“A Multitude of Wedges:” Neoliberalism and Micro-Political Resistance in British Columbia’s Public Schools 2001-2014

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Anne Hales


In the wake of this recent chapter in British Columbia’s public education labour history, I revisit key moments in a political narrative that has played out between the BC Liberal government and provincial public school teachers since the Liberals first majority election in 2001. Using a trifocal lens of historical, theoretical and reflective inquiry, I attempt to discern the effects of neoliberal strategies and techniques (Basu, 2004) on unionism, teacher identity and the public education ‘project’ over the past decade. I consider how critically-minded educators might disrupt the prevailing ‘commonsense’ of neoliberal discourse within BC’s public education system (Ross, 2010a, p. 205). The Left, Foucault contended, has been “singularly ill equipped” to respond to neoliberal governance mechanisms, in part because it has “never possessed its own distinctive art of governing” (Gordon, 1991, p. 6). I posit that various micro-political strategies evident in British Columbia teachers’ resistance to neoliberal education policies constitute “fresh acts of inventiveness” (p. 6) in the struggle to preserve public education as a space for emancipatory pedagogy and democratic culture.

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