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#StillNotMyPremier: A Teach-in

Artists, activists and academics report on their creative strategies to protest the damage done by the Doug Ford regime. With housing activist Cathy Crowe, folks from Parkdale Community Legal Services TTC Riders, Doug Ford Resign Movement and more. Jan 28, 2020.

My experience at the #stillnotmypremier event at Page One

January 31, 2020. Author: Pelly Shaw

When Doug Ford slashed the education budget, increasing class sizes and vowing to hire fewer teachers, he was simply following the neoliberal framework for education. According to an article by Rachel Chen in Chatelaine, the changes to education will also mean greater focus on math, technology and finance, while electives like art will be at risk of being eliminated due to smaller budgets. All of this fits with the neoliberal thinking of profit-driven systems, and the neoliberal goal within education of producing producers. In her interview with Jeannette Petrik, Tania Bruguera said that education in capitalist countries, “aims to standardize people or to make them feel comfortable with whatever they have instead of asking for more.”

Creating a system of education that does not encourage abstract thought or critical analysis would be advantageous in a neoliberal society. Those in power do not want young people to be thinking about different ways of doing things, because they believe neoliberalism and free-market capitalism should never be changed. People who think outside the box are of very little value when profits are the only thing that matters. 

At the #stillnotmypremier teach-in, activists discussed how Ford’s brand of neoliberal politics has impacted their causes, and about how they have resisted. A teach-in is a gathering of people outside the classroom setting, exchanging information and ideas about a set topic. It is a form of resistance to oppression that dates back to the 60s. 

The first speaker was Jesse Zimmerman, who started the Facebook page, Doug Ford Resign. Zimmerman discussed how Ford’s cuts to education are very similar to those of the Mike Harris years. “Creating a crisis in education by calling into question teacher professionalism has become a familiar strategy by neoliberal educational policy-makers,” wrote Stephanie Chitpin of The Conversation. This is exactly what Ford has done, including introducing a math test requirement for all Ontario teachers.

Zimmerman also pointed out that Ford’s government has backed down on previous decisions, such as the autism funding cuts, and the sex-ed curriculum. He said that any little ways that people can resist and can amplify the voices of resistance, will help combat Ford’s cuts. One unique way that Zimmerman resisted Ford was by “sticker-bombing” the city, putting #DougFordResign stickers all over the place. 

The following speaker, Rahul Sapra is the president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association (OCUFA). He spoke about the research his team had done on the Doug Ford government. The Ontario government, said Sapra, is bringing in performance-based funding for universities. This means that if the university does not meet certain metrics, such as graduate earnings, for example, their funding will be cut. This is a neoliberal technique to eliminate any “inefficiencies” in schools. This type of funding, said Sapra, has been proven not to work, and has shown a bias towards urban schools, and hinders the equity and diversity in universities. 

Sapra is challenging the Ontario government with OCUFA through legal action. Working with the Federation of Labour, they are challenging the constitutionality of Ford’s pay-cap legislation, which limits workers’ rights to collective bargaining. Sapra exemplifies the importance of resisting neoliberalism from within the existing social framework, and of working with other institutions to achieve a common goal. 

Some other examples of resistance that we saw during the event included experimental film, front line work, traditional protests and even artistic acts of free speech such as Ayleen Jovita Romero singing from her balcony to protest a silent curfew. Speaker Zainub Verjee said, “It’s not just about cuts in Ontario, we have to link it to the world movement.” I believe this is very important if we are to create meaningful change. Currently, neoliberalism is threatening to take over the globe, and people have to come together across the world in resistance. I think of the Fridays for Future movement, which started with one young girl and has grown into a worldwide network of protests and resistance. The more people who come together to challenge the neoliberal framework, the better. Almost any movement against oppression, and for environmental protection can unite under a common goal to dismantle neoliberal ideals. 

At the #stillnotmypremier event, we saw activists combating the opioid epidemic, transit activists, filmmakers, and veteran activists all coming together under a common goal. Verjee said in order to resist we can start by “talking to everyone and anyone,” by reading, speaking, writing and listening intently. A society that is alert, involved and educated stands a much better chance of reshaping the future and a much better chance at combating the Ford cuts. 

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