Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Politicians and teachers: a rant

Back off, Christopher Pyne!

I am so, so sick of politicians taking potshots at teachers. The latest drivel to drip from the lips of one of our overpaid pollies is this: that 'underperforming' teachers should be removed from 'the system'. Ol' ChrisPy, with a smirk that would do Peter Costello proud, thinks money spent reducing class sizes has been 'wasted', because Asian schools have big classes and manage to out-perform Aussie schools. He thinks the wrong kind of people are entering the profession for all the wrong reasons - because they think it's going to be 'easy'.

Actually, this makes me so angry that it has rendered me (almost) speechless. I'd like to wipe the smirk from Mr Pyne's face by sitting him in front of 45 exuberant adolescent Aussies, half of whom have a below-average IQ, who would rather be outside kicking a footy around, who don't want to learn, who prefer Facebook to Physics and Angry Birds to angry teachers, who have parents with no manners who don't value education themselves because they left school at 15, and 'done all right', and handing Mr Pyne a copy of Macbeth. 

'Perform or be removed,' I would say to him. 'Their results are a direct reflection of your worth.'

Comparing Aussie schools to East Asian schools is a joke - it's comparing apples and hippos, FFS. It's not the teachers who are the problem. Australian society's larrikin attitude to education has to change. As long as teacher-bashing is a national pastime (short hours, long holidays - teaching's soooo eeeeeasy, teachers are all overpaid bludgers, and what use is History anyway?) many of our students will continue to undervalue education and underperform at school.

Schools are microcosms of society, not homogeneous little divisions of corporate Australia or (heaven forbid) the Australian Public Service. Yes, they are often staffed by people who may be employed by the government or the church, but they are filled with students - bright and dull, keen and lethargic, but all human - and the performance of this disparate mass of youngsters (some of whom are, not to put too fine a point on it, as dumb as dogshit and twice as nasty) is seen as an indicator of the teacher's ability to teach. Reducing this ebullient mass of humanity to a series of performance indicators and league tables is farcical. This is why politicians should keep their noses out of schools. 

It's dangerous. There's a legion of hardworking, exhausted teachers out here in the Real World banging our collective heads against brick walls, going back to school every day because we care about the kids and we understand the value of education as an aid to social mobility. We want that for our students, but not all of them want it for themselves. It's hard work, learning - harder for some than for others.

Holding a big stick over our heads, and telling us we have to make silk purses from some of the sow's ears we teach, or else, is not going to work. Playing politics with our schools by making ridiculous comparisons between Aussie schools and Asian schools when our cultures and values are so vastly different, isn't helpful. In fact, it's downright counter-productive.

Oh, and a final point, My Pyne, before I get off my soapbox. You said

"At the moment, unfortunately, a survey was handed down in 2010 which showed that the students who are choosing teaching are choosing it because it's cheap, because it's not going to push them much further than they were in Year 12 and because they think it's easy.

"Now that's not the kind of students we want to be teaching our young people."

Don't worry, Chris - they won't be. Not for long, anyway. Have you seen the stats regarding the numbers of new teachers who are leaving the profession when they realise how difficult it is? When they realise the level of commitment that teaching requires is so much greater than they had thought? When they find out it's exhausting, frustrating, often unrewarding? When they feel so utterly unsupported by legislators, regulators, pontificating government powerbrokers? When no amount of money can make up for the levels of stress they feel? Have a look here

Bloody politicians! Just back off. Please.


AndrewM said...

Christopher Pyne manages to make Julia Gillard seem like an intellectual, which is no small achievement. Since many more teachers vote Labor than Liberal, he would seem to be pissing on his own constituency.

jase c said...

not really, Pyne is a Lib so he is pissing off people that are unlikely to vote for him or his party anyway

Geoff James said...

My wife is a retired teacher and says that you could scratch out Australia and substitute NZ with no further alterations to your text. Come to think of it, it probably applies to a lot more western countries too.

Some wise person once said "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy". Enough said?

Sue said...

hahaha Geoff, love it! That's given me my Laugh of the Day!!!

Trobairitz said...

I tip my hat to all teachers as I sure as hell wouldn't want the job. You do a great service being a teacher.

I think the problem lies squarely with some disengaged parents raising entitled children. Take away their iPhones. We got through school without them and paid attention to our teachers.

We just watched a show on public access about how electronics are creating children with little to no attention spans and how some college professors are actually having to make deals with their classes of students that they can have a text break every 20 minutes otherwise they can't teach.

Sue said...

every 20 minutes? OMG, seriously? Honestly, that's the sort of thing that makes me despair!

My current school introduced longer lessons this year, and I think that was a mistake. The diminishing attention span of adolescents just won't support an 80 minute class after lunch... The kids demand a break mid-way through, and are disgruntled and uncooperative if/when I say no, even if we've been watching a film, and all they've had to do is sit and WATCH - grrrrr!

I think you're spot-on about the sense of entitlement that lots of western kids have... It's a worry, isn't it?

A Scouser In Exile said...

Oh Betty! I love your blog and your rant gladdens my heart! How wonderful to hear the voice of reason speaking so clearly.

Sue said...

Nigel! Good to see you :-) I heard ysterday that a Greens senator (who is an ex-teacher herself), while not actually criticising Pyne's drivel, spoke about the importance of class sizes in Australian schools..... heh heh