We occasionally receive inquiries and suggestions about dedicating a full issue of Education Forum to a single theme or topic. It’s not an idea entirely without merit. There is, after all, no shortage of interesting and consequential topics that could be explored from a number of perspectives by different authors.
Nevertheless, over the course of my two years as editor of the magazine, I’ve become cautious about proposals for “theme issues.” Part of that caution is rooted in a recognition that the routine challenges of planning and pulling together a magazine issue for publication can easily be amplified if the focus were to be restricted to a particular topic or theme. Concerns arise about not appealing to a wide enough audience, and there is always a risk that the subject matter of the features and articles within a “theme issue” might overlap too much, even for those readers who are passionately engaged with the particular topic. Also, to commit an entire issue of the magazine to a specific theme creates a risk that important and possibly pressing concerns that might be of more immediate interest to members and others would have to be set aside for a later issue and not presented in a timely manner.
This issue of Education Forum was not planned as a theme issue. The topics for the features and articles came about, as they usually do, somewhat organically through ideas submitted by members or discussed by the editorial board. And yet, as the issue was coming together, it became apparent that a loose theme was evolving. In one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree, every story in this issue touches on the importance of activism.
At one end of the spectrum we have the seasoned perspective of David Moss, a former Director of the Communications/Political Action Department at Provincial Office, on activism in the Mike Harris era, and on what it took, from an organizational point of view, to build the resolve and solidarity required for Ontario educators to initiate what remains today the largest job action ever undertaken by education workers in North America. And on the other end of the spectrum is a compelling personal story from Linda Rodgers of District 32, Centre-Sud-Ouest de l’Ontario about her first foray into political activism, provoked by the Ford government’s reckless actions affecting the Franco-Ontarian community.
There are also features and articles about paths to leadership within the Federation for female activists, about Federation members who have recently stepped forward to run in provincial or municipal elections, and about OSSTF/FEESO members who first attended the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly (AMPA) as teacher candidates, and who have since assumed active roles within the Federation. Larry Savage, of Brock University’s Department of Labour Studies, writes about the growing influence of corporate interests on Canadian university campuses, and insists on the importance of organized resistance through coalitions between student, faculty and support staff activists to counter the trend. And the feature by Vanessa Russell and Cheryl Mootoo, about their unique pilot program within the EdVance structure, describes a pedagogical response to the negative impacts of ill-advised government decisions; I would not hesitate to argue that this, too, is a form of activism.
It was not by design that these stories, all of them touching on activism of one form or another, have come together in this issue of Education Forum. But I also don’t think it was entirely coincidence. I suspect, rather, that the current political climate in Ontario is changing the lens through which many educators and education workers see their relationship to the system of publicly-funded education in which they work. It’s also my suspicion that, for many OSSTF/FEESO members, the Federation’s stated goal of “protecting and enhancing public education” has taken on a fresh and poignant meaning in light of the Ford government’s assault on all levels of education, from elementary schools through to post-secondary institutions. I would like to think that percolating through the diverse membership of this union is a renewed understanding that every one of us has a part to play in protecting the system that we have all had a part in building. That understanding, that recognition of the personal role each of us must play on behalf of our collective interest, is at the core of activism. If the stories that end up on the pages of Education Forum are a reflection of trends or prevalent concerns within OSSTF/FEESO, then the unintended theme that seems to have presented itself in the current issue is a good omen.