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

'O wad some Power the giftie gie us...

To see oursels as ithers see us!'

At least next week, when, according to media predictions, hundreds of schools will close due to striking teachers.

While the union activists see themselves protesting their just cause in a glorious, banner-waving amalgam of the Jarrow March and Les Miserables, it's doubtful, to say the least, whether the rest of the population will be viewing them in the same light.

Teaching unions are, as I've said here before, an anomaly; a significant proportion of teachers care nothing for union politics but need the legal protection insurance against possible allegations against them by pupils.

Many teaching union members treat it like joining the RAC or AA; pay up and then forget about it. The few active members muttering over mugs of bad coffee in the corner of the staffroom at breaktime are a far cry from the mass shop-floor meetings of Britain's industrial past.

In this case, however, the rank and file have been roused by the fact that, having paid heavily into the superannuation scheme, in some cases for many years, they may see their final pensions drastically reduced. It's a reasonable point - particularly for part-timers and women who've had a career break - but closing the schools is not the way to win friends and influence people.

There is already much resentment among the general population about teachers' long holidays and job security; when it comes to a strike, it seems that being on a comfortable salary may have prevented the union types appreciating the plight of parents who will lose their hourly wage if they take the day off for childcare.

If the union officials are hoping for parents to give a mass display of solidarity and wholehearted support for their cause on Thursday, they may be sorely disappointed.


  1. I have some sympathy with teachers because it's a job I wouldn't do - but not that much.

  2. The rot set in when the progressives gained the upper hand; all those old-fashioned hierarchical trappings - gowns, the dais, formal classroom etiquette, even the unlamented cane (or belt) - served as a reminder that teachers were entitled to respect for their superior status and knowledge.

    At the same time, the training colleges rejected the idea of 'teachers being born, not made' and preached that success could only be achieved through their own idologically based methods - "don't correct their grammar", "learning should be child-centred".

    There was a bias in favour of applicants with lower academic qualifications because they were more likely to accept the doctrine on offer - by 1990, two C's at A-level would get you in. I suspect that a high proportion of vocal union officials were recruited to the profession at this time.

    The real losers in this upheaval have been the pupils; without a clear set of rules, they run amok simply because they can, constantly pushing in search of non-existent limits.


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