Schools Need Diversity of Thought

Commentary, Education, Michael Zwaagstra

If you visit the website of any Canadian teachers’ union, you might think that all teachers reside on the far left of the political spectrum.

 For example, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is not shy about taking left-leaning stands on controversial political topics. Among other things, the BCTF supports student climate strikes, advocates for more spending on social programs, promotes unrestricted access to abortion and opposes the construction of new oil pipelines. 

The BCTF also wants to cut military spending and, at one point, had even created posters that discouraged students from considering a career in the Canadian Armed Forces. One can only imagine how uncomfortable military families must feel when their children are subjected to this type of left-wing propaganda in B.C. public schools.

Sadly, the BCTF is not an outlier among Canadian teachers’ unions. With its recent decision to affiliate with the Manitoba Federation of Labour, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) has thrown in its lot with an organization that officially supports the NDP. In other words, MTS can no longer credibly claim to be politically non-partisan.

The left-wing activism of teachers’ unions clearly sends a loud message about the political leanings of many—perhaps most—teachers.

Fortunately, not all teachers are left-of-centre. But you wouldn’t know that if you listened to the organizations that speak on behalf of teachers. While right-of-centre teachers do exist, it’s the left-wing teachers who typically become union reps. Otherwise, teachers’ unions would be singing a different tune.

An important reason for this imbalance is the one-sided indoctrination prospective teachers typically receive in faculties of education. Right-of-centre education professors are few and far between. The vast majority are politically left-wing.

Simply put, any prospective teacher who earns an education degree will encounter one left-wing professor after another with hardly any who balance this perspective with centrist or right-wing perspectives. Thus, unless a student already has a well-entrenched political position, most newly minted teachers will graduate as political liberals. 

The predictable result of this indoctrination is that schools end up being staffed by teachers from one side of the political spectrum. While many left-wing teachers make a genuine effort to expose students to a variety of viewpoints, it’s important that students are taught by teachers who do not all share the same, narrow, range of political beliefs.

Many school divisions have slogans that emphasize the importance of diversity. However, in far too many cases schools end up with teachers who are diverse in race and gender but uniform in thought. In other words, people look different but think the same. This is not true diversity. 

The reality is that Canada is a diverse country, not only in ethnicity but also in political and ideological beliefs. Each major political party is supported by a significant number of Canadians. Classrooms are filled with students whose parents voted Conservative, Liberal, or NDP and they should all feel welcome at school. 

There should be no pressure, whether direct or indirect, on students to conform to any one political ideology.

Diversity of thought is perhaps the most important type of diversity in schools. Faculties of education and school divisions should pay more attention to diversity of thought when training and hiring teachers. 

The last thing students need is to be educated in an ideological echo chamber.

 

Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and author of A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning.

Photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash.