Who is society? There is no such thing!
Politicians are frequently misquoted. People often say it was Margaret Thatcher who said that ‘there is no such thing as society’. In fact in her 1987 speech for Woman’s Own she actualy said “…who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business…”
Fast forward to a speech David Cameron gave in 2010 when he described the ‘Big Society’. Cameron said “We need to create communities with oomph – neighbourhoods who are in charge of their own destiny, who feel if they club together and get involved they can shape the world around them.”
With a little cross pollination you could end up with, “no government can do anything except through people….” who “club together and get involved”.
Self Help – A call to arms!
So today we learn that ahead of planned industrial action this Thursday headteachers and communities are being called upon to look after themselves, minimise disruption and keep their schools open. This call to arms may see those neighbours who are able and who hold the necessary qualifications help their community by making sure hard working parents are able to get to work as normal without worrying about their child’s school being closed. Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron would surely approve of such self help.
But here is the kicker. This has nothing to do with bringing communities together. Nothing to do with making a more robust, cohesive society. It’s not even really about making sure pupils get a good education.
This is political manoeuvring. It is about the Government attempting to divide their opponents. It is about driving a wedge between parents and teachers. It most definitely is about making sure that on Friday morning there will be at least some propaganda that can be used to show that, after all, parents do not support their child’s teachers. It is about breaking a strike.
Don’t talk to me about respect!
By all accounts the Secretary of State for Education is worried “that taking industrial action, being on the picket line, being involved in this sort of militancy will actually mean that the respect in which teachers should be held is taken back a little bit”. How duplicitous – in the same interview it is suggested that communities take action that will very clearly demonstrate a complete lack of respect for a professionally managed, perfectly legal demonstration. Watch carefully children! This is what we think of your teachers.
In addition we are told that “You don’t see hospital consultants going on strike…” This is really clever stuff. Because, of course, the inference is that Consultants are professional. Consultants care about you. Consultants deserve respect. And therefore teachers who go on strike are not professional. Teachers who go on strike don’t care about the impact it has. Teachers who go on strike are do not deserve your respect. Obviously this is utter rubbish and a twisted view of the reality within not only education but also in the NHS. Unsurprisingly no mention is made of the Junior Doctors Conference of the BMA which recently “condemned planned changes to pay and pensions and asked the BMA to consider all action, including industrial, in its battle for fairness.” But the damage has been done, the seed planted. All that remains is to sit back and let two of the major stakeholders in the educational process take each other out! You don’t get to high political office without being a very sharp operator.
Shoulder to shoulder
Schools do not need protecting from ‘attacks’ by teachers. Concerned parents must not be taken in by the toxic suggestion that the problem with education lies with greedy teachers intent on lining their own pockets at the expense of the next generation. Teachers and parents must not be seen to be on opposite sides of this particular fight. Instead they should be standing shoulder to shoulder on this one, members of the same community with a common interest and clear understanding of from where exactly the real threat to schools originates. Let’s not be manipulated this time eh?