A Nice Swift Kick up the Kaiser

Samuel Marsden (Reverend). Bring Back the Biff. Uninspiring portrait by Joseph Backler, but then Marsden was in many ways an uninspiring man.

Different faces. Same hymn sheet.

Julia Gillard is quoted in today's Sydney Morning Herald at length about the need for parents to get into their schools and sink the boot into underperforming teachers. Now any parent who can't wait to don the steel caps and march their righteous indignation in the front gates may know of one or two miserable taxpayer-funded leeches parading as educators. But how to identify them all, in the name of a great purge?

Julia is here to help.

Ms Gillard told the Herald the Government welcomed the fact that the website would empower parents to badger school staff to lift standards. ''We would expect parents to have robust conversations with teachers and principals,'' she said.

This must be a step forward. Teachers had nothing to do already, now they can expect hordes of badgering parents waving league tables in the air to want some of the work day with them as well. Having taught in schools, I've seen how 'robust' some of these conversations can be (thankfully I avoided them myself). Those I overheard included such gems as "you teachers don't have a fucking clue what you're doing".

The torch being shone into the dark recesses of slack schools is a vast array of statistics, made available to parents and the community in general for each school, which purport to show how that school is performing in relation to similar schools. What 'similar' means has been debated for the past couple of years, as has the wisdom of trying to show in statistics the value of something as complex as a school.

'This should put pressure on people,'' Ms Gillard said.

Heavens be praised. Again as an ex-schoolie, the memories are all of cocktail-sipping days, early knock-offs, extensive holidays from the perpetual holiday that is teaching, etc. (Yes, kidding.) The job is so fucked up and stressful these days that nobody wants to do it, and entry standards to teaching degrees have to be rock bottom to get anybody to apply at all. And what will fix all this apparently is badgering from the local community. Can't get enough people to teach? Sweeten the deal by setting them up for a lifetime of abuse from every parent who thinks they know better.

This is the Rudd Government showing that it embraces the same horse's arse theories about education and public administration as the latter-day Thatchers they replaced. It's the same tired bash-the-teacher games, at the end of a couple of decades of cutting the guts out of public education and public institutions in general. So every fault you find in schools is the teachers' fault, never mind that the undoubtedly useless teachers you'll sometimes find (because every profession has its useless people) are largely the result of the necessary lowering of teaching degree standards, to respond to the criminal neglect of the education system that caused such a shortage in the first place.

This was always the Thatcher way. Run something down deliberately, then when everybody notices set the crosshairs on your desired scapegoat and feed the mob. Yes there are bad teachers, just as there are bad plumbers, doctors, writers, fathers - you get the point. To make them what's wrong with schools is pure, cynical bastard expediency. I'm always amused at the number of people convinced that teaching is a cushy job. None of them ever thought about joining the ranks of these apparently well-fattened bludgers, and you have to ask yourself why. The why is that they know they're talking out their arse and wouldn't want to spend 10 minutes in a classroom.

The solutions to the perpetual crises in education from the Thatcherites (including Julie and Kevin, on this one) is also always the same.

...Ms Gillard told the Herald the Government welcomed the fact that the website would empower parents...

There it is, how lovely. Empowering. Giving the power back to the individual. Stick it to the man. The individual, that mythical creature who supposedly always knows best. I've been on about individuals here before and won't again now, but the stupidity of thinking there is such thing as a sacred individual is easily seen if you think about it for about 10 seconds. The conservatives want to take it to the institutional level and give ultimate power to the 'local' level too - make the school a little world-unto-itself with a school board lorded over by the loudest opinionated twits in the local community. (Neither side of politics has much of a clue on this one, they both love the fiction of the individual and the group.)

Insult to injury with Julia though is how the MBAs in her department have won the day and grafted on all the vacuous rubbish about targets and indicators. I've also criticised that thinking here before and won't again.

So if posse after posse of opinionated windbag parents don't do you in as a teacher, meeting the 'performance targets' certainly will. Let's get some of the whingers into the classroom to do the much better job they so obviously could do.

[Oh and why was Samuel Marsden up there? Well he was partial to having recalcitrants flogged. If I still taught I'd choose that over meeting performance targets.]


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