Lack of organization plagues walkout

By Josh Bleser
SNN Opinion Editor
Cowansville, Quebec

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 of people.

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 it, man!"

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.