I wrote this as a reflective piece on my career when retiring in January 2012.
I came across it again the other day and felt that it was still highly relevant eight years later.
From the viewpoint of 2020 it is written somewhat in the past tense.
Eight plus years later, I haven’t changed my mind about the way things were to what they became. And eight years later if anything, things are worse now than they were in 2012.
With The Passing of Time
Once upon a time a principal reflected on what was (2012) what have been (1970) and what had happened between times. A little voice in his head told him to think as much as possible about “balance”, “pros” and “cons”, “challenge” and “celebration”. Determined to be even-handed, he began to reflect on the four decades of his educational experience.
He thought about the waves of systemic leadership that had rolled over the system. There was the “Moresby mafia” followed at intervals by domination from other States, Territories and arrivals from overseas destinations. More recently (2009) the ‘Queensland Cowboys’ had succeeded the Western Australia ‘Sandgropers’ as system leaders. The Northern Territory were certainly hybrid.
He thought about Jim Eedle the Northern Territory’s first Secretary for Education after the NT Government took portfolio carriage for education. Eedle said (Katherine, March 1978), “schools for children” and “Structure should support function.” He thought how structure had now assumed skyscraper proportions with the children somehow in the shadows?
He thought about the back of many children were children who seemed to lack the first hand care and nurture a parent should offer. It seemed this was less forthcoming with the passing of years. Increasingly, schools were asked (indeed required) to take on primary matters of bringing. He wondered and was sad that ‘loco parentis’ was now so mainstream.
He worried that with the passing of years, a preponderance of weighty issues had grown into school curriculum requirements. Lots has been added and little dropped. He wondered how teachers could cope and was concerned the children would be overburdened and staff become disillusioned. The educational pathway seemed increasingly cluttered and overgrown.
He was concerned that written reports were no longer short, succinct, explicit and individualised. Rather they were long on hyperbole being stereotyped, jargon riddled statements. They had become increasingly wordy but in essence said less and less. Notwithstanding the huge amount of teacher effort devoted to their preparation, he felt they really said meant very little to parents.
He worried that with the passing of time, children had become more self-centred. “I” and “my” were pronouns and possessives that underpinned their belief and value systems. He yearned for those times past when, it seemed, children were well mannered and cared for others. “Yes please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “may I” were fast disappearing epithets. That he felt underpinned a loss of character.
He wondered where safety and security for children had gone. In the 1970s and 1980s children could play outdoors in what was a safe, secure environment. Come 2012 and parents no longer felt the children were safe. Threat for young people was felt from cyberspace to the street. There was a feeling that children needed to be cocooned and cosseted – but not by parents. As primary caregivers they were too busy at work to offer personal nurture.’Minding’ at Outside School Hours Care centres was the in thing.
He wondered whether, in an enlightened age, children felt ‘used’ when their schooling futures were discussed in a way that likened them to pawns on a chessboard. He also wondered whether children appreciated being ‘objects’ for limited academic testing (Four May Days each year). Did they feel that overall and holistic educational needs were regarded as important by Federal Politicians setting State and Territory educational agendas?
He wondered about modern communications. Were the children of the 1970’s not better speakers and listeners because face to face communication was alive and practised? ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, texting and the new ICT tools of the twenty-first century reduced the need to gain and have confidence in speech and speaking (including listening). He was concerned that literacy skills were going out the door. What would happen to thinking!
He pondered the wisdom of straying too far from the scriptural adage,”spare the rod and spoil the child”. While responses to poor behaviour ought not to be barbaric, was not accomodation in 2012 on what was totally unacceptable in 1970, simply encouraging children and young people to push the envelope? Were not the elders abrogating their upbringing responsibilities and being ostrich like?
He was sad that keys, security, guard dogs, dead latches, CCTV cameras, high fences, barbed wire, crimsafe mesh, sensor security systems and floodlights had become the order of installation. It seemed that in 1970, nights were for sleeping. Forty years later, nocturnal malevolence seemed to prevail. He wondered where ‘Where Willie Winkie’ had gone.
He wondered about gender equality. In the 1970’s children deferred to adults on public transport, when going through doors and joining queues. Similarly, men deferred to ladies, the young to the old. No more!
He wondered why it was that in 2012, chivalry was dead!
He was concerned about ‘pace’. In the 1970’s things moved more slowly. There seemed to be less to do, yet key tasks were completed. There was a simple serenity about the way things were done. Time off work WAS time off work.
He pondered tranquility. Inner peace had been enhanced by the separation of priorities. Family, work and recreation had occupied degrees of importance in that order. Come 2012, it seemed that the imperative of ‘work, work and work until you drop’ had pushed family and recreational pursuits onto the back-burner. Was that not poor prioritisation?
Did the ‘new way’ promote happiness and inner peace?
He wondered about the future. As a young educator in 1970 he had looked to the future with confidence and rosy anticipation. Come 2012 and looking back he wondered why system realities had sullied his vision.