Defending public education in Canada and throughout the Americas

The rabble podcast network offers an alternative take on politics, entertainment, society, stories, community and life in general. All opinions belong to the podcaster; however, podcasters are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new podcasters -- contact us for details.

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Steve Stewart. He is the technical secretary for the Initiative for Democratic Education in the Americas, also known as the IDEA Network, which brings together organizations from across the hemisphere that are committed to defending and enhancing public education.

You can make a case that all struggle is local. No matter the issue, no matter the strategy, no matter how many other people and places and groups are also involved, the actual doing of it always comes down to you and those you are immediately with, in whatever circumstance you find yourselves, making choices and taking action. Still, while some struggles are only local, most are either already broader in scope, or could be if people had the opportunity and will to come together across difference and distance to do the work of making common cause.

Take, for example, the education sector. No matter what jurisdiction you live in, the last twenty years have no doubt seen your school system face some or even all of the following: cuts; at least partial privatization, whether that is direct or through the reallocation of resources away from the public system and towards non-public alternatives in less visible ways; rhetorical attacks on teachers; legal attacks on teachers' collective bargaining rights; the imposition of standardized testing and other pedagogically dubious corporate-backed changes that get touted as "reforms"; and various other manifestations of the cut/privatize/deregulate agenda captured by the term "neoliberalism." At various times and in various places, teachers, parents, and students in different places have all acted to oppose this agenda -- unfortunately, it's not uncommon for these groups to be dividied in all sorts of ways (often because of debliberate efforts to keep them apart by those trying to impose this agenda), but sometimes they succeed in working together and forging a common resistance.

The IDEA Network emerged in the late 1990s out of precisely this recognition of common threats to public education spanning not one or two jurisdictions, but all of North, Central, and South America. The network "brings together organizations that share a commitment to protecting and improving public education," particularly teachers' organizations and students' organizations, and also encompasses a network of education researchers and a network of Indigenous educators. In the moment of its founding, the main threat to public education in this hemisphere took the form of negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas that would have, among other things, opened the door to the neoliberal restructuring of education systems from Canada to Chile. In those years, mobilizing against the FTAA both directly and at various international gatherings formed the centre of the network's work. Since the defeat of that agreement, attacks on public education have not abated but have become less centralized, so the IDEA Network has focused on research, on sharing resources and strategies among members for defending public education in their respective contexts, and on mobilizing solidarity actions when member organizations are facing repression or crisis. In the Canadian context, a number of teachers unions have been involved at various points, and occasionally student groups, but the main force behind it in this country has been the British Columbia Teachers Federation, which has a long and remarkable history of international solidarity work. Stewart talks about the ongoing, hemisphere-wide threats to public education, and about the work of the IDEA Network to support struggles to defend it.

To learn more about the IDEA Network, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.