Peter Cow­ley

Appa­ren­tly, both the Bri­tish Colum­bia mini­stry of edu­ca­tion and the Bri­tish Colum­bia Teachers’ Fede­ra­tion would rather not enco­ura­ge the province’s stu­dents to deve­lop and uti­li­ze the­ir cri­ti­cal thin­king skills. Bet­ter to just take the teachers’ truth in the clas­sro­om rather than disco­ve­ring and under­stan­ding both sides (or all sides) of a con­ten­tio­us subject.

Sha­me on them.

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Accor­ding to a recent Cana­dian Press report, the Cana­dian Asso­cia­tion of Phy­si­cians for the Envi­ron­ment is much con­cer­ned becau­se For­tis B.C., the province’s lar­gest natu­ral gas distri­bu­tor, offers edu­ca­tio­nal mate­rials to B.C. teachers abo­ut natu­ral gas, cli­ma­te chan­ge, and ener­gy conservation.

This is not a new pro­gram. The CP report notes that the com­pa­ny began its edu­ca­tion pro­gram, “Ener­gy Leaders,” in 2017, and it says that by 2020 some 20,000 edu­ca­tors had down­lo­aded the les­son plans and materials.

In the same report, “Bri­tish Columbia’s edu­ca­tion mini­stry says it does not review or endor­se edu­ca­tio­nal reso­ur­ces pro­vi­ded by indu­stry and does not “recom­mend or autho­ri­ze the use of reso­ur­ces like FortisBC’s Ener­gy Leaders program.”

Howe­ver, the mini­stry respon­ded, “We are revie­wing this issue to ensu­re clas­sro­oms are free of cor­po­ra­te prio­ri­ties so stu­dents can con­ti­nue to learn in an unbia­sed environment.”

Yet, how can the mini­stry ensu­re that the mate­rials they pre­scri­be for the clas­sro­oms will be unbiased?

Natu­ral­ly, the teachers’ union pre­si­dent, Teri Mooring, also waded in. She was even more stri­dent, dec­la­ring, “the fos­sil fuel indu­stry has no pla­ce in B.C. clas­sro­oms, espe­cial­ly as we face an unpre­ce­den­ted cli­ma­te crisis.”

She says the fede­ra­tion will work with the govern­ment in “deve­lo­ping unbia­sed, scien­ce-based cli­ma­te edu­ca­tion reso­ur­ces.” So aga­in, we are asked to belie­ve that the mate­rials pro­du­ced by the mini­stry of edu­ca­tion with the assi­stan­ce of the teachers’ union will be unbiased.

One won­ders how public scho­ols can ena­ble lear­ning in an “unbia­sed envi­ron­ment” when only one side of the issue is repre­sen­ted in the clas­sro­om. Per­haps this is why so many of the province’s teachers have alre­ady down­lo­aded the For­tis material.

Do we real­ly want the mini­stry of edu­ca­tion and the teachers’ union to be the arbi­ters of the truth in the publi­ca­tions that the stu­dents sho­uld stu­dy? I think not.

For­tu­na­te­ly, I have a bet­ter idea.

A long time ago, when I was in secon­da­ry scho­ol, I took a Social Stu­dies class from a gen­tle­man named Frank Snow­sell. Frank was both a teacher and a some-time poli­ti­cian. He sto­od seve­ral times for elec­tion to the Bri­tish Colum­bia legi­sla­tu­re under the ban­ner of the Co-ope­ra­ti­ve Com­mon­we­alth Fede­ra­tion (Far­mer-Labo­ur-Socia­list) and its suc­ces­sor, the New Demo­cra­tic Par­ty. But I remem­ber him spe­ci­fi­cal­ly for the words of cau­tion that he offe­red us during the first class of the year.

He said wry­ly, “Be care­ful; I may display some bias now and then.” He asked us to pay atten­tion to him but not take eve­ry­thing he said as “the truth.” He told us that, later in life, we would have to work hard to find the truth, but it was worth the effort.

The mini­stry of edu­ca­tion and the teachers’ union sho­uld heed Snowsell’s war­ning and enco­ura­ge teachers to help the­ir stu­dents seek out a varie­ty of points of view when discus­sing any con­tro­ver­sial subject.

The stu­dents will be the bet­ter for it.


Peter Cow­ley is a reti­red Senior Fel­low at the Fra­ser Institute.

Peter is a Troy Media Tho­ught Leader. 

The opi­nions expres­sed by our colum­ni­sts and con­tri­bu­tors are the­irs alo­ne and do not inhe­ren­tly or expres­sly reflect the views of our publication.

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