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Normand Baillargeon August 7, 2012
Original French Text: http://voir.ca/normand-baillargeon/2012/08/07/pensees-sur-la-possible-rentree/
As you may know, I am a professor at UQAM.
Students in my faculty, as in many other CEGEPS and universities, have been on strike for a very long time. They are now subject to a law forcing a return to class and forcing me, as their professor, to teach them. The law in question comes with very severe penalties for those who do not comply.
The situation is, I think, a first, and it is daunting and worrisome on many counts. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my thoughts and feelings on the subject.
For starters, I am outraged at the idea of being ordered to learn or teach. On top of all of the good reasons already invoked by other professors, I would add that education is an activity that presupposes a certain degree of consent, for those learning as for those teaching, and I fear the direction we are headed falls very short of that goal. It is hard to imagine teaching under these circumstances, and I completely understand my colleagues’ initiative concerning the “impossibility of teaching under Bill 78” (in French, also here, in English) and their invitation to protest at the Ministry of Education (Recreation and Sports: the name always irked me, but maybe it refers to the fact that teaching leaves little time for recreation and is hard work!).
At the same time, my thoughts go out to the students. I have to say, I miss them. Teaching is not only an essential part of my career but of my life. I don’t know what UQAM’s students are going to decide, but I will respect their choice. If they decide to continue the strike, it is out of the question that I will cross the picket line. If they choose to end the strike, I have already advised my department that I will do everything I can, even on a volunteer basis, to help them.
Because at this point, if there is a return to class, it’s going to be turbulent and, pedagogically speaking, extremely demanding.
I fear we’ll be dealing with a lot of difficult, even absurd situations, thanks to the logistical headache the government has imposed on the directors of educational institutions. Examples? The professor who was giving the courses is now retired; another is on maternity leave, or sick leave, or sabbatical; the student who has to simultaneously finish CEGEP in Sorel and begin university in Rimouski; another who has courses to take that are not being offered, for one reason or another; a science lab that simply doesn’t have enough room for all the students who are taking express courses and need access; and the list goes on and on, without even mentioning all the other unpredictable situations that will inevitably arise.
Furthermore, strictly on the teaching front, it’s going to be an enormous challenge. Anyone who has studied can easily imagine the situation. Here’s a likely typical scenario.
You return to class after a six-month absence. The first four weeks had given you just enough time to become acquainted with the material. Since then, you haven’t really looked at it. Then you return to class and are expected, in the space or five or six weeks, to jump back in (what was that about the limit of a function? or Plato? or Newton’s laws?) and complete the program, while your teacher is expected to evaluate what you have learned. It’s going to be a living hell! I’ll say it again: a living hell! And I’m sure I’m not the only professor racking my brains to come up with, if not the best, at least some way to overcome this challenge.
We have about two weeks before the return to class, if there is a return…
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.