Got a job teaching kids how government works. I told them to put their sweets on the table, took everything and told them to fuck off.
— J.D. Gallagher (@jd_gallagher) July 12, 2013
If you thought the Irish education system was going backwards at a rapid pace just have a read about what is happening in the US. Maybe we are heading in the same direction
It seems as if the same battle is being fought in every aspect of American society. On one side are the forces of egalitarianism, economic opportunity and self-determination. On the other is a well-funded and entrenched elite bent on hijacking our media, our political process and our institutions for their selfish ends.
Sadly, the classrooms of this country haven’t been spared.
Means And Ends
The Wall Street crowd wants us to think of education in terms of means — which usually means finding ways to spend less — rather than ends. But when it comes to education, the “ends” are our children. And the means we choose for them, either consciously or through indifference, reveal who we really are as a people.
Perhaps that’s why a new “education declaration” has attracted signatories as diverse as author Dave Eggers; Prof. Robert Reich; education reformer Diane Ravitch; Larry Groce, host of NPR’s Mountain Stage; economist Lawrence Mishel; Prof. Theda Skocpol; and a number of other prominent political, academic, cultural, religious, and educational leaders. (You can sign it too.)
A quick disclaimer: I’m affiliated with the Institute for America’s Future, one of the sponsors of this initiative. I wasn’t involved with its preparation, but I’ve wanted to write about primary and secondary education for a long time. I’ve held off, partly because the moral truths have been restated so many times that they’ve become clichÃ©s.
You know the clichÃ©s I mean: Nothing’s more important than our children. Kids come first. It takes a village. “I believe the children are our future/teach them well and let them lead the way …”
The Real Deficit.
When ideas become clichÃ©s, we stop listening. As soon as the song’s over we go back to watching politicians boast about who’ll do a better job reducing the deficit — by which they mean the deficit in federal spending, not the deficit in educational resources for our children.
That’s the real deficit, the one that matters, the one that will shape our future. Kids need those resources — not just to learn their ABCs and their 1-2-3s, but to help them become fully realized human beings and full participants in society.
Did you know that, according to the most recent Census Bureau report, the amount we spend per child on education just dropped for the first time in nearly 40 years? “Teach them well and let them lead the way,” indeed.
A conscience is a tricky thing. It’s tough to live with yourself when you’re shortchanging our kids and our future, no matter how many times you play that old song. What you need is an infusion of “free market” voodoo to convince you — and others — that depriving children of educational resources is for their own good.
Pretend that “budgets” are the real crisis — but never mention that corporations and the wealthy are paying less in taxes than ever before in modern history.
Make scapegoats of innocent people to draw attention away from yourselves. For Social Security they’ve attacked “greedy geezers,” but it’s hard to come up with a catchy equivalent for kids. (“Insatiable imps”? “Avaricious anklebiters”?) So they vilify teachers instead.
Sell a fantasy which says that the private sector can do more, with less money, than government can. (Never, never mention that private insurance provides far less healthcare than public insurance, at much higher cost. And don’t bring up the mess privatization’s made of prisons and other government services.)
Find a name that doesn’t use words like “money-making.” How about “charter schools”?
Describe yourselves as “reformers” — rather than, say, “demolishers.” That’s why “entitlement reform” is used as a euphemism for cutting Social Security and Medicare. (Michelle Rhee even called her autobiography “Radical.” Apparently “Shameless” was taken.)
Employ the political and media elite’s fascination with (and poor understanding of) numbers. Suggest that “standardized” and “data-driven” programs will solve everything — without ever mentioning that the truly ideological decisions are made when you decide what it is you’re measuring.
Co-opt the elite media into supporting your artificial description of the problem, as well as your entirely self-serving solution.
Use your money to co-opt politicians from both parties so you can present your agenda as “bipartisan” — a word which means you can “buy” a few “partisans” from both sides.
It shouldn’t be surprising that all these attacks share a common playbook. The money’s coming from the same pockets, and for the same reasons: so they can keep their own taxes low — and make money from the privatization schemes.
A lot of well-intentioned people get taken in by cynical agendas like this, especially when the other side isn’t being heard. That’s where the “Declaration” comes in. It says that “Education is a public good.” A public good is something that is, or should be, available to all without exception, like clean air, drinkable water, and the national defense.
The Declaration also says education funding should be “equitable and sufficient.” No child should be deprived of educational opportunity because of race or income. The map shown below reveals how badly we’re breaking that promise and targeting budget cuts toward minority schools. The Declaration points a finger at this shameful outcome and says that minority children, like all other children, deserve an opportunity to learn.
The Declaration also says that “National responsibilities should complement local control,” which I would interpret as follows: Every state or county manages its schools. But as the nation learned in Birmingham and Little Rock, our civil rights are universal.
And the opportunity to learn is a civil right.
Standards, Not Standardized
The Declaration doesn’t reject the idea of standards per se. But it does say, rightly, that they should be “diagnostic assessments that go beyond test-driven mandates and help teachers strengthen the classroom experience for each student.”
Instead, for 30 years we’ve been moving our educational system toward a goal of absolute standardization, a production-line process in which graduating students are uniform and interchangeable “outputs” to be produced at the lowest possible cost — each equipped with the optimum utility value for the corporations that will employ increasingly few of them.
But that’s not what education is for. Not in a free and democratic society.
The Declaration also observes that “an education agenda that imposes top-down standards and punitive high-stakes testing while ignoring the supports students need to thrive and achieve … (is) turning public schools into uncreative, joyless institutions.”
Joyless lives are for kids in Dickens novels or systematized Orwellian dystopias. They shouldn’t be the fate of today’s American children.
Beating the System
The corporate System — and it is a system — doesn’t want to produce any more student “outputs” than it needs, or any who won’t be useful corporate tools. And it’s perfectly fine for the System if poor and minority kids don’t get a decent education. The System didn’t need their parents and it doesn’t need them either.
Music programs? The System doesn’t need violin-playing ghetto kids or schoolgirls who’d rather play the drums than twirl a baton. Arts programs? Our corporate walls are already lined with Kandinskys and Klees, thank you very much.
But our nation’s children aren’t “outputs.” They’re human beings. “Education is not the filling of a pail,” said William Butler Yeats, “but the lighting of a fire.”
We’re told that our children are citizens of a great, powerful, and democratic nation. Their education must be equal to those claims. They should be prepared to assume the full rights and duties of citizenship, prepared to determine their society’s fate. The System may not want that kind of education for our children. But we do. That’s why we have a democracy.
In the face of a heartless system, it’s time to reaffirm a basic human value: Education is every child’s birthright, and it should honor the humanity which every child possesses.
That includes arts programs. “Imagination is not a state,” said William Blake, “it is the human existence itself.”
The purpose of education is to help us fully realize and express our identities, and to enable us to exercise our freedoms wisely. Anything less means we are a society that is neither fully human nor fully free.
It’s time to declare our unequivocal support for education that draws on the best of us, in a humane and just way. It’s time to reject the cynical values that choose profits over people — especially the youngest people among us.
It’s time to declare that each and every one of our nation’s children possesses a rare and precious quality, whether their schools are in the Hamptons or Harlem, Northampton or the Navajo Nation, Arcadia or Appalachia.
It’s time to declare that each is, fully and profoundly and beautifully, human.
(You can sign the Declaration here.
The problem is simple and complex at the same time. The schooling system is used to turn children into mindless robots and puppets. Most of the children are numbed enough to fit into the lower level jobs at major manufacturing or service corporations. The unwanted children are directed to adjust to incarceration in mental institutions or real prisons. They serve to keep society scared. Then there are the chosen children who get to lead the corporations and governments, to make sure that those in power stay in power.
At the same time, all children have access to advanced technology. Advanced in the sense that it is more complicated than the technology supposedly obsolete. Of course, it is not as advanced as the technology that the elite has to its disposal. Still, the technology available to the masses is of an advanced level. What I worry about is how the masses use the technology. Is there an informed decision made on how to use the technology, or do people just go along with the utility that is advertised the most?
Whatever the case, I breathe a sigh of relief as the ‘Crackberry’ epidemic seems to have come to an end. No more saving babies from getting run over in their stroller as their parents get distracted by a very important ping. No more waiting for some guy to finish crossing the street, after he stopped in the middle of his crossing over to ping back. What has become of them? Did they go back to listening to music on their Ego-phones?
As I compare the possibilities of the technology to how it is being used, I cannot but come to the conclusion that it is only the technology that advances. In other words, I suspect that people are not advancing at all. I have a sinking feeling that society as a whole is not progressing, but regressing. The people at the top might be the only part progressing, while the people designed to be the bottom could not regress fast enough to their liking.
The current ‘chosen ones’ have chosen themselves after progressing into design, as the previous chosen ones started regressing into chaos. All they had to do is band together, and plan the further regression of their previous masters. The schools are programmed to do the first dividing of their perceived enemies through mind-numbing indoctrination. The children get taught to read and write, but it comes with a heavy price. They have to pay for it with their minds. It turns out to be very easy to turn sharp minds dull, but to turn any dull mind sharp is a mammoth job.
All is not hopeless. The school system can be used for good or evil. It does not matter what it is designed to do. As long as everyone goes along with the limiting curriculum, the children will come to be the adults that further regress. Instead, if more and more people start to teach the mandatory curriculum as far as is needed, and add back to the schooling what is missing from it, then the schooling system will not be able to block the progression of the children. The children can be taught to look beyond false authority, and to develop their own minds instead.
So, if the schools do not teach our children to be in control of their own minds, then that leaves the rest of us to do so. That means that we have to free ourselves from our fool-school state of mind first. We simply educate ourselves, and in doing so, we can educate our children. We can all rise above our schooling.
Key Budget Measures – Education
1. The staffing schedule for primary schools remains unchanged at 28:1 in the education measures announced under Budget 2013. However, the measures announced in staffing schedule changes for small schools (1, 2, 3, 4 class teachers) in Budget 2012 last year remain in place.
2. An additional nett 450 primary teachers will be recruited to cater for increased demographics in the 2013/2014 school year.
3. The additional days-in-lieu (max. 30) currently applicable to teachers and SNAs who avail of maternity leave will be revised with effect from May 1st 2013.
4. Teachers and SNAs will be referred to the occupational health service after four weeks of sick leave, rather than the current twelve weeks and eight weeks respectively (this is already part of the revised sick leave scheme).
5. Provision for special education remains in place, including the number of resource teachers and SNAs.
6. There are no changes to overall teacher numbers or funding for DEIS schools.
7. The standard capitation grant rate for primary schools in 2013 will be reduced by 0.5%.
8. The student contribution at third level will be increased by €250.
9. There is a further change to the staffing schedule for private schools at second level. It will rise by two points.
He said retrofitting buildings, including schools and local authority housing, would ultimately be self-financing in energy savings.
Mr Devoy also voiced concern about the plight of 2,800 redundant apprentices.
He said they were trapped in the system, as they are unable to complete their apprenticeships, but said they could at least seek jobs abroad if they could complete their training.
The general secretary acknowledged progress in reducing the number of apprentices in this position from 10,000 two years ago.
However, he said the hidden tragedy remained that thousands of young school leavers are denied access to training and potential careers because opportunities in traditional crafts had been largely closed off.
Newly qualified teachers will also be joining the protest. They are “demanding equal pay for equal work,” the unions said in a joint statement. Their salaries are a fifth less than the starting salary of colleagues, it said. Most newly qualified teachers are unable to find work and will spend the next few year subbing, the statement said.
Teachers will also protest about cuts. Following four years of cuts and with the Budget looming teachers want to “express their concerns and fears for the children and young people in their classrooms,” the statement added
Presidents of the unions will address the rally.
MORE than 5,000 teachers face losing their allowances under a government review.
The payment of a similar allowance to principals acting as secretary to a board of management in an institute of technology is also under scrutiny.
Special allowances paid to teachers who teach through Irish, work in the Gaeltacht or who work on an island, are also being targeted for abolition.
The Gaeltacht grant is worth €3,063 to about 780 primary and post-primary teachers, while about 1,800 receive an annual €1,583 for teaching through Irish.
About 30 teachers are in receipt of the island allowance, which is worth €1,842 per year.
Department of Public expenditure and Reform general secretary Robert Watt has told the Department of Education that these were the priority for elimination. The proposal will now be discussed with the trade unions.
AMONG the most damaging effects of the cutbacks in education is the casualisation of teaching and lecturing. Ironically, this is exacerbated by the abuse of legislation intended to protect employees against abuse. Many teachers and lecturers are experiencing severe income poverty because they struggle on fixed-term – which is to say temporary – contracts in part-time positions, mere fragments of jobs.
To make matters worse, these teachers and lecturers are routinely jettisoned or have their hours, and pay, reduced from one year to the next, a situation completely at odds with the common yet completely erroneous depiction of public servants as some rare breed of protected species in terms of tenure and job security.
We estimate that 30 per cent of second-level teachers are employed on a part-time basis. Local management has, in some instances, sought to play God by varying the working hours of teachers and lecturers on an arbitrary, whimsical basis.
As if this were not enough, there has been a savage, sustained and disproportionate attack on the pay of new entrants to the teaching profession since 2011.
Newly qualified teachers enter the teaching profession after an unpaid training period of five years, soon to be six at second level. It takes an average of a further five years to secure a level of permanency. Even then, this is very often only permanency in part-time work that sees them, in many instances, earning considerably less than the average industrial wage.
In the wake of the cynical elimination of qualification allowances, a teacher who enters the profession today is automatically
22 per cent down on the 2010 starting salary of a colleague with identical qualifications.
The principled struggle against casualisation and associated pay cuts that the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and other teacher unions are engaged in is one that, in the interests of this country and its young people, must be won.
A race to the bottom eventually impoverishes everybody and deprives the country of one of its most important competitive advantages: a high quality, highly regarded public education system.
TUI’s annual congress this year prioritised the plight of new entrants to the profession, committing the union to campaigning to have the divisive differential in the salaries of teachers doing the same job rescinded. The concerns of new entrants must be afforded priority in negotiations about pay and in any national agreements that may emerge.
Parents and communities also need to be aware that hundreds of teaching posts have been lost as a result of cutbacks in recent years and that the equivalent of a further 700 full-time positions have been taken out of the second-level system this September as a result of a cut to guidance-counselling provision.
Invariably it is vulnerable teachers in fixed-term positions on part-time hours who suffer first when such cuts take effect.
For students and schools, casualisation and cuts create instability. For example, they often result in students being taught by a succession of teachers in a given subject area over the course of the Junior or Leaving Certificate cycles. In terms of consistency of provision, this is undesirable, unacceptable and damaging.
In order to protect our students, our high-quality public education system and the integrity of the profession on which it relies, the TUI is seeking, as a first step, an end to the attrition that is causing casualisation.
We are asking the Department of Education and Skills to work with the education partners to put in place a system whereby teachers have an opportunity to secure sustainable jobs that allow them to develop as professionals and make an even more valuable contribution to the schools and communities that they serve.
Now more than ever, teachers need jobs, not hours.
John MacGabhann is general secretary of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, which represents more than 14,000 teachers and lecturers
SOME of Sligo‘s primary classes are among the most overcrowded in the country.
More than 1,400 pupils are in ‘supersize’ classes of 30 or more.
That represents 21 percent of primary students in the county.
Sixty- two percent of pupils are in classes of 20 or more and 17 percent in classes under 20.
Leitrim has 18 percent of pupils in classes under 20.
Peter Mullan, Media Officer, INTO said: “Ninety percent of pupils in Sligo schools are in classes of 20 or more.”
Under plans announced yesterday, established teachers will retain various allowances worth about €506 million a year.
New entrants will not receive any qualification allowances – worth about €4,500 annually to a teacher with an honours primary degree in education.
Instead, they will start on a salary of €30,702, which is equivalent to the fourth point of the existing scale.
The changes mean new entrants will earn about 20 per cent less than their colleagues who secured permanent jobs as recently as 2010. Two years ago, newly appointed teachers earned more than €39,000 in salary and allowances.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has described the new move as a “vicious and unwarranted attack on the teaching profession”.
However, the teacher unions have been criticised by some young teachers who claim they have been “abandoned” by their older colleagues.
The Government’s move will see the formal establishment of a two-tier teaching profession.
Under the changes, new entrants will also have the option of being paid a pensionable allowance of €1,592 for supervision and substitution which will bring their starting salary to €32,294.
However, to qualify for this supervision and substitution allowance, new entrants will have to provide 12 additional hours a year over and above the existing requirement.