Your Local School – Rewarding Experience or a Danger Zone?

Our Victorian Government announced extension to nominations and applications for the Victorian Education Excellence Awards.

This award is there to celebrate outstanding achievements of teaches and education support staff in Victorian government schools. What I like about it, is that parents and students are also eligible to nominate. This is a great opportunity for a wider school community to show their appreciation for teachers and other staff who are genially there for one reason, and one reason only – to give their best to our children.

Victorian Education Excellence Awards

Victorian Education Excellence Awards

This award should not limited to a school principal nominating who s/he thinks is a good teacher; or just looking for a way to give “the right person” a $50,000 bonus. It should not be limited to teachers doing favours to each other (you nominate me this year and I’ll nominate you the next).

As parents, we are the ones who ultimately responsible for bringing our kids up, for making sure they get the best education available. Who better than to assess the teaching efforts? Who will only nominate teachers that bring out the best in their children? So take this opportunity, weight all the candidates at your child’s school, think it thru and do your bit to make sure that the winner of this award is a truly Excellent educator.

While looking through internet pages, reading up on this Excellence Award, I’ve noticed quite a bit of excitement around the other bit of school-related issue – plans to install CCTV cameras in government schools. I almost skipped this news, until my eyes stumbled upon the main reason for the cameras…. apparently, it’s to reduce the number of attacks on school principals. Who would’ve thought that being surrounded by a bunch of seven-year-olds can be so dangerous? All jokes aside, being a principle of a Victorian school is a life-threatening occupation. The Australian Principals Federation even has a study from the Monash Uni to back it up. What’s in this study? Well, according to ABC, school principals were five times more likely to face threats of violence than the general population . Not to be outdone, The Age informs us that Australian principals experienced physical violence at more than six times the rate of the general population. I personally prefer the take on the matter by The Australian – they clearly are more serious about this whole issue than the rest. According to them, school principals were seven times more likely to experience physical violence than the general public. Seriously though, why would anyone attack a school principal? I remember a principal of Mordialloc Primary School back in the 90th, and a principal of Parkdale Secondary at the same time – no one would EVER even think of attacking these principals, because everyone in a wider community knew that these men live a breeze their schools.

CCTV in schools

CCTV in schools

So why the sudden fear of attacks? Is it because we are faced with a generation of violent, irresponsible parents? Or is it because the schools today quickly becoming a safe heaven for rejects, people who have this perverted idea of teaching being nothing more than a profession with a really long summer holidays?

Maybe it’s because some teachers don’t know how to spell, and feel intimidated by parents (and children) who do? Or maybe it’s because some teachers feel that they are allowed to bully their students?

Or maybe the real reason is that the principals are scared more of getting in trouble with the Australian Education Union for kicking out under-performing teachers , than they are scared of unruly parents?

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Who will watch the watchmen?

I couldn’t help but think about this phrase as I was reading news about deteriorating relationships between USA and Russia. The two superpowers (or at least that’s what they like to think of themselves) hit yet another low point in their relationships after Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obama even had a hissy fit and cancelled his meeting with Putin. Reminded me about observing kids in kindergarten – “I’m not gonna be friends with Johnny no more, he’s playing with my toy, and he doesn’t even want to share!”

Obama and Putin fighting over Snowden

Obama and Putin fighting over Snowden

I understand why the US government is upset and screams “traitor” – I would be upset too, if I were caught red-handed stealing from my friends. One can argue, that giving out state secrets is in fact a treason, and should be punished as such. But at the same time, a government – any government should be accountable for its actions and for the actions of its branches and institutions.

Whenever a government installs more CCTV cameras, or attempts to introduce a National Identity Card, or introduces laws that allow Police to listen in on people’s communications without a warrant, all these attempts are met with an outcry of civil libertarians.

Who is watching you?

Who will watch the watchmen?

The government’s standard response? If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.  Makes perfect sense, right? Right, but only if the government is prepared to live and be governed by the same rules.

Another important aspect here is the freedom of information. We are lucky enough to live in a democratic society, and whether we are talking about Australia or America, the basic principles are the same. One of those principles is that public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society.

These days even the Chinese government has a Regulation on Open Government Information, so unless we want one day to find ourselves being dragged across the coals by Chinese, we better stop pretending that we are a democracy and start acting like one.

Now, I am not a whinger, but…. the question remains – who will watch the watchmen?