It was with great
sadness that I learned of the passing of my good friend Heather-jane Robertson.
Heather-jane was a born educator and a passionate advocate for public
education. We met in the early 1990s when she was director of professional
development for the Canadian Teacher’s Federation. We bonded over our
commitment to the women’s movement and public services and our deep suspicion
that free trade agreements like NAFTA were going to undermine both.
In 1994, we published our bestseller, Class Warfare, The Assault on Canada’s Schools and went on tour across the country, speaking to many thousands of educators about the intrusion of corporate interests and the profit motive into our schools. I loved writing and being on the road with Heather-jane. She was ever fun, ever full of energy, ever ready to take on anyone promoting a neoliberal agenda in education. Heaven help anyone who took her on in a debate.
I remember one evening at a public forum on standardized student testing in Regina when the debate got heated with passionate views on both sides. Heather-jane and I laughed out loud however, when a farmer in the audience broke the tensions and summed our argument up best with the remark that “weighing a pig doesn’t make it fatter.”
Heather-jane deeply believed that to understand what kind of schools we should be creating, we need to ask what kind of society we want and work back from there. If we want a society divided by privilege of birth, wealth or skin colour, we would build an education system to serve it. But if we wanted a just, inclusive, supportive society, we had to build these values into a public system accessible by all. She never lost her commitment to that goal.
I send love and support to Mark, Caitlin and all Heather-jane’s family. We will miss her very much. Those who support public education owe her a debt of gratitude that we will honour by continuing to fight for it in her name.