The Teacher Who Stood Up

In 2007 I addressed our graduating class of teachers and stirred a controversy because I featured a teacher’s act of resistance to standardized testing as professional behaviour worthy of emulation. The speech was editorialized against across Canada, but found support in education publications. Here is a partial inventory of media regarding this event.


Speech republished in Teacher Magazine CLICK (Link is being restored.)

Education Week commentary, based on the speech CLICK

From SFU News: The Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association put out a news release about its campaign against BC’s Foundation Skills Assessments for Grade 4 and 7 students. The release lauded Shaker for “speaking out so knowledgeably and eloquently on this issue.”

From SFU News: Dean of Education Paul Shaker generated some heat via a story in The Vancouver Sun: “The dean of education at Simon Fraser University says a teacher who defied her employer by refusing to deliver a mandatory reading test to her Grade 3 students should serve as an inspiration and role model for all teachers. In a speech to SFU graduates this month, Paul Shaker praised Kathryn Sihota, a Vancouver Island teacher, for engaging in civil disobedience to protect her students from ‘psychological and educational vandalism,’ despite knowing that she risked discipline and public disapproval for her actions.”

Shaker’s stance angered BC Education Minister Shirley Bond, who said it was irresponsible of Shaker to encourage teachers to engage in civil disobedience rather than working cooperatively with others on issues of mutual interest. “It’s unfortunate when political agendas become part of a graduation speech to teachers in the province.”

The dean also got negative ink in National Post and the Calgary Herald. The Post (in an editorial that was also reproduced in the Alaska Highway News) said: “The bizarre controversy over a B.C. teacher’s refusal to administer a required literacy test to her Grade 3 students has now hit national headlines thanks to an over-the-top speech by Simon Fraser University’s dean of education, Paul Shaker.”

And the Calgary Herald, also in an editorial, thundered: “(Shaker) failed to note that (the teacher) also thwarted that child’s parents’ right to accountability regarding their child’s progress in reading, and that the real lesson the child learned is that one needn’t face up to, and master, any unpleasant task. . . . He told the graduating teachers that Sihota’s act was an ‘inspiration. He’s right on that score. She’s an inspiration—in how not to behave in the classroom.”

That editorial was reproduced in the Edmonton Journal. And it all led the Dave Rutherford radio show on CHQR Calgary and CHED Edmonton to set up an interview with Shaker, on the grounds that it is unusual to have a Canadian university dean adopting such a public position. The BC Teachers Federation, though, roundly lauded Shaker.


The Georgia Straight profiles Shaker CLICK