Thursday, April 22, 2010

Teachers Continue Exploiting Students in Job Dispute

Last week I wrote a post about a phony demonstration organized by unionized teachers in front of the Quebec cabinet minister Yolande James' Montreal office, where the teachers used their students to do their protesting for them. The spokesperson for the union cleverly intimated that the issue was about the preservation of the French language and not about the fact that the teacher's would be re-assigned or lose their jobs due to the government's decision to cancel certain French classes.
Of course the media took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Nobody was willing to point out the obvious, that the union was being unethical.

The campaign continues with a rather interesting letter published in LE DEVOIR  written by a "student" bemoaning the fact that the French classes were cancelled.

For those who read French here is the letter, for those who don't, you can take my word for it- no student wrote this letter;
Roxana Rivera Valle - Montréal, le 13 avril 2010  16 avril 2010  
Je me sens très triste et déçue. L'annonce, jeudi dernier, des coupes dans les cours de français a été très choquante pour moi et je ne pouvais pas pleurer devant de mes collègues, mais ils ont commencé à pleurer parce que tout le monde a eu un plan pour ces mois. Cette nouvelle de dernière minute a brisé nos coeurs, en plus de tout ce que j'ai fait pour étudier le français afin d'améliorer ma vie!

À mon avis, le ministère a un double discours: il nous dit qu'on doit parler français, mais en même temps, il nous coupe le cours de francisation. Je ne comprends pas pourquoi! Quand je suis arrivée chez moi, je me sentais déprimée. Tout à coup j'ai senti quelques larmes sur mon visage et j'ai pleuré d'impuissance et de colère.

Je m'appelle Roxana et je suis immigrante péruvienne et enseignante au niveau secondaire. Je suis arrivée à Montréal le 12 septembre 2009 après avoir réussi tous les tests que le gouvernement du Québec et l'ambassade du Canada m'ont demandés pendant trois longues années. Je suis arrivée pleine d'espoir de progresser dans cette belle nation ainsi que de contribuer avec mon expérience d'enseignante dans une école secondaire d'ici.

Je savais depuis de mon arrivée qu'il fallait que je suive le cours de français de niveau avancé que le ministère de l'Immigration offre à tous les nouveaux arrivants afin de nous intégrer à la société québécoise et au marché du travail mais, aujourd'hui, je me demande: si j'ai moi-même respecté tout ce que m'ont demandé les autorités avant de venir ici, pourquoi à la dernière minute, on m'informe que les cours sont coupés? Cette nouvelle a brisé mes rêves et les plans que j'avais déjà faits pour les mois suivants, et ceux, je crois, de plusieurs de mes collèges. À mon avis, ce n'est pas juste. Cette décision est difficile pour moi comme professionnelle immigrante qui veut s'intégrer à la société québécoise quand le français est l'outil de travail et surtout quand il est d'une exigence pour obtenir le permis d'enseignement.

J'espère que la ministre de l'Immigration va réfléchir et changer d'opinion et reconsidérer sa décision.
In fact, given the dismal state of written French in Quebec, it's doubtful that ten percent of native born Francophones could write such a succinct and grammatically correct letter. That a student studying French as a second language can produce such a work after just seven months in the country is laughable.
The letter was obviously penned by a teacher, who would likely argue that she was just 'helping' the student.
That the newspaper would publish such an obviously phony letter is a testament to its desire to run a story that fits neatly with its editorial position, regardless of its authenticity.

An online petition, complete with comments  has also been organized. Almost all the signatories claim to be students who have graduated from these courses and all have perfect syntax, construction and spelling, another obvious union project. While many of the signers may be real, it's obvious that the union is salting the petition. How many newly arrived immigrants can write a letter this good? Come to think of it, how many native born Francophones could write so well?
"Prendre la décision d'immigrer ce n'est pas du tout facile, mais moi personnellement j'aime le Québec et je ne veux pas le quitter, et de la même façon je suis sur que il y a beaucoup de monde à l'extérieur qui aimerait venir ici et s'intégrer a cette société. En ce sens, le principal obstacle à vaincre c'est la langue. C'est pour cela que les cours de francisation, tant à l'oral comme à l'écrit, sont indispensables : on se sent plus accueillis si on sait qu'on pourra profiter de cet avantage." Jorge Almarales, Montreal 
But there's also a bit of irony in the petition, as you can find in this comment;
Ces cours de français étaient indispensables pour mon integration.-Vera Sazonova, Ottawa 

YUP!.... Ottawa


  1. Regarding the video from the previous post:

    At 2:58

    “Un petit commaintaire a camera?

    Vous savez que j’peux pas parler parce que j’suis fonctionnaire mais j’vais laisser parler a ????" (mumbling - I don’t know if she said “l’etudiant” or said the name of the student)

    It is evident in the video that the teacher shoves the student towards the camera. The Hispanic girl goes on to pour her heart out but it looks as if she’s reading from a script. The whole thing looks so staged and scripted. And the concern for the students is so cynical. It’s obvious that the only concern at stake is for the union and the teachers.

    But it is possible that some students were cynical too. Some of them are good at milking the system. In Quebec, immigrants are paid to study French, and some of them take advantage of this by staying in class longer than they should (the Hispanic girl obviously doesn’t need that much more instruction, her French is not bad). So I don’t think that all the students who were there were being used as pawns in union’s game. Some of them were there to look after their own interests.

    Regarding the letter to Le Devoir:

    1.Probably written by a teacher, or at least proof-read and corrected.
    2.Published in Le Devoir – the mouthpiece of the nationalist movement. That says it all.

    "...The French-Canadian newspaper Le Devoir – can you imagine a British paper selling a single copy if it called itself "Duty"?"

    Robert Fisk
    The Independent, 21 July 2007
    Reprinted in:
    Robert Fisk
    “The Age of the Warrior - Selected Writings”

  2. Hey, I'm an American francisation student, and I was at that protest. (I don't think I'm in the video, but my sign said "Klaxonnez si vous voulez que les immigrants apprennent le français") I can only speak for what happened in MY class and at MY cégep, but based on what I saw, I don't think you're entirely right in your characterization.

    In my class, at least, there was absolutely no pressure to attend the protest, and in fact the majority of the class didn't. It was a nice day out, so a lot of people decided to go home early or just take a long lunch. This may have been because our prof is just an all-around ethical guy who wouldn't do such a thing, but...

    ... most of the students there from our cégep were from level 3 - specifically, the people who'd successfully tested into the level 4 (written French) classes before those classes all got canceled. (Everybody gets to take levels 1-3, but you have to do extra well to be allowed to take level 4) They were genuinely pissed off, as they worked really hard and their level 4 classes were due to start next Monday. Anyway, that explains the good French - these are people who've been in full-time French continuously since last August, and who've tested at the top of their class. Also, there's a LOT of emphasis in francisation classes on learning to spell properly when you write and not fucking up the difference between the infinitive, the vous form, and the past participle. My classmates are also generally people who were pretty educated in their native countries - we have two doctors, a lawyer, a paralegal, a couple of engineers, and a professional translator, and most of us already have university degrees - so most of us are decent at writing in our native languages, and that does translate. (Except for choosing which preposition to use, ugh, screw prepositions.)

    However, I can't speak for other classes or other cégeps with regard to how much the students were pushed to attend, though I hope they were mostly like my class. (For the record, though, the only grades we get are at the end of the term and can be audited by the Ministry) And I am completely sure that teachers suggested things to put on signs, offered grammatical advice, and coached people on what they could say. How much of that was initiated by the students asking for help and how much by too-involved teachers, who knows?

    Anyway, my point, to the extent that I have one, is that there definitely exist a good number of francisation students who are 1) pissed off and 2) able to write grammatically correct French, given enough time and some reference books. (personally, my internet French is way better than my spoken French, because I look everything up and take forever to write it) I wouldn't rule out union astroturfing, but I think it's entirely possible that the majority of the comments were made by actual students.

    Whether you think it's ethical or unethical to do this kind of thing during scheduled class hours, ça c'est autre chose.

  3. Where do you hang out, what do you read to think there is no quality french in the province?

  4. To the previous commentator: No one said there is no quality French in this province - the blogger merely made the point that most people struggle to write a coherent sentence in French. I am inclined to agree. I work as a translator and see all sorts of linguistic atrocities. Have you seen the illiteracy rate? It would make your toes curl. The biggest threat to French in Quebec does not come from the Anglos but from francophone Quebec itself - and the crappy educational system.

  5. Thanks for the reply.
    I know about the illiteracy rate and the state of educational system. This is nothing to be proud of, people deserve better than this.
    I guess you are right, no one said there's no quality french in the province, but that less than 10% of francophones could have written this letter, and to think a student did write it is laughable. Am I alone to think these statements are made in a really condescending manner? Also, why did I get a reply and not Marissa? This blog is weird.

  6. This blogger is right on. Look at the most recent stats on the education system here in Quebec. About 1 in 3 French speaking males in this province do not finish high school. We have one of the highest drop out rates of North America. Combine that with the state of the education system here and yes the French language is in serious trouble. The problem is that NO politician in this province is going to say anything along these lines (its political suicide to tell the truth) so they externalize the problem so its no longer an education problem its the Anglo problem. Enough with the finger pointing.

  7. Hi. My name is Jorge Almarales. I’m the one who wrote the commentary you quoted in the blog. Sorry, I don’t know you and it is obvious that you don’t know me either.
    It is true that I prepared a draft before posting my mail and it is also true that my French teacher (Paul Giguère) was excellent. But anyway, if you think the union salted the petition with commentary like mine, I invite you to verify I’m a really new immigrant. I’m ready to show you all my immigrants’ papers. My phone number is 514 – 344 – 8707 and my address is 2620 rue Kent, App. 110, H3S-1M7.
    BTW, thanks for qualifying my letter so good.