A few weeks back, Channel Nine's A Current Affair departed from its usually disposable tabloid fare and actually reported on a story of the type we need more of in respect of highlighting the real issues that impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of our ever deteriorating public education system.
Sadly, such is the state of what passes for real news these days it will inevitably pass into the ether of the 24 hour news cycle when it doubtless will appear comet-like at a later date to cover the same old ground without moving the issue forward one iota. That is, to extend the comet metaphor, it will keep going around in circles, wowing everyone when it comes close to the planet of public awareness, but forgotten immediately after it passes from sight.
In the segment mentioned – titled the Blackboard Jungle – the story featured a NSW high school teacher – one Stephen Krix – who got into a scuffle with a kid who had king-hit him in the classroom. The fallout from this incident is a savage indictment on the state of public school classrooms in Australia today. It should give all those considering a teaching career some idea of what to expect, and therefore much to contemplate before making that final decision.
Further, it is an equally damning condemnation of our hypocritical, pusillanimous, and self-serving bureaucrats who are not prepared to take a stand against such kids who exhibit such behaviour in our classrooms. Their unerring predisposition to presume the teacher is guilty of an offence in such instances sends a clear message to the offenders in question – one that they take out of school into the big bad world – that they can get away with such behaviour all the time.
Of course this 'we can do what we like' mindset has been carefully incubated firstly in the home by overly indulgent parents, and then lovingly nurtured by our touchy-feely, laissez school administrators.
The fact is that our school system these days all but encourages irresponsible behaviour on the part of our young people. Without a 'revolution' of sorts in the way these issues are dealt with in our schools, the service delivery outcomes the system is capable of producing will continue to deteriorate, and our teachers will become increasingly ineffective, and then burnt out in the process.
Doubtless many of the same 'pollies' who bemoan the behaviour of young people in the community are the same ones who have been responsible for the state of affairs in respect of the onerous restrictions placed on how our schools manage and respond to it there. All this is without taking into account the sort of signal our current behaviour management responses send to other ostensibly well-behaved and well-parented kids who are less inclined to do the right thing when they see what their classmates get up to and get away with.
It's a sorry state of affairs indeed when the behaviour by today's public school students such as that exemplified in the ACA report gets the teacher in question suspended or sacked, and ends up destroying their careers and livelihoods, their financial well-being and their mental and physical health.
And the kids in question not only get off with a wrist-slap at best (a suspension is worn as a badge of honour), they get to claim bragging rights with all their too cool for school 'besties' that they got a teacher suspended or sacked, basically for being an obnoxious, vindictive, malicious, snivelling, poorly parented drop-kick, who have been brought up to think it is all about them and no-one else!
A bit harsh you say? Maybe. But these kids are not only trashing their own education opportunities, worse still they are trashing the performance potential of those who are half-way interested in receiving a quality schooling experience. It is the latter who are truly at risk in our education system, not the feral 'frequent flyers' that Mr Krix and folks like him have to deal with under increasing duress. It is they who are undermining the effectiveness of the system.
This should be of great concern to those parents who indeed are relying on the public system to deliver for their kids and whose kids have been raised well. Instead of bemoaning the performance of teachers collectively, these parents would do better to begin demanding that schools themselves - along with the bureaucrats who call the shots from on high - take serious action in removing these disruptive elements from not just from the classrooms but from our schools.
And if you thought being a fully paid up member of the teachers' unions would be of assistance to chalkies facing disciplinary action over matters related to managing student behaviour, then think again. It won't happen. Our own experience confirms this, with many others whom we have spoken to reporting similar outcomes.
In simple terms, to fight even the most straightforward legal battles in respect of the range of disciplinary actions open to the respective education departments in such cases, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars for 'defendants', and the unions' simply are not prepared to front up with the 'readies' to support you. And the department of education 'boffins' know this. That the unions have allowed the situation to reach this point is a fashion statement in and of itself, and not a flattering one at that.
The departments themselves of course can - on the taxpayers' dime of course - avail themselves of the services of the respective state government's legal people in their Solicitor-Generals' office, and if they so desire, drag the case out until you go broke, give up and/or go away or go mad. After all, it's not their money, and it's not their time, and sure as hell ain't their careers or for that matter, state of mind!
Make no mistake - it is our unerring belief that addressing and resolving this issue will do more to improve our national educational performance that any other single factor. No other aspect of the education debate that is related to improving its effectiveness is more important.