Class Hatred in the Sunday Independent: Emer O’Kelly’s Polemic Against Teachers

In an vitriolic anti-teacher polemic today in the Sunday Independent Emer O’Kelly lets loose on who see deems the ‘untouchables’; that is secondary school teachers, and specifically those belonging to the ASTI trade union, however it is quite clear that her thoughts spread across the entire teaching profession. The immediate crime of ASTI members is voting against the latest tranche of austerity measures. This  O’Kelly deems as ‘idiotic, selfish and disruptive’. She goes onto the usual trope of the long suffering ‘private sector worker’ as compared to their public sector counterparts. Of course such solidarity with private sector workers only goes as far as to demand the lessening of conditions and pay for their public sector counterparts, neither O’Kelly nor pretty much the entire media establishment have ever shown as much of an ounce of solidarity to private sector workers when on strike or facing unemployment.

But her main point of argument is to demand that secondary school teachers (and one would imagine the entire profession) should have any rights to permanent work revoked, as she puts it:

…we can cheer loudly at the suggestion by the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, that ASTI members may face the possibility of compulsory redundancy

Notwithstanding the fact that O’Kelly’s assertion is in itself mistaken; most teachers spend years on temporary contract, sometimes up to a decade before the elusive permanent contract appears – permanent contracts are also steadily being eroded in third level education, being replaced by precarious short-term contracts, and indeed at primary level Jobbridge has appeared, bringing the teacher’s salary down to a mere €50 top-up to their social welfare entitlements.

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She gives a number of other reasons  for demanding a higher turnover of teaching staff, her  main argumentbeing the high level of adult illiteracy in Ireland.

…we can point it out when we recall the horrifying figure for adult illiteracy in this country, as certified by the OECD. Nearly one fifth of Irish adults are functionally illiterate, having gone through our self-satisfied, self-glorifying education system. Functional illiteracy means that they are unable to read the instructions on a packet of medication, or the destination on a bus. And the people responsible for this are protected from being made redundant

Now this is interesting as she puts all blame for issues of illiteracy on teaching staff; not a word on social exclusion nor unequal resource distribution favouring more affluent areas nor the numerous political, economic and social issues involved, and she certainly has nothing to say about the class issues involved. This view of blaming the teacher does not stand up as research has shown the major cause of poor literacy outcomes is from early exit from school,  and not as O’Kelly puts it from teacher performance; as the National Adult Literacy Agency puts it: .

..early school leavers, older adults, non-English speakers and unemployed people are most at risk of having literacy difficulties. In addition, the people with the lowest skills are least likely to take part in adult education.

and

 In Ireland nearly 30% of the workforce has only Junior Certificate or less, while 10% has only primary level or no formal qualifications at all.

The other major reasons cited by the agency are:

…physical or psychological reasons such as poor hearing, vision or problems with speech specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia that were not diagnosed. Being part of a large class and not having specific needs catered for. Poverty and lack of access to educational resources. No free secondary education until 1967

Again as with private sector workers, O’Kelly’s solidarity with the those with literacy problems doesn’t go as far as to question either educational resources or the class inequalities laying at the base of much of these issues. O’Kelly’s solution is to make teaching a more precarious profession, something unlikely to have any positive effect on literacy levels as the aforementioned research has shown, teacher contracts have little or nothing to do with illiteracy. Of course if Emer O’Kelly was concerned about illiteracy  two minutes of research, even a quick Google search, would have shown all of  this. This says one of two things about O’Kelly: either she  is a particularly poor journalist whose level of research skills wouldn’t get her past a leaving cert essay; or she is simply using this as a very poor attempt to attack unionised workers.

Likewise her concern for parents, people for whom she has had little sympathy for in the past, is not credible. She states that ASTI’s very limited action of not doing work for free outside working hours is a direct  attack on parents, here she states:

On Wednesday, the ASTI members will begin industrial action by refusing to hold parent-teacher meetings outside school hours. This will cause huge disruption for most parents, and for all working parents.

Is this the same Emer O’Kelly who is opposed to both maternity leave and stay at home mothers? Here’s O’Kelly in a polemic against ‘lazy’ young mothers back in 2008:

I read an interview recently with a woman about to return to work after maternity leave. She was complaining that 12 weeks was not nearly enough. Her problem was not with the wrench of leaving her little one for eight hours a day; her complaint was that she had had a Caesarean section when giving birth, and 12 weeks was not enough time to recover from such major surgery.

With an attitude like that, I hope the woman worked in the public service: because a couple of people like her would quickly put a private-sector employer in the bankruptcy court.

The truth is, we’re all going to have to give a bit more  Sunday Independent – 29th June 2008

As she puts it, women have to get back to work from maternity leave as quickly as possible because.

There’s also the small fact of ethics: you owe it to an employer to put your back into your job rather than shmoozing your way through, spending as much time working out how to buck the system as you spend actually on the job.

The truth is, we’re all going to have to give a bit more  Sunday Independent – 29th June 2008

Now she does go on to tell us that although she has never had a C-section (or children), but she has had major surgery, after which she was back to work in two weeks. Of course if work for O’Kelly is writing un-researched and biased polemical pieces, major surgery or even children for that matter shouldn’t be too much trouble. However one might imagine that the young mother who complained may have had a real job with actual real work involved.

So we can safely conclude that O’Kelly has little care for private sector workers beyond using them as a stick to beat public sectors with, people facing problems with literacy and certainly she has little or no sympathy for parents, working or otherwise; this begs the question what is her problem with teachers? The answer to this may lie at the beginning of the polemic:

ONCE again teachers, the people to whom parents have no option but to entrust the ethical formation of their children for hours of the day, have disgraced themselves

The problem that seems to be at the root of O’Kelly’s polemic is the role of teachers in society and their position in what she deems the ethical formation of students.  As outlined above, ethics for O’Kelly means that the employer is always right, that workers owe their employers everything and should not whinge about minor issues like child care or recovering from c-sections; and workers especially should not refuse to tow the line on austerity cutbacks.  This is not the first time that O’Kelly pushed this line, back in 2010 she made similar complaints about the political motives of teachers:

 It’s hard to believe that the men and women entrusted with the educational formation of many of our citizens at second level, and all of our citizens at university level, can behave in such an unprincipled fashion. At least, it’s hard to believe of the IFUT; we’re used to the outrageously selfish impropriety of teachers at primary and secondary level. But how uneasy does it make you feel to envisage the intellectual elite of the country being taught ethics, philosophy, and particularly, politics, by people who refuse to abide by a democratic, if reluctant, vote?

‘Copper-fastened’ deal all comes down to the nuts and bolts: Sunday Independent 20 June 2010

Here is the nub of the problem: teachers and to O’Kelly’s surprise lectures are not acting in  their traditional conservative role but are in fact acting as the vanguard of resistance to state policy. This process itself maybe reflective of the proletarianisation of the teaching profession over the last number of decades. The teaching profession once a ‘respectable’ and conservative profession acting alongside the conservative curriculum has been one of the key hegemonic pillars of class rule. If teachers at all levels (even university) are becoming more proletarianised and unionised and as in the case of ASTI are acting in the vanguard of resistance; this for the well-connected O’Kelly needs to be stopped before the idea catches on.

 

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There’s Blood in the Stone Yet!

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In a particularly strange and positive framing of the economic situation today, the Irish Times website reports:

1.18 Million adults have E50 left after bills paid

Note the omission of the word ‘only’ before the number of 50 euro a month. And just in case you weren’t sure of the positive framing, it adds the sub-heading:

Financial position improving for many, credit union study finds.

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In fact in the Print edition of the newspaper the subhead is the headline – leaving out the 1.18 million adults and their fistfulls of 50 euro notes. In the print edition we are greeted with the news that where there was 600,000 with nothing left at the end of the month, now there’s only half a million (where’s those emigration figures again?). While average disposable income has increased a whopping nine euros a month from 163 to 172 euro a month!

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We are told that the number of people with nothing left to spend after bills are paid are falling drastically and now that we are in the happy position of having an extra tenner a week to spend. Overall the position on disposable income is ‘continuing to stabalise’, this is due we are informed due to citizen consumers cutting back on luxuries such as food. Other luxuries like a single visit to a GP, half a school uniform, smiling at a dentist or two thirds  of a school book will also have to be avoided. Finally we are reminded that of course this is all mainly an issue of confidence, indeed the Times is doing its bit on that front. On a brighter note it means that’s another 50 euro begging to go into that pit they call the private banking system via water charges, broadcast charges and sure maybe another pay cut or two, and this news should be the final nail in the coffin for all those strategic defaulters cheating their banks and bondholders out of pocket for frivolous luxuries like light and heat.

New Adventures in Trollsplaining in the End Times

A very interesting post from cunning hired knaves on the blogs’s intervention into the comment pages of the national press, interestingly none of the writers replied, scroll down for links to his pieces.

Cunning Hired Knaves

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About a year and a half ago I decided to embark on an experiment, albeit one without a hypothesis. It had been weighing on my mind for some time that Ireland’s major media outlets were –are- playing a decisive role in normalising the discourse relating to the politics of the ongoing bailout. This role is going largely uncontested, day to day, which is not to deny the importance of the various impressive periodicals getting produced.

I don’t have a great deal of time to devote, in my own writing, to analyse and synthesise matters of interest with the amount of detail I might like. At best I can grab a half an hour here, half an hour there, every other day. Ideally I would like to devote more time to it. For the moment, that isn’t feasible.

What was feasible, I thought, was some kind of exercise in undermining the…

View original post 1,901 more words

Normal Service Has Resumed

On Today’s Irish Times news-wire Ireland’s best known Homer Simpson impersonator and ex politico John Bruton has returned to that old pre-crisis trope of ‘over-regulation’.  Needless to say the Times doesn’t offer any contrasting opinion, such as the possibility of let’s say under regulation; rather the piece focuses on Bruton’s call on Ireland to become a ‘centre of excellence’ on tax dodging, or what our more creative accountant friends like to call ‘tax compliance’. Veteran Irish Life and Permanent Banker and Irish Times chairman David Went was not quoted on whether he thought that Irish banking should be rid of pesky regulations, but he was probably busy.

BRUTON regulate

John of course didn’t event the trope of ‘over regulation’, here’s an interview with everyone’s favorite entrepreneur and all round genius Sean FitzPatrick of Anglo Irish Bank from back in the good ‘ol days of 2007:

Q We need regulation?

I don’t think corruption is endemic in Irish business. We may have had a few bad apples but … we aren’t attracting the brightest like we did in the seventies and eighties because the banks just don’t have the respect…because of the banks themselves…and we have to work hard. It will take some time to regain the respect and trust that is very important for any society to have and not just with banks because banks are very fundamental to the infrastructure of any society…

 

Q You have given out a lot about regulation and over-regulation, do you have a sense that the entrepreneurship that created the Celtic Tiger, with all our Tribunals and new standards that we are somehow choking business? Do you think Irish business is corrupt or endemically corrupt?

 

Its not. We don’t have the Enron’s or anything like that. We never had the scandals that have taken place elsewhere. Of course you need regulation. But you don’t need over regulation. What we need is appropriate regulation. The danger is, ever since we have had scandals, do you know what you get..as non-executives on boards?  You get middle aged accountants…on boards because they will be good for the audit committee. That can’t be good for business. What we need are a board who represent the stakeholders and are real people with real experience and that relate to the customers that you are actually dealing with and maybe relate to the shareholders. But if we are all going to run for the umbrella of safety with regulation, then what we have achieved over the last ten or fifteen years will be easily brushed away. I’m not looking for a free-for-all. We don’t have a free-for-all here. What I’m looking for is some sense and balance in regulation … [Bad practices] are not endemic and if we are going to change the whole regulation for all of that, then I think that you are mad.

Interview from TV interview with Aine Lawlor ‘One to One’ RTE December 2007, read the entire transcript here

Where are the women?

So its Saturday night, and being the party animal that I am I sat down with my laptop to download a movie in iTunes. Hey seeing as its the weekend I may even splash out on a recent release. For my purchasing convenience iTunes displays at the top of the screen a slideshow of current recent releases, a sort of best of recent releases if you will. Anyway tonight as I scrolled through my options a nagging questions popped into my head…where…are…all…the…women? As I looked at the promotional images displayed I realised that out of the twelve slideshow images the only two female images displayed in place of prominence were: cartoon Disney princesses and a little girl.

So there are twelve promotional images in total, five of these have women in them but out these five, three contain only small subsidiary images of women, quite often with parts of the face cut off and/or partially hidden by the “more important” male characters. The other two are, as I mentioned the little girl and the Disney princesses. Now I really think this is completely unfair and, as a credit card bearing dedicated online purchaser, it also strikes me as bad business. It is disappointingly unsurprising, but nonetheless I feel strongly we need to draw attention to it.

Let me reveal the proof, here are my options this evening:

startrekrecallolympusnopainmudfundamentalist

 foreigndjango

iron21

And for the ladeeeezzzz……

disneymaisie

I know its pretty common knowledge that there just aren’t enough strong female characters in contemporary movies to the extent that veteran actors such as Jodie Foster resort to gender flipping characters in scripts such as her most recent role in Elysium (see Holly Derr’s Ms. Blog post). Nontheless this struck me tonight as a very visible and graphical representation of this gender imbalance. I just want to watch a movie with a strong female character, a grown up real one not an animated princess or a little girl. I’m willing to pay, and I’ll even pay above the odds, because I am an adult woman (with a job and my own money and everything) and I like stories that speak to me. Also here’s a note for the content creators, content for women is not the same as content for kids. Sigh…its enough to turn you into a independent film maker…

Jeneen Naji is a digital media lecturer in the Centre for Media Studies, NUIM

Rolling Stone Magazine and the Curious Case of the Muslim in the Neighbourhood.

Rolling Stone full

Rolling Stone’s recent August 2013 issue featured a photo of a tousled haired, trendy, sexy eyed youth. Was he the lead singer in the latest hot band? No he was Dzokhar Tsarnev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers and with that, the Rolling Stone set off another bomb. A wave of vitriolic rage spread through the U.S.A. at the audacity of the Rolling Stone magazine at placing this man’s image on their front cover. American retailers removed the magazine from their stores amid fears that the Rolling Stone editors were rewarding a terrorist with celebrity treatment. There was fear and concern that using the image of Dzokhar on the cover was in fact turning him into a type of rock star. Despite this, Rolling Stone reported an increase in sales. The issue was not with the content of the article, so what exactly was the problem?

The problem was the acceptable face of Muslim representation in the media. The article itself conformed to the damaged fundamentalist Muslim victim stereotype such as those often found in mainstream media. A young troubled and damaged youth, failed by the system becomes a fundamentalist. Well that is the acceptable stereotype propagated in mainstream media and studies on the representation of the ‘Other’ in are pretty well established (see Chomsky [1991], Said [1978], Dyer [1984] and Richardson [2004] to name but a few). Interestingly the Rolling Stone August edition’s cover was the one aspect of mainstream media coverage of this Muslim that did not portray him as a victim or the ‘Other’, in fact it imbued him with a certain kind of power usually reserved for charismatic rock stars, and reaffirmed his familiarity as a young white westerner. So it is unsurprising therefore that it was in fact this very aspect of representation that the general public objected to.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not condone violence and recognise that Dzokhar Tsarnev did something very, very, wrong and I cannot conceive of the horror of taking someone’s life. What I do however feel we need to have is a conversation about the representation of Muslims in mainstream media. The reality of life is as ever more nuanced, there are vast populations of Muslims who just you know, go to work, eat sandwiches and are quite reasonable. There are even quite a lot of Arabs who aren’t Muslim. No really there are! But we don’t hear about these because the standard media stereotype is of a medieval fundamentalist robe wearing jihadist male or a downtrodden hijab wearing female. Islamic tribalism that is and can only ever be held in check by the harsh hand of a dictator is the all too popular representation of Muslims, a convenient rhetoric that brings in the logical next step of Western intervention.

It brings to mind the scene from The Life Of Brian when at the anti-roman faction’s meeting someone asks, what the Romans have ever done for them? And the response, “Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it. They’re the only ones who could in a place like this”. And there we have it; they need us these Arabs to show them the way to civilization. An argument I heard being used similarly for Northern Ireland twenty years ago and one that is being brought into play again with reference to Syria.

We should expect more sophisticated representations and discussions from mainstream media and the extent of the reaction to the Rolling Stone’s August 2013 cover is proof of how badly we need them

Dr. J. Naji – Centre for Media Studies, NUIM

65-Year-old White Male To Revolutionise Radio Programming With Newstalk

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From Waterford Whisperer

Many in the media see Newstalk’s hiring of Kenny as a real coup, one insider went as far to say that ‘Newstalk were really looking to position themselves as an alternative to RTÉ and their search for a fresh, young and engaging voice not associated with the political or social elite is over’.

Genius!