On September 15, more than 300 students walked out of class
at Massey-Vanier High School in Cowansville, Quebec.
The issue was the teachers' union's decision to adopt a work-to-rule
campaign in an effort to pressure the government into improving
their salaries and repealing systematic budget cuts over the
past 15 years.
On the one hand, many students sympathized with the teachers
and walked out in support of their plight. On the other hand,
many of these same students felt that the ban on extracurricular
activities was an unfair tactic which victimized the wrong group
The problem, however, was not the dichotomy of these students.
There was another problem that would nearly ruin the walkout:
disorganization.. The chronological order of events leading up
to the ultimate conclusion reads as follows
Monday, Sept.13, morning: A rumour travels through the school
to the effect that a walkout is being planned by a group of students.
Their goal is not yet clear.
Monday afternoon: Notes are passed around the school that
seem to blame the teachers for the lack of extracurricular activities.
Tuesday morning: An announcement is made by the principal
notifying the student body that there will be consequences as
a result of an illegal walkout. The students' plan crumbles.
When I arrived at school on Wednesday morning, I find the
other students in a state of frantic chaos and excitement. A
friend tells me that a walkout is imminent, but that no one knows
why he/she is walking out. When asked this question, students
responded " to miss class" or " for the hell of
A few friends and I immediately found the principal and asked
him if we could make an announcement on the intercom to appeal
to the students not to walk out right away. An information session
was to be held at noon. The principal, for reasons yet unknown,
refused our request. He had confidence that the students would
act in good judgement and stay in class.
Within minutes a large group had assembled outside the school
chanting such catchy slogans as "Work-to-rule, not in our
school!", while at the same time, the ad hoc leader of the
dissidents preached support for the teachers. Despite pleas from
the authorities, the students walked out en masse.
One of the leaders of the protest later told me that before
leaving school grounds, all those who were not walking out in
support of the teachers were told to go back to class. They then
proceeded in an orderly fashion to the office of our Member of
Parliament and voiced their discontent with the government's
salary and budget cuts. However, our provincial MP, Pierre Paradis,
was away on business.
The absence of Paradis, the lack of major media attention,
and a host of other problems that plagued our walkout and others
across the province (some of which resulted in arrests due to
violence and misdemeanour) could have, in my opinion, been avoided
if students had taken the time to properly plan a pragmatic walkout.