Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of July 13, 2009)

Back in the land of Bizarro

  By John Martin

Bizarro World

Remember the Superman comic spin-off, Bizarro World? Bizzaro was a cube shaped planet where everything was the opposite of the way things are on planet Earth.  Dogs took humans for a walk and people set their alarm clocks to fall asleep on time.  The sky was green and everyone hated beauty and adored ugliness. It was an upside down, topsy turvy world where nothing made sense and logic was thrown to the wind.

I havenít heard much from the land of Bizarro lately but it would appear it is now inhabited by the BC Teachers' Federation.

As you likely already know, the BCTF has long opposed the government, standardized test known as the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA). While hardly a perfect measurement of student success, the assessment is a valid instrument that provides valuable data regarding student performance. It is particularly useful in comparing one school to another and is used by the Fraser Institute as part of their annual school rankings.

This is what peeves the BCTF more than anything else. The assessment actually gives parents a valid indicator of how a particular school is faring vis a vis other schools in the province. But the BC Teachers Federation is a relentless opponent of the exam and denies it has any value whatsoever. Clearly, the BCTF does so only because the assessment identifies those schools that continue to underperform.

This, Iím sure is all old news. So what exactly does this have to do with the land of Bizarro?

The BCTF recently issued a press release bragging about how many students skipped school and never wrote the exam. The June 30th release proudly announces that a record number of parents refused to let their children write the tests on account of a so-called "awareness campaign" by BC teachers to discredit the tests.

Being the dinosaur that I am, I actually recall a time when teachers insisted that students show up for class to write the mandatory scheduled exams. If they didnít, they and their parents had some explaining to do. But here we are in this enlightened era where teachers actually encourage parents to keep their kids home on test day. How Bizarro is that?

As a post secondary educator, I see an increasing number of high school graduates enter first year university who are borderline illiterate and can not construct a simple sentence. Yet they passed their English courses with Aís and Bís.

It would seem that an evaluative instrument capable of identifying schools where an inordinate number of students are failing to grasp the basics would be something that educators would wholeheartedly welcome. Clearly, the Foundation Skills Assessment is a helpful measurement in this regard. But the BCTF obviously has other priorities and interests at stake.

Only on planet Bizarro would teachers high five one another because a record number of students skipped exam day.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


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