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Building an Educational Workers Network

category national | miscellaneous | press release author Sunday May 09, 2004 11:32author by Organise!author email organiseireland at yahoo dot ie Report this post to the editors

The role of teachers?

Teachers are viewed by some as the ‘soft cops’ of the state; a youth wing of the police force whose objective is to atomise individual creativity, to accustom young people to their role as submissive industrial fodder, and to indoctrinate against subversion and unorthodoxy of any kind. In Ireland, the role of Christian faith meted out in form assemblies and classrooms across the country is hand in glove with statist control.

Others remember their own experiences of over-aggressive teachers, using positions of seniority and power as a means to play out their own emotional insecurities.
It must be remembered, however, that in the vast majority of cases it is not the teacher to blame, but the system itself. We all deserve an education, but we also deserve the right kind of education. This doesn’t mean learning by rote useless information to be recycled only once in coursework or examination, but providing the individual with a holistic learning system, one which can be applied practically in their later lives.
It is true that, used to roles of authority, teachers are perhaps less inclined to rock the industrial boat. It doesn’t help that they are viewed by others as bastions of middle-class reformism or that performance-related pay and other sliding pay brackets have helped weaken solidarity in schools, and promoted individualist ideas where Jacks everywhere are feeling all right. But where better place to arrest these individualist concerns than in a collective gathering of teachers with like-minded grievances and desires i.e. a trade union?

Trade Unionism

There can be no doubt that the current state of trade unionism in Ireland falls pitifully short of anything approaching the revolutionary impetus required to incite and maintain struggle in the workplace. Instead, in education, as elsewhere, trade union bureaucracy acts as the watchdog of capitalism, creating a bridgehead between workers and the bosses who exploit them. Rank-and-filism behaves, in its turn, as the recruiting sergeant for the various splits on the authoritarian left, and while a genuine use of the strategy is one which Organise! supports, we recognise the need to put into practice other methods of organisation, that used today, will prepare us for the types of organisation we will need in the future.

Nowhere is this more required than in education where there is a genuine need to build a new culture of resistance. But there are added problems.

First of all, trade unionism, north of the border, is weakened by its divisions along traditional religious lines. Somehow, what religion a person is, is of paramount importance to the struggles teachers face, whether these struggles are for higher pay (or simply parity with teachers in the U.K.), greater lesson preparation time, less coursework, less administrative responsibilities and so on. Depending on what side their bread is buttered, teachers find themselves in such unions as the UTU (Ulster Teachers’ Union) if they work in the ‘controlled’ sector or in the INTO (Irish National Teachers’ Organisation) if they teach in ‘maintained’ schools. None of this should be seen as in any way bizarre, of course, since it is merely a reflection of how pupils themselves are taught. More natural divisions along class lines are fudged while the risk remains that teachers in dispute may back their own claims for ‘orange’ and ‘green’ pay rises etc…without having to concern themselves about their counterparts facing similar problems. Add to this the fact that teachers are further split into unions north and south of the border because of differing education systems and we are left with a more diluted workforce of teachers, with less solidarity and a weaker culture of resistance.
Secondly, teachers are not the only people who work in education. Classroom assistants, cleaners, janitors, ground staff, secretaries, kitchen staff, cooks are all part of the daily life of a school. Pupils themselves should be given the opportunity to play a role in the running of their schools. Dividing the school’s workforce according to skills, abilities, academic qualifications etc…is the state’s way to destroy solidarity amongst workers with a common goal.

An Educational Workers Network

The creation of an Educational Workers Network (EWN) in Ireland will bring together all workers currently divided either because of religion, educational system or job description. It will cut through the red tape that over and over again is used to gag the voices of the working class. School workers in local areas will have a means to get in touch with one another and join with others in their local communities, to fight more effectively and with greater confidence for the things most important to them. These local groups can form and federate with others at regional and eventually at national level.
However, a workers’ network without workers won’t get us very far. Members of Organise! are involved already in education as teachers, students and in administration, but without the sheer weight of workers getting involved, we will not be able to move forward. That is why the network must and will be open to everyone, and not just members of Organise!. In short, everyone else, would have an equal say in how the network is run.

To get involved, contact us at Organise!

organiseireland@yahoo.ie

Related Link: http://www.organiseireland.org
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