The Organization of Ontario Secondary Students (OOSS) was founded in December of 2012 by a group of nine students at Abbey Park High School in Oakville, Ontario. The organization aims to empower students in the struggle between the Ontario government and the teachers’ union over Bill 115. They have a Facebook page with 737 likes and a website claiming to represent “1,000+ students”. For an organization claiming to represent the voice of all Ontario secondary school students (a group of over 700 000 people) this certainly doesn’t seem like a lot of support.
The students’ current focus is a campaign called Operation SOS – Save our Schools. The operation’s main goal is to implement arbitration in Ontario. Arbitration is the introduction of a third party to resolve conflict between the government and the union. Their promotional video features dramatic instrumentals and students holding signs proclaiming the extracurricular that they have lost. It feels like watching an anti-bullying ad or a humane society commercial. The OOSS has also composed an open letter addressing their partners in education. The letter briefly celebrates the return of extracurriculars before imploring further action. They speak of victimized students who have lost their sports teams and insist that the solution cannot wait for politics; arbitration is the best answer. What began as an admirable effort to involve students in the politics of education seems to have taken an immature turn.
Extracurriculars are just that: extra. No student has enjoyed missing out on their favourite clubs or teams, just as surely as no teacher enjoyed losing their sick days. Bill 115 has created a difficult situation for everyone involved. And certainly students have found themselves caught in the middle. But with melodramatics and selfish proposals it’s difficult to take their concerns seriously. The goal of student voice shouldn’t just be to make noise.