Children of Oil and Gas Workers Deserve Respect

Children of Oil and Gas Workers Deserve Respect
A student-led climate change march makes its way through downtown Vancouver on Oct. 25, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)
Michael Zwaagstra
Shortly after being inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden issued an executive order revoking the Keystone XL pipeline construction permit. Canadians knew this decision was coming, but it was still a huge disappointment.

This short-sighted decision will lead to the loss of thousands of well-paying jobs, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan. If these provinces cannot get their oil to market, it could eventually lead to the total shutdown of the oil and gas sector in Canada. Sadly, this is exactly the outcome that many left-wing politicians in both the United States and Canada want.

For example, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh celebrated President Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Not only did Singh praise Biden for revoking the permit, he hailed the decision as an opportunity to transition away from jobs in the oil and gas sector to so-called "green" jobs.

Singh isn't the only person promoting this transition. Many teachers have bought into the notion that schools can lead the way in educating students about the future green economy. In fact, some teachers spend so much time talking about the energy transition that they make it the focus of their instruction.

However, consider the impact this type of rhetoric has on children whose families work in the oil and gas sector. Imagine the shame these children feel when teachers tell them that oilsands jobs are “dirty” and bad for the environment.

A couple years ago, I was one of three teachers who participated in a panel discussion on a national CBC Radio program. The question we were debating was whether teachers should take students to environmental protests and rallies. Interestingly, I was the only teacher on this panel who argued that it was not appropriate for teachers to take students to political protests. Basically, my position was that teachers should educate, rather than indoctrinate, their students.

Not only did the other two teachers on the panel think it was perfectly OK to take their students to these protests, they saw no ethical or professional problem with encouraging students to actively participate. Keep in mind that the message of these protests is that there should be no more pipelines built in Canada. One can only imagine how uncomfortable students with parents who work in the oilpatch would feel when being taught by teachers who are vocally against the oil industry.

The bottom line is that no student should feel like a second-class citizen in school. There is nothing dishonourable about having parents who earn a living by extracting a resource that everyone uses on a daily basis.

This doesn’t mean students shouldn’t learn how the environment works or about the many challenges facing our planet. However, teaching about meteorology and climatology is one thing. Indoctrinating students with environmentalist propaganda is another thing entirely.

It’s often said that we want students to become critical thinkers. But for this to happen, students need to master a defined body of knowledge in a great number of subject areas. Much of this knowledge needs to come by direct instruction from the teacher. It cannot be assumed that students will pick up the necessary knowledge while attending protests and working on climate change projects.

To some teachers, attending rallies and engaging students in social justice projects sound a lot more exciting than painstakingly helping students master basic curriculum content. However, there are no shortcuts where real learning is concerned. If students are going to become critical thinkers, they need to first learn a lot of basic facts.

Some of these basic facts include the reality that Canada has some of the strictest environmental standards in the world. Projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline have gone through a rigorous approval process that takes their environmental impacts into consideration. People who work in the oilpatch should be proud of the environmental leadership shown by their employers.

The cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline by President Biden is going to be devastating for many Canadian families. Let’s not rub salt in the wound by making some students feel like they are second-class citizens in their own country because of the jobs their parents do.

All students deserve respect, including those whose parents work in the oil and gas sector.

Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and author of “A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher and author of "A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning."