See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.

The origins of this proverb go back to ancient China, and it is believed it meant we are not to dwell on evil thoughts.

In more modern times in the Western world, it has taken on new meanings. It is often used to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety, looking the other way or feigning ignorance. But it also may signify a code of silence in gangs, or organized crime.

In recent months, startling revelations started making their appearances in media, blogs, social media and at Province House, as Nova Scotia’s teachers opened up about their working conditions. Most startling for many of us was the code of silence imposed on our teachers. The situation has altered our idealistic impression of school forever. Parents are angry, and sad, and onlookers are curious to see what will happen next.

I would relate this concept of being kept quiet to other issues with government. For example, the Department of Environment has been criticized by the public for ignoring concerns at the local level on existing and pending industrial approvals. It is suspected public submissions are set aside, no matter the concern, and are never included in reports or approval recommendations.

NS Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has held public meetings regarding toll highways, but it was pointed out several times, they have not considered public requests to consider existing examples of alternatives.

At Law Amendments, we witnessed MLAs, specifically cabinet ministers, ignoring speakers and texting on their phones or talking to each other. Yawning, reading, walking in and out. It was taken as a sign of disrespect. And the same is true of the Legislature. Over and over as members of the opposition stood to speak, the Liberal members joked and chatted, listened to their phones with ear buds, slept. Most notable was how loud and raucous their conversations became when the members opposite who spoke were women.

So all of these examples, as well as many many others, bring us back to the teachers. They have been silenced by whom? The boards make obtaining permanent jobs and promotions into obstacle courses that can go on for years. But then the Department of Education is the overseer, who makes decisions that control funding and hiring. They are also the body that is supposed to protect workers’ rights. So where were they during this degradation of our classrooms? Why weren’t they looking into the violence in the workplace issues? How are teachers out of pocket for the books and supplies they require to teach curriculum? And why are teachers taught early in their careers that rocking the boat will get you nowhere, as in a longer wait for permanency or never promoted?

It appears to be a mix of looking the other way, and a little gang mentality. But are we okay with this explanation? Not this parent. And now that we know, we can never unsee, unhear or unspeak the truth. The truth will set us free. We have grounds for expectations for change, and the numbers to make that happen. And the truth is what will make our classrooms better if we demand it. It is our job to keep reminding our government of these issues, and remind them we know. And we cannot turn a blind eye or be bystanders while our teachers face these difficulties and are left with no recourse with their employer. We all know. Parents, politicians from every party (even those who tried to block out the truth), school board members, the Education Department. There is no ignoring or avoiding the truth going forward.…/

– Stacey Rudderham

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