Sunday, February 5, 2012

Those people

“Why did they built that new school there? There is no money for [my department] but they can build a school for them. Those people never appreciate anything they are given.”

This comment, paraphrased from a conversation reported to me recently, made my blood boil. The school in question is a brand new facility made to accommodate the students from a number of older schools in the area which were closed due to falling enrolments. The new “combined” school now has a critical mass of students which will enable it to provide a range of services that the component schools were struggling to provide previously. Thus,  in recurrent terms, it is more financially efficient than what it replaces while it should also allow for better educational outcomes too.  It should be acknowledged that the new school is state of the art and incorporates innovative design features that should allow educational approaches not possible in the schools it replaces. It should perhaps be added that the person who made the above comment lives in an area in which a similar infrastructure upgrades have taken place which will directly benefit her own school aged children. Her issue was not, apparently, spending on education per se  - but spending on those people.

Those people.

Presumably the fact that the new school services a lower socio-economic group motivates her comment.  “They never appreciate anything given to them.”

Given to them? Given?

Education is a right of every child - a right, not a privilege. The accident of birth which largely dictates a person’s postcode is irrelevant - every child deserves the best start that society can provide.  Even if people do not share this philosophical view point it is scarcely credible that anyone could argue against the value of improving the educational levels. History is full of high achievers that come from low socio-economic backgrounds.  The world’s first billionaire, John Rockerfeller, began life in poor circumstances as did fellow industrial giant Andrew Carnegie. The creator of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, was on welfare before her writing found fame and fortune. Global media personality Oprah Winfrey also came from poor circumstances.  The list of people who achieved success in their chosen field who came from humble circumstances is long indeed. And that is not to be sidetracked by the concept of “success” and the many ways in which it can be defined and achieved. Even at an economic level (and I do not endorse this as a gauge of a person’s value) it makes sense to provide the best education possible to the largest number of students.

Educators tend to be socially diplomatic - but that means we should allow such bigotry to go unchallenged.  Those people are MY students.

Thinking about this blog made me recall a thought exercise that runs something like this:
You are about to appoint a person to a responsible position.  You have some inside knowledge about their lifestyle.  

Applicant A
Is known to associate with crooked politicians and consult  astrologists. He is a chain smoker, drinks up to 10 martinis a day and has had two mistresses.
Applicant B
Lost his elected position twice, known to sleep until midday, used opium in his student days and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.
Applicant  C
A decorated war hero who is a non-smoking vegetarian, whose alcohol consumption is limited to the occasional beer and has been faithful to his partner.

Which of these applicants would be your choice?

Applicant A is Franklin D. Roosevelt

Applicant  B is Winston Churchill

Applicant  C is Adolph Hitler

Thought exercise: - unable to trace the original source

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