Pilloried by the staffroom dictators

7th September 2001 at 01:00
LET me tell you something you know already - teachers are a bossy and dogmatic lot. Children have known this for a long time. I used to rush from pillar to post denying this charge of telling others what to do. Not any more.

Let me demonstrate. Teachers expect bright and high-achieving pupils to collect their qualifications, pop off to university, spend three or four years there and start a job with a salary commensurate with graduate status. Paradoxically, there will be an added frisson if that salary is higher than the teacher's own.

Teachers drill into kids that the only life worth living is the one at university. So you must achieve good grades in your Highers. That's fine if it's what kids want. But what if they don't?

I should declare a vested interest in this. You're probably suspecting it anyway. My elder daughter - now almost 20 - choose not to go to university. She was a high-flyer at school. We attended the prize-giving every year to see her gain awards. In fifth year she sat and passed five Highers with grades good enough for practically any university course.

We supported her decision not to go to university. My children's happiness has always been far more important to me than a grinning graduation portrait.

But, wow, stand back. The people who expressed most shock horror were teachers. The fact that she left school at the end of fifth year was seen as a slap in the face by some. The most extraordinary things were said to us. But you're both teachers. As if to suggest that having teachers for parents (already a handicap, some might contend) means that you have to follow a conventional career path.

That's what she's having - a career. Working and sitting exams at the same time and performing far better than some of the graduates in her profession. Because you can have a profession and not go to university. Gradually I realised that the people giving me a hard time were the teachers whose own offspring scraped three C Higher passes over two years.

Worse is to follow. My nonconforming and wonderful daughter was married last week. It was a great day and we are delighted. However, again I found that some of my teaching colleagues felt obliged to make points about what they perceived to be my daughter's challenge to conformity.

My relaxed acceptance of it just seemed like too good a target to resist. I'll never forget the verbal mauling I suffered one day. Not going to university was bad enough but to follow up that start with an early marriage (she's not pregnant, is she?) was simply not OK for the offspring of teachers.

One Job's comforter - they are in every staffroom - told me that it was certain she would be divorced in a few years' time. Another Jeremiah mocked the fact that the young couple were opting for a traditional wedding. Me? For once in my life I sat quietly, in amazed disbelief, letting the missiles fly around my head.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The evidence that the teaching profession is narrow-minded, dictatorial and, yes, plain stupid.

I rest my case.

One final word on further education. More people are apparently going on to FE but our society is less educated than ever before. Consider the total mush you dumbly watch on television every week. Think of the graduates with mass produced media degrees who don't know how to communicate. You wait weeks for a painter to decorate your house and you can't lay your hands on anyone to fix your ailing washing machine. My new son-in-law can't find a half decent well motivated individual to take up an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.

An educated society? I don't think so. Those who can, do; those who can't go on to further education.

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