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Stop villifying each other

The present education conflict has brought back memories of the 1985 high school teachers’ strike that many of us remember as a difficult autumn.
One of my children was in Grade 9. By the time she graduated with a B.A. she had experienced two more strikes, taking her out of the classroom for a total of four months. As a parent, I got involved in each of those strikes, but particularly in the high school strike.
I also sought to provide some leadership through my role as a United Church minister. As a church community we had, among a number of initiatives, a drop-in space, opportunities for students to study and meet each other, a public gathering for parents.  Whether any of that helped to bring a settlement is dubious.
Each of those three strikes was highly confrontational, with both sides having their talking points and tight discipline on all participants to enforce uniformity. The penalty for breaking ranks was very severe.
I came to experience it as a form of warfare where the capacity to see things from the other side was lost. Humility was scarce, self-righteous posturing was pronounced. Like all wars, there were civilians, and in an education conflict they are firstly the students and secondly their parents.
Because the strikes caught some students simply at the wrong point in their lives, the effects were enormous, lasting significant lengths of time, although most rebounded once the conflict was over.
So what is my hope in the present situation?  Maybe it’s a vain hope, but for both sides, please drop the posturing, the self-righteous anger, the self-justifying language. Each side has some of the truth, but not all of it.
The civilians, students primarily, need to be accounted for, and it is the adults on both sides who are responsible for that task. At a minimum, please stop vilifying each other!
John Buttars
Guelph

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