• Annoying Parents and their Fallacious Arguments: The Teachers’ Strike

    These arguments are popping up again in response to today’s strike. So here goes again:

    I don’t make a habit, as a teacher, of annoying parents. It doesn’t make my job easy. But I have spent the last week getting more and more incensed and infuriated over the claims and arguments I have been hearing on the radio and TV and at school. Why can’t presenters get some critical skills. Why can’t they challenge guests on false analogies and non sequiturs?

    So, background. Well, my reasons for supporting or going on the strike can be found here. It is a case of fighting against the tyrant Michael Gove and everything he is enacting through the Department for Education (DfE). This might give you an idea:

    Anyway, the point here is that teachers are striking in defiance of the DfE – we are reacting against Gove and his cronies.

    Another background point. Truancy is a growing problem, as well as unauthorised holidays. One tool that the DfE is using against parents to prevent them from taking their children out of school on a disrupting holiday is fining them. I think the going rate is £60. Some Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and schools are better at doing this than others. Of course, given a £2000 difference in holiday cost for a family of 4 between school holiday time and school term time, £60 will make no difference. I have every sympathy with parents who take their children out during term time. Holidays are almost prohibitively expensive during holiday time.

    However, teachers ARE NOT responsible for or even particularly supportive of the fining system.

    So my first bone of contention is parent after parent interviewed or overheard who claims either:

    1) Now that the teachers are costing me £x in childcare, I have the right to take my children out of school on holiday.

    2) Teachers are costing me childcare, so any time we get fined for unauthorised holidays we will charge the teachers.

    Firstly, parents, sort out your logic. Sort it out! This is clearly a non sequitur. This is like me punching a postman in the face in response to central government imposing a 50p stamp tax; or me berating a swimming pool lifeguard for some health and safety directives introduced by central government. We teachers have nothing to do with the creation,  implementation or procedures involved with parental fining.

    Next on the list of logical grievances.

    3) I should charge my childcare fees as a result of the teachers’ strike to the teachers responsible.

    Two points to make here:

    a) technically, it is the governments responsibility for attempting to deregulate education to the point of stripping teachers of pay and conditions, and children of their right to qualified teachers, well thought-out creative curricula and so on. Essentially, parents appear to be denying teachers the right to strike, which is the right to fight for our own employment rights. Or in other words, parents think that teachers should necessarily have to agree with whatever rules this Govian dictatorship imposes. No rights for teachers and the support of a dictatorship.

    b) The point above implies that parents have a basic right to have their children looked after each and every day of what has been defined term time. Eh? WTF? I love the fact that this is almost entirely a financial argument which belies the real gripe. It is incidentally costing them money. They don’t have an enshrined right to have their children looked after by someone else. It just so happens that school enables them to go to work without having to sort out what happens to their children. In Victorian times, before the eventual compulsory dimension to free schooling (it came in fits and starts), you didn’t have parents griping at government employees that their kids were not being looked after! We have a scenario where people are confusing what they have grown used to with what they are somehow Platonically entitled to, like some objectively existent right.

    What this amounts to is a parent arguing that their right to have their children looked after for one day is more important than the right to a teacher’s employment rights and environment for the rest of their living lives. This is insane logic. And that is if you can even establish i) that human rights philosophically exist, and ii) that their ‘right’ to daily childcare even qualifies as such. It doesn’t.

    And of course the idea of a strike IS to cause maximum disruption, otherwise there is no point in so doing. If no one noticed we were on strike or felt the consequences of it, then we would not achieve a single thing other than losing a day’s pay. In fact, if anything, I am annoyed at headteachers who have tried their hardest to keep schools open or partially open. They are, in effect, stabbing their own teachers in the back.

    Examples of such opinions:

    Parent Leesa Collins wrote: “I think this is a joke. If u take your kids out of school in term time u get fined .

    “What about all us working mothers who have had their working day disrupted. Think I should fine the school for my inconvenience!”

    Phil Henderson said: “And we get fined for taking our kids out of school for holidays yet in situations like this we have to find childcare from our pockets?”

    And what really gets my goat is that many people think that, as mentioned earlier, teachers should not be entitled to strike at all. I CANNOT BEGIN TO VERBALISE HOW MUCH THIS STUPID, STUPID, STUPID OPINION ANNOYS ME. I am getting too angry. I will stop now.

    Category: Education


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce