Confronting the paradigm

Posted: 11/02/2012 in Education, ONE planet, Struggle, War
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In my first school I made good career progress. At that time in education I was focussing only on the inequalities in education towards the black students, and as the school was majority black I was actually beneficial to the school despite focussing on education. In that case because I was just starting out, I had not reached the level of power where careerism comes more into effect. At the same time the school was hard so few wanted to be there. So at that time my dedication to education (of black students) was positive and fitted in with the prevailing paradigm of the school.

I should have made Deputy HOD there but I got knocked down by politics, a politics of a strange variety. My HOD was on the NUT Exec, and because of his union activities – he was officially released one day a week but often took more – the education in the department suffered. He also played control games so that people “needed” him. The game that always annoyed me was that during department tests he would insist on writing the markschemes, and because he was so busy with the union the markschemes were often not ready. Being young and vehement I would argue about this, I can’t remember other arguments but arguments were regular. His office was large so the department often worked there – and then it was too small. Conversation, laughter, whatever would occur, and if he was busy he would demand quiet. It was tort with tension, and after one argument I removed myself from his office and moved my workbase to the staffroom – a good distance away.

I was at the school nearly 8 years. The school had big staff turnover, people using it as career stepping stones. My HOD and I were fixtures, he had got himself a situation where he could be HOD and do all his union work and I was immersed in “being black” at the time (not that bad but too much) working in the community as well. Working with the head of the remedial department (or whatever it was called) we had established a well-run team teaching lower school programme. So the next step up the ladder was deputy HOD, and when the position became available it was expected for me to apply. Now the Principal and my HOD were at loggerheads – she was a careerist, so in normal circumstances of my promoting “education” we would have been in conflict. But because of my known conflict with the HOD we were unnaturally aligned. She told me she wanted me to do the job – not appropriate for her to do that, but she told me in private so not that bad.

In most normal schools that nod from the Principal would have been enough but there was also conflict between the Principal and the head of governors, Janet Boateng wife of the black MP Paul Boateng. Now my community work should have been enough for her as well, but then manipulative politics and duplicity came into play. There was a Zimbabwean guy I drank with, I considered him a friend but on reflection that was stupid as mutual actions indicated there was no friendship. But I was a drunk and people who drink think that their drinking buddies are friends – one of the many delusions the drink gives us. He came round to my house one Saturday night – that was unusual in itself. I later realised, after working in Africa, that he was motivated by career in coming round, and that he was pumping me. He was a drinking friend and it was in my house so I felt sacrosanct and told him what the Principal had said. I was in my early 30s and naive. This opened the door for my HOD. Another drinking buddy who was NUT was also teacher governor told the governors about this conversation, so the governors were aware that the Principal had told me she favoured me, I knew this because the Principal was quite rightly angry with me for breaking a confidence. I didn’t get the job and when the position became available again I didn’t apply sticking to working with the kids. On the third occasion of the position becoming available the Zimbabwean got the job, and the HOD paid for this. This incident caused a lot of ructions in my life. It should have stopped me from drinking but it didn’t, I just kept away from those drinking “buddies”. I continued to manage the lower school team teaching, and focussed on the kids. The union conflict reared its head again, and I joined the NAS because of this HOD’s political manipulations that at that school disadvantaged the students.

So I have vented about this annoying incident in my life but it does show that this was a time when my education aligned me with career progress, but that was the only time – and when I was young. I was an angry young man but even with this lack of control I was more aligned with career than at any other time in my life – even though I was HOD three times.

At my next school the opposite happened. I became an NUT activist (union rep and association secretary), and because of the Principal being a bully and incompetent I was in direct conflict with him. This school was in suburbia, was a less difficult school, and the teachers did not stand up for themselves against this bully. I however did as union rep, and remained on main grade for all the time I was there – 6 years. Was this a personal conflict or a paradigmatic conflict? First impressions it is personal but in reality I was against the paradigm, and the paradigm was “suburban jobsworth”. This man was not a competent bully, he was incompetent, but the teachers fundamentally kept their heads down keeping their jobs and accepting the financial inducements of career. Many of the teachers worked well but very rarely did they conflict with the head, and the head used this. There was one time when they stood up. There was a science trip and the teachers were forced to send some of the best students home because they behaved so badly. The parents complained, and the Principal rebuked the teachers formally. Now these teachers were typical “suburban jobsworths” and did not usually conflict with the Principal so everyone rallied round, and the formal rebuke was withdrawn. By this time the Principal had forced me out of the union rep job, and in retrospect is a clear example of how consensus democracy rather than representative democracy works. So here I was against the paradigm and career-wise got nowhere.

In my next job I worked in Botswana where there was a localisation policy for appointments so I never considered career, but applied myself educationally with the many integral extra-curricular positions that were unpaid. Then I joined international schools as a HOD. As a HOD I had much more influence on the schools, and as a result that was where I really learned that schools were not about education. I found myself becoming a buffer between the careerism of Principals (and profiteering of owners in private schools) and education practice in my department. The paradigm in these schools was profit, and because they were not good schools penny-pinching affected educational standards – there were 2 such schools where the penny-pinching profit paradigm was dominant. In the third school as HOD I was sacked because I was in conflict with the paradigm that the rich kids were right – profit and influence being paramount. I was brought in to change the educational approach, did so, impressed the Principal with my approach, but because rich kids complained the administration supported them and I was sacked. This was a “rich kid” paradigm that I was in part aware of, but in interview I had asked if I would get administration support if there was a conflict and they said yes!!

Apart from my first school where my youth and educational approach aligned me with the overall paradigm in schools exemplified by career, educational imperative has brought me in conflict with the places I have worked in. By this I recognise the importance of that conflict, if you are in conflict with the paradigm then competence is not going to get just rewards. But if you are not in conflict those rewards will come. Understanding how conflict works is important in understanding how the 1% control. They don’t care what you believe in so long as you don’t act in conflict. They do not care about intellectual assessments, in fact they can profit from the same by turning them into products – music books and movies. But if you start a movement such as Occupy in which you are actively in conflict then they coral the waggons. This is what has happened to Occupy in the US where the police have become a military defending the 1%. It demonstrates the true nature of the system as a whole and the police force in particular, the system is the 1% – it defends the 1%.

I speak to many people about this, and I am particularly thinking of a Buddhist group I used to belong to. When I describe the system (in summary the 1% and the 99%) they don’t see the problem, they have had careers, done well from it, and mostly lived their lives with integrity. But what they have done is avoided the conflict with their particular paradigm, and avoided the conflict with the 1% paradigm. I now contend that in my life I should not have compromised as much as I did – even though I had conflict. I should have embraced the conflict because the 1% are destroying ONE planet. Instead of avoiding the conflict – intentionally or otherwise – these people who were successful and Buddhist should also have embraced the conflict. Individually they would have suffered in terms of career and therefore financially, the results of their conflict will have had minimal effect but they would in some way have restrained the 1%.

Conflict avoidance within their institutions is a major strategy of the 1%. War is now expanding because ordinary people in the metropolitan countries are not being hurt. Drones are a wonderful example of this. No-one flying the drones gets hurt, the MIC makes huge profits, and they have the illusory enemy of the terrorist as a target. Troops on the ground now in Iraq are not soldiers but mercenaries, and these mercenaries provide profits for their transnationals so the 1% are happy. Whilst people are still being murdered for profit, no-one is risking death and there is no conflict for the 1% and their wage-slaves. Drones and mercenaries are completely evil but they are optimal tools of conflict avoidance. Unless you are a target of the profits from war.

It is now essential that conflict avoidance or compromise becomes a thing of the past. The power and addiction of the 1% is increasing, and the damage they are doing is worsening. At COP17 a global conference to discuss how to deal with climate change was circumvented by a 1% strategy of denial of truth. Whilst every citizen in the world becomes more aware by observation that climate change is affecting their daily lives these addicted fight over profits. And we don’t confront them – well most of us don’t. Global recession is dodged almost daily by huge amounts of money being “invented” to create an illusion of stability, and then they pretend that austerity is the solution. We go to work for small amounts of money, huge amounts are given away ending up in the Cayman Islands as figures, and gradually what we earn buys less and less; there is a global strategy of devalueing the money we earn because they cannot reduce our wages. Eventually such a system must collapse. A conflict strategy that seeks to withdraw ourselves from the prevailing system of the 1% needs to come in. We can begin to work in barter networks, community currency systems, buying growing and selling organic produce through local forums, skill trades, any form of trade and income that reduces our contact with the 1% monetary system. Such ways will bring us into conflict with the 1% system but we will maybe help to prevent the catastrophes the addicted are taking us to.

Ironically acting in this way of conflict will bring us greater harmony and happiness.

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  1. […] Confronting the paradigm […]

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