Nyc 10/19/98 Candlelight Vigil For Slain Gay Wyoming Student Matthew Shepard. (Photo By Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

I still remember the day that I heard the news of Matthew Shepard’s murder in 1998. Shepard, a gay man in a Wyoming college town, was tortured and left to die by his assailants. He became an icon in the struggle against gay bashing and hate crimes. Shepard had met his assailants at a bar, and it was widely suspected that he’d been lured out and then beaten to death because of his sexual orientation.

Shepard was in his twenties, from a small town and gay. So was I. This terrified me. I had already been attacked, when walking down the street in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood — a gay district in Seattle. My best friend had been severally beaten in his teens, also in Washington state. I knew people who’d been lured into dangerous situations, stories that mirrored the reports of Shepard’s murder.

And I knew our history. Violent police raids. Death from the neglect of the AIDS crisis by politicians like Ronald Reagan. A history that included Nazi death camps for gay men, just two generations before. And there was the entrapment, prison, shame and bullying that had carried on long after the defeat of the Nazis (and to this day, in many parts of the world). [click to continue…]

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Why Silence Still Equals Death

by Tom Kertes on June 12, 2016

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“Hope will never be silent.”
— Harvey Milk

A new chapter in the history of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people started today. Forty-nine people were murdered in a gay bar in Orlando. At least 50 other people were injured. With so many deaths by gunfire in a single incident, this is the worst mass civilian shooting in the modern* history of the United States. The victims were targeted by a killer who, according to his father, was recently upset  at the sight of seeing two men kissing.

Whatever the actual motives of the shooter were, the killing of so many LGBT (and straight) people in a gay bar is now a part of our history. We are painfully reminded of how all forms of marginalization and dehumanization are connected. Extremists with a shared disdain for LGBT people and our human rights pose a threat to all of us, everywhere. We are reminded once again of why silence equals death. We cannot be silent to the injustice of the margins, to dehumanization and to the use of people for political sport.

For LGBT people around the world, today’s mass killing hurts us all. We are all saddened and we are enraged. Our thoughts go immediately to the victims of this hateful crime. But we also know that every one of us is a potential target of extreme fear and bigotry. And by every one of us, I don’t mean LGBT people alone. I mean everyone, all of us. We are all the targets of extremism — and that includes Muslims, too. [click to continue…]

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Curriculum, Content, and Teaching

by Tom Kertes on November 16, 2015

Today was a professional development day at school, so I spent the day meeting with colleagues and hearing from experienced educator Bruce Beairsto, who gave a key note on the history of diversity in education in British Columbia’s public school system. I also got to hear about SET BC (which provides access to tools for students) and “RTI”. Beairsto’s talk was especially helpful, given his experience in the school system and the perspective he shared on the context and history of the system. He brought an historical perspective on the progress made in terms of providing adequate supports for all students in our schools. I especially appreciated his comments on the value of public schools, which served as an inspiring start to the day. [click to continue…]

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Ideas, Like Elections, Have Consequences

by Tom Kertes on October 11, 2015

-566927_ORIGINALThe talk around a “split” between progressive voters in the 2015 election starts with the assumption that voting NDP or Liberal is like choosing between two flavours of ice cream. But the NDP and the Liberal Party are more than different flavours, as each party is based on different values and different ideas for how to achieve those values. Far from being different versions of the same thing, the two political parties are based on entirely different foundations, centre on different cores, and would govern in different ways. [click to continue…]

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Why “Strategic Voting” Undermines Democracy

by Tom Kertes on October 10, 2015

childcarendp“Strategic voting” is a mistake because it undermines democracy by telling voters to base their ballot choice on polling data and past elections, rather than on support for a vision of change for the better. We should be voting for something we believe in, not simply against Harper’s conservative government. [click to continue…]

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There’s only one reason why being part of a recognized and respected profession matters to me. And that’s because I want to teach students.

As a teacher, I am empowered by the public school system to influence the lives of my students. With this power comes a great responsibility. Without professional autonomy, I would no longer be a teacher and I would be unable to responsibly exercise the power granted me.

Without professional recognition and respect I would be inept, unable to perform my duties. I would be something other than a teacher, perhaps a child minder, an enforcer, or an entertainer. But not I would not be a teacher and I could not teach. [click to continue…]

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Why Teach Children about Cultural Genocide?

by Tom Kertes on August 27, 2015

kertesThe only thing worse than being annihilated is being annihilated and then forgotten. While the Aboriginal peoples who live in Canada were certainly never annihilated, as evidenced by their never-ending resistance and constant resiliency, colonial Canada wished an end to the cultures and peoples indigenous to the country. Colonial Canada has done its best to bring an end to all Aboriginal nations, despite having failed in the attempt. [click to continue…]

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Update

by Tom Kertes on August 26, 2015

My last post was back in September – nearly a year ago. Since then I have been busy. I started and completed my practicum in Vancouver and then graduated from SFU in December. I moved to Haida Gwaii in January. (My husband Ron joined me in April and we finally settled in our new home in Queen Charlotte in May.) I started teaching right away, working for a 6-month position with grade 4-5 students in Masset, which was followed by my first summer off as a teacher (much needed). In the fall, I will work in another temporary position for the district, this time teaching grade 1 students in Skidegate. [click to continue…]

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IMG_20140912_121252Given many of the lessons learned from the lead up to and the outcome of the recent public school strike in British Columbia, it’s time for public school teachers and other advocates of public education in B.C. to make some needed changes. We need to build on the outcomes of the strike in order to start doing a better job at responding to the BC Liberal agenda to devalue, defund, and dismantle the public education system as we know it. [click to continue…]

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On Friday I wrote a column in the Tyee on the lessons learned from the public school strike. Three lessons stand out:

  • Teacher unity and union solidarity made the difference
  • People will back unions and parties that stand up for progressive programs
  • Offence is often the best form of defence

In response to my column, Tara Ehrcke (activist, public school teacher, and author of Staffroom Confidential) wrote in a Facebook comment that she believed I was mistaken in a number of ways. Having followed her blog and commentary closely throughout the strike, I considered her comments carefully. On some points we seem to clearly disagree, but on others I think there’s not too much distance. Regardless, I appreciate her direct and open approach to reflecting on public education issues.

Writing that “this is a not a victory,” Ehrcke noted in her comment to me that the length of the agreement (six years) was too long, that the Education Fund is actually a vehicle for downloading costs onto school districts (a “bait and switch”), and that the outcome of the strike pointed out weaknesses of organized labour. [click to continue…]

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