"To Be" or "To Feel": That Is The Question!


Chilliwack - October 3, 2022

Rob Bogunovic, vice-president, PPC Fraser Valley Regional Association


The BCTF, along with our local Teacher’s Association, is urging teachers to vote for “progressive” candidates in the municipal elections taking place this October 15th. Clint Johnson, the current BCTF President, has sent a “Dear colleagues” letter out to the BCTF membership. He opens: “As teachers, we agree that students deserve to feel safe, welcomed, and included in all learning spaces.”


Clint Johnson’s opening line reveals what has brought such division to our school districts. He assumes that teachers agree “students deserve to feel safe, welcomed, and included”, but an alternative perspective is that students actually deserve to be safe, welcomed, and included. The one perspective, based on feelings, is incredibly subjective and opens up school disciplinary policies to all kinds of discriminatory shenanigans. The other, I believe, aligns much more closely to the expectations laid out in the B.C. Human Rights Code, the B.C. School Act, and the Professional Standards for B.C. Educators.


Section one of our professional standards states that “Educators care for students and act in their best interests”, that “Educators are responsible for the physical and emotional safety of students”, and that “Educators foster students’ positive personal identity, mental and physical well-being, social and personal responsibility, and intellectual development.”


The potential for contradiction is inherent in these standards, which is why we must not simply submit to something as fleeting and as treacherous as one’s feelings. To be sure, feelings matter to one’s mental well-being, but other concerns must often take precedence. A positive personal identity involves the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the factors that contribute to a healthy sense of oneself, but health is complex, and what is healthy for some may be destructive to others. Some things serve short-term happiness at the expense of long-term well-being. Many “progressives” refuse to consider the implications of such complexities. They demand that we embrace political narratives that ignore certain problematic realities.


There is a world of difference between feeling safe and being safe, and many of those who are skilled at making one feel safe are anything but safe. Clint Johnson’s “Dear colleagues” letter insults trustees who express concerns about actual safety. He refers to “hateful and discriminatory rhetoric”, and “regressive positions” that would “cause harm to students, families, and staff who are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community.” I fail to see how this sort of rhetoric is not itself “hateful and discriminatory” with the potential to “cause harm to students, families, and staff”, though I think a common subtext in all this is that, unless you are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community, your “feelings” don’t really matter.


Clint Johnson, quoting a statement by the Ministry of Education, declares that “No student should be excluded or bullied because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” A significantly more inclusive position would be to simply declare that “No student should be excluded or bullied.” That has been the perspective of many who are constantly being dismissed as “hateful” and “regressive” by the ideological bullies of our current age. There are still some people who see immense value in applying the principles of tolerance and inclusion fairly and equally to all, but the BCTF has not been much of an ally in those efforts.


Because I respect the principles of tolerance and inclusion, because I care about the safety and well-being of students, I will not be voting for the “progressive” candidates the union has endorsed.


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