Sunday, 24 July 2016

Democracy...have we been Trumped?

In 1990 I shared a house in Sligo with two other teachers and two other women. We were all in our twenties. One evening when we gathered for dinner one of my housemates was visibly distressed. When I asked her what was wrong she said "They're breaking up. They are getting separated". And she started to cry. In my innocence I though she was talking about her own parents. As we all prepared to console her she said "Donald and Ivana are splitting up!"

I didn't even know who Donald Trump was at the time and, to be honest, I have thought very little about him between that time and now. But now, he is poised to become the President of the United Staes of America  - and like the British Brexit vote we cannot afford to say "It will never happen. They could not be that stupid "...  because it could happen and not because the voters are stupid.

The "stupid" ones in this case and, in the case of the Brexit referendum, are the suave politicians who think that they can fool the people for years, give jobs and contracts to the boys, keep a lovely club of "in people" who seem to laugh at the ordinary voters and even sneer and deride us as  the golden circle looks after its own. This has been the way of politics in Britain, in Ireland, in the USA and in many other countries.

And when people are made to feel "stupid" the response is defensive and oftentimes aggressive. People don't like to feel "stupid" and there is usually a reaction. So can we learn from what we see happening in our democracies? In Ireland we elected a government that has no power to govern. In Britain there was the Brexit and then a total vacuum and now a government that nobody elected. Nobody really wants to take on the next phase because it is a poisoned chalice - no matter what happens it will not be good.

And in the USA we have Donald, trumping everything that we thought we knew about democracy. He knows the media, he knows the soundbite. He has been in people's living rooms on TV for years.... and he has money. He is attacking the establishment, telling people that Hillary and her kind have been fooling them for years. And on that he is right.

We know that our politicians have been fooling us for years and we are a small society- we know our politicians. The really honest ones, the ones that won't play the game with the big boys ( the game about jobs and contracts for the boys) never get elected again. I wonder how long Katherine Zappone will last - if she stays in I will know that there has been real change.

But it might not really matter what we do or think anyway because democracy might come back to bite us and put Donald in charge of the whole shebang!  And the people really responsible for it will be the career politicians who thought they could "play" the people for 60 years.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

And the INTO is not far behind the Minister in "Not having clue!"

So now we have a second year of free preschool. Just like a magic wand - it was waved and it was done. And we all jump up and down and say "Isn't this wonderful" ....... Well I'm not so sure. A second preschool year of what? - no curriculum, no regulation, some total madness - I know of one preschool that has a performance of "The Lake Isle of Inishfree" in choral speaking by 3 year olds for parents who think that it is wonderful. All of this preschool provision seems to be absolutely wonderful.

And the INTO has not even copped on to the fact that the enrolment in every primary school will be down this year. And we may all lose teachers. But who cares - 3 year olds will be learning poetry they do not understand while trained teachers will opt to go to Dubai, or Melbourne or Birmingham .... because well trained Irish teachers can always get jobs overseas. It's not like we need them here....

Friday, 22 July 2016

Irish Association of Barbershop 4 BARS LATER "LES MIS"

This was fun. it's not totally in tune - but that's what happens when you wait around for an hour and a half backstage waiting to go on and then sing live a cappella. It still was the best fun we had singing in all the years since we started in 2001!

Minister for Education and Foot in Mouth!!

Minister for Education and Foot In Mouth!

You can always be sure that a new Education Minister will stick his foot in his mouth before too long. This week we have had Mr Bruton telling us that we need to to be teaching "coding" or the basics of computer programming in primary schools. And then we have had a letter to victims of sexual abuse in Irish primary schools getting threatening letters telling them that if they pursue claims for damages through the courts in light of recent European Human Rights Courts Judgements, the Department of Education will pursue them for costs. We've all heard of the carrot and stick approach - but I'm afraid this is more like the tooth fairy and pile-driver approach.

Most primary schools have been doing coding projects for about five years now - but we find it difficult to complete the projects in schools in the West of Ireland because our broadband cannot support the work. We are good in primary schools at covering the basics. So why doesn't the Minister work with the other Minsters in sorting out the broadband problem so that the schools can take on yet another project that the under twelves are going to solve for our society?

The people who are pursuing damages cases against the state for having been sexually abused in our state primary schools are all aged over 55. They have had terrible lives, wrecked and ruined by the abuse that they were subjected to in our state schools because they were poor, they didn't have a father present who would come into the school and physically threaten the abusing teacher and their marginalisation was compounded by teachers who abused them knowing that nobody would hold them accountable. The state should stand up and take responsibility. It was not this Minister who messed up - but sometimes the State has to be held to a higher standard and behave better and more honourably than ordinary people do. These are not German bondholders who need to be paid off, or multi-national corporations who need preferential treatment. They are a small group of vulnerable Irish citizens, who were vulnerable from birth, and were abused in an education system that we are responsible for. Does the Irish State really stand to lose a lot by treating them fairly?   "It's with O'Leary in the grave"...... or something like that.....