Saturday, 3 April 2010

Why I'm backing the teachers — for once

—Teachers threaten strike action over spending cuts.
—Teachers threaten strike action over SAT tests for 11 year olds.
—Teachers threaten strike action over excessive workloads.
—Teachers threaten strike action over Pupil Councils appointing teachers.

Have you seen any of these headlines over the past 48 hours?

The annual strike calls from the NUT conference (in Liverpool next week) come as no surprise. But what struck me most forcefully today was the anguished complaint from the NASUWT teachers' union—broadcast on Radio 4—which explained the cause of the last strike proposal I've listed above.

Apparently, pupils in state schools are now accorded the right to vet future teachers at their interviews for a teaching job.

The exasperated union leader described this process on the Today programme as 'demeaning, embarrassing and humiliating'. Pupils were regularly rejecting potential teachers simply for their appearance or their mannerisms. She regarded the process as unprofessional and undignified and was willing to call her members to strike to get this pupils' right removed.

The irony of this teacher's complaint didn't fail to leave its mark.

For years, teachers have objected to the disciplined diktats of Ministers of Education, who insist on tests for pupils, yet have supported the socialistic, child-centred agenda that has poured out from the educationalist civil servants at the Ministry itself.

Now, the dystopian vision—the inevitable and ultimate consequence of the fervent child-centred activism of the DofE—has come to pass. And teachers realise they don't like it.

Margaret Thatcher, on assuming office, set about shaping up the Civil Service with a zeal of her own. The impenetrable obfuscation and personal agendas of the 'Humphrey Appleby's' of Whitehall were to be a thing of the past. Their role, henceforth, was to implement government policy. But the one Department she admitted she never penetrated was the DofE.

For decades, the Department of Education, or whatever it has come to be renamed, has got away with ploughing its own destructive path through the lives of successive generations of eager, open-minded, optimistic children.

By removing adult rules and discipline and replacing them with a theorised notion of child-centred human rights they have left a void in terms of behaviour, values, direction and aspiration. Too often this void is filled with the anti-social behaviour that we almost expect now from many children and teenagers.

Twenty and twenty-first century educational psychology has failed. It has produced a nightmare for teachers and a hardcore community of feral children and wasted youth.

So I say to all Conservatives, and others—when teachers start striking for the right to teach, go out and join these hard-pressed evangelists on the picket line.

Raise your voices and harmoniously cry:

What do we want? —a decent disciplined education system.

When do we want it? —as soon as Gordon Brown calls the general election!

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