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(en) Ireland, Working Class Resistance #5 - Building an Educational Workers Network - Organise!

From Al S <klasbatalemo@yahoo.ie>
Date Sun, 2 May 2004 12:12:11 +0200 (CEST)

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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

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!



>From the pages of Working Class Resistance #5,
bulletin of Organise!


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