Bluffs Advocate

Have Teachers Damaged their Brand?

Even the McGuinty and Broten duo did not badmouth their “partners in education”

By Marc Zwelling

           Will public elementary and secondary school teachers lose their good reputation over their protests against the Liberal government? It’s unlikely. Despite boycotting extracurricular activities, making teacher meetings less convenient for parents, and withholding comments on report cards, teachers are unlikely to suffer a hit to their reputation.
           We love teachers.
           Teacher unions? That’s different.
           Along with firefighters, nurses, and doctors, teachers are in the penthouse of the public’s high-rise of esteem.
           A good reputation acts like Teflon – missteps and scandals that tarnish other professions don’t stick to teachers and other groups the public appreciates.
           Remember the commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton who pleaded guilty to two murders?
           Long before that, nurse Susan Nelles was charged with killing babies at Sick Children’s Hospital (a judge threw out all four murder charges against her, citing a lack of sufficient evidence).
           Neither of these tremors destroyed the image of soldiers and nurses. Sure, refusing to coach after-school track is nothing like a horrendous crime. The point is that when you’re in a trusted group, one group member’s disgrace doesn’t taint the entire profession. In a group the public mistrusts,  people see rogue behaviour and think, “What did you expect?”
           68 per cent of Canadians trust teachers, according to a national poll early last year for Reader’s Digest by Léger Marketing.
           More of us (88 per cent ) trust firefighters, emergency medical technicians (85 per cent ), pharmacists (83 per cent ), nurses (82 per cent ), doctors (81 per cent ), airline pilots (79 per cent ) and Canadian soldiers (74 per cent in a poll by Ipsos Reid in 2011).
           But teachers remain the public’s friends compared with “car salespeople” (8 per cent trust them), politicians (12 per cent), CEO’s (20 per cent), and lawyers (30 per cent), according to the Léger survey.
           A good reputation, however, isn’t a hall pass for any kind of activity by a popular group.
           In Forum Research Inc. polls, Ontario voters said they don’t like Bill 115, which imposes contracts on the secondary and elementary teachers to freeze their pay for two years and prevents them from striking during that time. A 54 per cent majority dislike the bill.
           Stop the pay-to-pay ripoff 49 per cent said they support the teachers in the dispute, 35 per cent supports the government (the rest  supported neither side, or had no opinion).
           Nonetheless, 52 per cent of those with an opinion also disapproved of the one-day walkouts a teachers’ union staged to oppose the bill. And 60 per cent told Forum they disapprove of the teachers’ boycotting extracurriculars.
           In an Ipsos Reid poll in early January, 68 per cent agreed, “Teachers have jobs, conditions, and pay that make them pampered compared to most workers in Ontario.”
           51 per cent said neither side was “…being fair and reasonable” in the dispute: (26 per cent said the teachers were being reasonable, 23 per cent the government).
           Nearly six in 10 (58 per cent ) said neither side “…is acting in the best interests of parents and students.”
           52 per cent said imposing contacts was right and 48 per cent said it was not right.
           The public splits the same way over whether the government should “…permanently ban the right of teachers to strike” — 52 per cent say no and 48 per cent say yes.
           The former premier knew teachers were admired, so Dalton McGuinty didn’t try to demonize them for fighting back.  Throughout the dispute, the former education minister, Laurel Broten, continued calling the recalcitrant teachers “…our partners in education.”
           So when the protests end and after-school activities  resume, teachers will continue enjoying a great reputation.

Marc Zwelling is the founder of the Vector Poll™ ( and author of Public Opinion and Polling For Dummies (published by Wiley, 2012).