How Doug Ford is Trying to Make You Hate Teachers
In February, education workers in all four of Ontario’s public education unions planned a joint strike to protest against the provincial government’s drastic cuts to public education. This marked the first-ever coordinated, legal strike of all four unions, and the first time that Ontario education workers have simultaneously walked off the job since 1997 when faced with massive changes to the education system proposed by then Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris.
While the teachers’ unions are standing up for quality education, the Ford government and Education Minister Stephen Lecce have been using some shady communications and PR tactics to try and sway Ontarians, and particularly parents, to their side. Here’s a look at how they’re doing it:
- Divide and conquer: The Ministry of Education has offered to pay parents of school-aged children, or children in school-based daycares up to $60 for each day their school is closed. This is an attempt to create a divide between parents and teachers, and persuade the parents that teachers are at fault, when it is really the government’s cuts that cause the strikes.
- Logical fallacies: Stephen Lecce has repeatedly claimed that teachers’ unions want hiring to be based on seniority, while his government thinks hiring should be based on merit and only “the best person for the job.” Not only is this a misrepresentation of the issues teachers say they are really fighting for (like class sizes) it’s also a false dichotomy. Hiring based on seniority does not mean that those teachers are without merit, or that they aren’t also the best people for the job (because after all, spending many years teaching is probably a good way to become a better teacher). By presenting these things as two totally distinct choices, Lecce hopes to paint teachers unions as greedy or selfish.
- Assuming support: Minister Lecce has defended his government’s actions by claiming that parents in Ontario “overwhelmingly support” the cuts to education. The problem is, he doesn’t have any concrete evidence to back that up. On the contrary, Press Progress reports that more than half of voters in PC-held ridings oppose the government’s cuts.
- Astroturfing: It was recently revealed that anti-teacher attack ads which have been running in major national newspapers are using a fake group called Vaughan Working Families, in order to make it seem like the anti-teacher position has grassroots support. The group has no contact info, web or social media presence, and the logo on the ad is a stock template pulled from Shutterstock. The ads have been linked to a Vaughan lawyer with connections to the PCs, according to the Toronto Star.
- Repetition, repetition, repetition: Many of Stephen Lecce’s posts on social media make unfounded statements about teachers and unions, such as that unions only advocate for the interests of their members, and not students, or that teachers are only concerned about compensation. Lecce repeats these messages in post after post, and countless media interviews — clearly hoping that if he says them enough, they will magically become true.
Take action: add your voice to this petition to stop the Ford government’s education cuts.