Truth and Action

Pontius Pilate answered a life-and-death question with a question: “What is truth?” We recognize his response as a indecisiveness masking avoidance behaviour, since truth is well-defined, requiring evidence. Generally, even the answer to the question “What is truth?” needs argument and evidence.

But truth without evidence is undefinable. It can be anything we want it to be. “What is truth?”, asked as if truth were some abstraction, is a discussion that leads nowhere. Like watching shadows in a cave, we can never be sure what the substance of the shadow is doing if we don’t see it, but we can look to the shadow for evidence. True, we may get the wrong idea, but there’s a pretty good chance of getting most of it right. Our brains are wired to put such things together. And though our perceptions may be wrong sometimes, ignoring those perceptions and assimilations is normally seen as foolish and naive.

We can never see everything there is to see in life, but nevertheless, life expects us to make sense of the world around us given our limited perceptions and world view. And the critical decisions we make affecting our lives are almost never based on perfect information. But we often base decision on the degenerate data available, further informed by past experience, and often are expected to render such judgements, whether it is in our line of work, or our daily lives. More often than not, not deciding is often more damaging to one’s future than deciding. With a decision, at least you have a way to base a future plan for coping with any consequences. In life, there is no fence-sitting. Deciding not to decide is still a decision. And it is a decision with consequences.

 

The new OCT designation (Ontario Certified Teacher)

I have seen the OCT promo video (looks expensively done) that justifies the new letters which are touted to put me on some kind of a footing with doctors and engineers, and others who pay exorbitant fees to have letters placed after their name, like FRCP, and so on. In this designation, “OCT” stands for “Ontario Certified Teacher.” OCT also stands for the Ontario College of Teachers, so it can be a bit confusing.

The promo was received by teachers without a single positive comment that I could find. But in the defense of the OCT, there are some things about the designation that I think would set me apart from say mom or dad who may decide on a whim to give their own children credit courses. The OCT accreditation, to me, says that I am qualified to give credit, I know my ethics, and I can deliver it fairly and with confidence that your kid will be prepared for further education in the career of their choice. Someone with no designation has no such guarantee, and they can’t award credit anyway. It means that both public and private schools can’t just hire anyone off the street, they have to have an OCT crtificate also.  Anyone teaching any high school credit from Calculus to Cosmetology will need this.

But they always have, since the college was first started in 1996. The new letters after my name which they encourage me to use will change nothing. It also hasn’t stopped school boards from hiring “emergency supply” teachers (teachers with no such certs, and often no union representation), or from hiring fulltime teachers from “off the street”, and certifying them later. It also doesn’t appear to stop the growing practice of universities and colleges offering high school credits, and using entirely non-accredited staff to deliver them, even as entirely accredited (and horribly underfunded) adult schools exists all across Ontario with certified teachers in its classrooms.

But since its inception in 1996, the Ontario College of Teachers have acted more like the policing arm of the Ontario government more than an upholder of standards. If they were really serious about teaching standards, then they ought to vigorously defend our profession from practices mentioned above. But they don’t. However, they make a big deal out of taking teachers to court and of publicising the fact in their Professionally Speaking publication (many teachers know them as The Blue Pages). I am not against taking legal action against teachers to defend and uphold a standard for professional ethics, but I am against the “public hanging” approach that is taken by the publication of their names and locations in the Blue Pages. I don’t need to know the names of anyone buy cheap tramadol overnight being found guilty of some abuse of power or other.  I don’t even want to know that it’s happening, unless it is a major social issue. It only serves to demoralize. It would be better, if ethics are such a big deal (and I agree it is), to educate us on ethics in a positive way, if that is the supposed lesson of these blue pages.

The Ontario College of Teachers was formed on an act of the Harris government in 1996, called “The Ontario College of Teachers Act.” Many teachers at the time felt that the OCT was imposed on them, against their wishes, serving only a coercive role.

The link to the YouTube promo is festooned with teachers calling for the banning of the Blue Pages and even an end to the College of Teachers, which seem to serve no useful purpose. One colleague quipped to me that our College fees are being used to finance their lawsuits against us. They are also used to finance a large office building near Bloor and Yonge, which will soon be owned outright by the College, thanks to our fee payments, which we have all paid on time like good little soldiers. Meanwhile the other tenant, who obviously is not making as much money (Alliance Atlantis!) is going to have to find another place to set up.

I have a vision for the OCT that they will not, and cannot, justify themselves as a policing arm of the government, because we pay the dues. In that vein, I can forsee a major change in the role of the OCT, in that it can and should separate itself from the government and become an independent body. That way, it can have the teeth to monitor and do something about government decisions that lead to the watering down of standards, such as allowing non-certified teachers to teach credit courses as they do in the college and university system. That should be regarded the same as allowing a non-certified doctor to treat a patient, or an uncertified engineer to build a bridge. If we don’t do the latter, then we shouldn’t be allowed to do the former. At the same time, it can monitor abuses of power among teachers as before, but I don’t need the constant reminders in The Blue Pages. If I am really interested, I can go to OCT’s professional library and check it out. Or maybe they can give me login access to such filthy details. But I don’t feel that the Blue Pages makes me a better teacher. But the OCT designation? Well, I see possibilities, but the OCT has to change its emphasis.