Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Empty Vessels

Flushed with pride at the forthcoming strike, Patrick Roach, deputy general secretary of the NASUWT, has seized the moment for some inflammatory rhetoric.

Channelling his inner orator, he proclaimed to the Socialist Education Association, a group formed in the 1920s for far left-leaning Labour-supporting teachers,

‘The Education Act is a crime against humanity, a smash and grab raid that will tear apart our schools and our communities.’

Even allowing for the fact that he was preaching to the converted (this particular audience would probably be happy to join him in a resounding chorus of 'The Red Flag' while urging on the tumbrils) it does seem to be something of an overstatement.

In certainly appears so to MP and human rights lawyer Dominic Raab, who claims it is 'offensive' - that word again! - to anyone who has experienced genuine abuse of their human rights, though I'm inclined to think that anyone unfortunate enough to have suffered under one of the planet's nastier regimes is hardly likely to attach much importance to the rantings of a former sociology lecturer.

Roach is, of course, only following the standard demagogue script; Humanity (crimes against) is right up there in the rabble-rousers' handbook, sandwiched between Hegemony (bourgeois) and Hyperbole (use of). It's a very good indication of how far the union management is removed from the day-to-day reality of the classroom.

Teaching unions are, after all, a contradiction in terms. It is essentially a solitary profession, requiring a considerable degree of autonomy and self-reliance. And good teachers - the ones we should be encouraging - are dedicated professionals with a vocation to instruct, inform and educate. There are plenty of them out there - it's just that they tend not to make much noise.

It is, by and large, a disaster for the structure of the profession that many of the brightest and best want to stay where they can do the most good - in the classroom - while the power-hungry and self-important set about climbing the greasy pole, knowing that, if you get high enough, you may never have to teach another lesson.

And over and above this, there are the unions; while there are many union reps at school level who are also dedicated and hard-working teachers, I think it's fair to say that, in the higher echelons at least, you will find few people who were ever likely to have made the best interests of their pupils their first priority.

2 comments:

  1. I think it's fair to say that, in the higher echelons at least, you will find few people who were ever likely to have made the best interests of their pupils their first priority.

    May be so. Curriculum branches are the worst.

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  2. Whether or not there's any truth in the old adage that 'those who can't do, teach', there is certainly much in the idea that those who can't teach go into education management or the unions.

    ReplyDelete