anxiety (this last wording, he suggested, should also be used for the Wawanesa form when you fill it out after having received the Dr. Morier’s report). Of course, it is up to you how you formulate the note.
The note can be addressed as To Lakeshore School Division
The note can be sent to the following address:
Lakeshore School Division
If you have questions of the Division, you can phone the Division at 739-2101 and ask for Janet Martell (superintendent).
If you have any questions for me, my cell number in Winnipeg is: 951-2764.
Thank you, Dr. Faltas.
Political Lessons to Be Learned
When we look at all these experiences, it can be seen that the government and its representatives in many ways functions to oppress workers and citizens. The left seem oblivious to this aspect of the regular person’s experiences. Indeed, the left’s frequent reference to the solution of “expanded public services,” for many sounds like a call for an expanded system of oppression. Is there really any wonder why workers and citizens have moved to the right in many instances? The left, of course, absolves itself of any responsibility for this turn. It chastises the lower levels of the working class for, for instance, voting for the likes of Trump, while it fails to look critically at its own contribution to the continued oppression of workers and citizens.
It should be noted that, in some ways, I was a lucky person. I was to receive short-term and then long-term disability. A friend of mine who worked in a private school ended up in the psychiatric ward after suffering constant criticisms from administration and relatively well-off parents. He received no financial help whatsoever.
Of course, my luck is relative; I would have preferred, of course, not to have had to experience such “luck” in the first place.
In another post in this series, I will outline the oppression that I experienced while on short- and long-term disability.