In putting together a newspaper like the ATA News, writers and editors hope to create reactions. Sometimes that reaction is not at all what is expected.
In the last edition of the ATA News, we published a multipage feature related to International Women’s Day. As part of this spread, we invited a number of leaders in education to submit writing about women that inspired them into leadership. Among those invited, and ultimately published, was current Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange.
We definitely understand and appreciate that many teachers are not happy with the current minister. We fully appreciate that decisions made by this government and perhaps the minister herself are causing pain and damage to public education and to teachers. In fact, you do not have to read too many back issues of the ATA News to find a number of articles that bring these issues to light and ultimately cast aspersions on the government and the minister.
As a result of these myriad and widespread teacher concerns, there was some backlash against the Association when this article was posted on social media. To compound the concern, Facebook and Twitter algorithms fetched the minister’s photo to portray in the link preview.
Please allow me to explain, but not necessarily justify, why the ATA News invited the minister to make a submission for this feature.
As International Women’s Day approached, in light of the high proportion of women in our profession and that the ATA would be hosting its inaugural Women in Leadership Summit, the editorial team decided to include a feature devoted to recognizing International Women’s Day.
We had a similar feature in last year’s paper that focused on the voices of female local presidents. This year we decided to pick up on the summit’s Women in Leadership theme and focus on political leadership within the education system at the provincial level.
For the first time in more than 30 years, and for only the second time ever in the province’s history, Alberta has a female minister of education. Regardless of your opinions of the minister, she is a leader in Alberta’s education system and so she was invited to make a submission.
We wanted to include political leaders in the Association itself, so we also invited ATA vice-president Jenny Regal and the chair of the Association’s Women in Leadership Committee, Kathy Hoehn, to write submissions.
Finally, in recognition of the Association’s long-standing practice and policy of non-partisanship, and because the role of opposition education critic is held by a woman, we also included Sarah Hoffman.
At this point, I would like to expand on how the Association views and implements its policy of non-partisanship.
ATA policy since 1977 says, “the Association does not align itself with any political party or with any candidate seeking political office” and that, “the Association maintains contact with all major political parties in Alberta.”
These policies do not prevent the Association from taking stances and speaking out on issues — in fact, policy also directs us to do that — but it means we focus on the issues, not on the political parties or the people representing them. At the same time, we want members to be aware of the parties and the people involved in Alberta’s political system. So it would only make sense that we would use this feature as an opportunity for our teachers to get to know the women who provide leadership in Alberta’s education system a little bit better.
Despite what was said in some cases online, it was never stated that these were “inspiring women.” They may or may not be, and that is in the mind of the beholder. Instead, we asked them to tell us about women that inspired them to pursue leadership.
We provided no judgment on the submissions or on the people who made them. We allow you, the members, to draw your own conclusions. We trust your judgment.
I know that many of you have strong feelings about the minister, and I understand that many of you will still disagree with the decision to include her in this feature. But I wanted you to know what we at the ATA News were thinking when we made this decision.
Thanks, as always, for reading. ❚
I welcome your comments—contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.