Michelle Sutton of the Sunday Star Times (1-8-10) reports that “fifteen people with criminal convictions have applied to become registered teachers this year – nine of them successfully. Four others with convictions seeking entry into the classroom had their applications declined, while two decisions are pending. This follows the Teachers Council allowing four people with convictions to register as teachers working in schools last year, while seven were declined registration."
Further on in the report, Peter Lind of the Teachers Council details how teachers must self-report to the council if they are convicted of a charge punishable by three months' jail or more, which could include a charge of careless driving as well as many other minor events, and he questioned whether that made a person unfit to be a teacher – a question that I would also ask.
A teacher friend of mine who intervened in a domestic violence incident where he ended up getting thumped and some how arrested for assault.... is he fit to be a teacher?
Should the well-paid senior teacher who invests her savings in shares tied to the military complex that's primarily about killing people, be teaching our children? Really?
Should a teacher who voted for the bigoted exclusionary practices of neo-liberalism via the National/ACT/Māori party alliance, be fit to teach our children?
Am I fit to be teaching your children?
When Green MP Nandor Tanzcos quit politics in 2008 I wanted to ring and thank him for initiating the Clean Slate Act which wiped minor convictions after seven years of 'good behaviour' as it had allowed me to enter the teaching profession. Despite his rejection of anarchism, I have a lot to thank him for! No more awkward interviews about certain anomalies in my application!
Now none of my convictions were remotely major, they mainly related to teenage stupidity and political activism, however the motivations behind such activism – a hatred of capitalism – remains strong... am I still fit to teach, despite the paper trail going cold?
Do drug convictions matter when prohibition is foundered on racism and corporate control of stimulants? Violence? Certainly I would question such a conviction, but questions remain: will they always be guilty and potentially violent, or have steps toward rehabilitation been taken?
(Whoops, forgot we don't 'do' rehabilitation any more – more prisons is the answer!)
The Auckland teacher moonlighting topless in Australia, a danger? Or the teacher who has to get stoned and drunk (hey, it's legal to get drunk fool!) to face marking her students work? Okay eh? Cos rich white people rarely get stopped, searched, raided etc.
Right and wrong are shifting lines in the sand. They are not finite. Education is deeply political and also reflects the shifting discourses of who ever holds power. With education now strongly tied to neo-liberalism and the economic success of our country, the learning focus is on marketable outcomes hence the arrival of national standards etc. Success is now about a clearly defined economic value that has little to do with you as an individual and one I would happily pop into the 'go straight to jail' basket.
In conclusion? Well, it's the whole system really. To quote a million silenced voices: “We need a revolution.”