xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Malice in Blunderland

Friday, 7 February 2014

Malice in Blunderland

Well, the first week of school is over and already I am hearing of larger classes and commendable education programmes being scrapped due to lack of staff. Time for another look at the troubles of 1995. I wrote "Malice in Blunderland"  in early March 1995. It was published in the Western Teacher newspaper that same month.

“So you think that teachers should get a pay rise,” said Alice.

“Oh, of course they should,” said the Mad Hatter. “They certainly deserve a big pay rise.

“They deserve a very big pay rise,” chipped in the March Hare. “After all, they haven’t had a pay rise for an awfully long time.”

“Well,” asked Alice, “how much will you give them?”

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare exchanged patronising smiles as the Mad Hatter put down his tea cup and leaned closer to Alice and said, “You silly girl, it is not a matter of how much we will give them. It is question of what extra things they will do to earn it?”

“Yes,” echoed the March Hare, “what will they do to earn it? They will need to work much harder before will give them anything at all.”

“But,” replied Alice, “you just said that teachers deserved a pay rise. Why must they do something extra to earn it?”

“You stupid girl,” growled the Mad Hatter as he put more lumps of sugar in his tea. “Of course they have to earn it. You cannot give someone a pay rise simply because they deserve it.”

“It’s against the law,” mumbled the March Hare as he munched on another cream bun. “The law says no one can get a pay rise unless they increase their productivity. You know what that means, I suppose?”

“I think I do,” said Alice. “But didn’t you both get big pay rises without increasing your productivity?”

“Oh, you senseless child. Of course we did, but that wasn’t anything to do with us. It just happens that politicians and senior public servants like us automatically get a pay rise whenever judges get a pay rise. Don’t you know anything? You are a strange child.”
“Yes,” said the Mad Hatter. “We had to take a pay rise because the law said so.”
“Well who made that law?” asked Alice.

The Mad Hatter flung a cream tart at Alice and stood up on his chair. “What is wrong with you that you keep asking such silly questions? WE made the law of course. That is what us politicians do. That is what we get paid to do.”

“Please sit down.” said Alice. “You have your hand in the sugar bowl.”

“What is more,” the March Hare complained, “some teachers have stopped taking children on camps and stopped organising school socials, school balls and graduation dinners. We will certainly not be giving them a pay rise while they have banned these absolutely essential educational activities. I just shudder to think how many final year students will fail Mathematics and Science because they did not have a school social this year. I don’t suppose you have thought about that?”  he said glaring at Alice.

“No”, I must confess that it had not crossed my mind,” replied Alice demurely.

“It seems to me that very little has crossed your mind. Pass the tea please,” the March Hare mumbled as he scoffed another cream bun.

“But if you say that teachers deserve a pay rise, then surely you should give them one,” asserted Alice.

“Indeed, we shall not,” the Mad Hatter said firmly. “They won’t get a cent until they lift their bans. Anyone banning school activities will not get a pay rise.” 
“But, those things you mentioned aren’t bans,” protested Alice.  “They were only done by some teachers out of the goodness of their hearts. How can you say someone has banned something that they did not need to do in the first place? ” Alice asked the Mad Hatter.

“I can say it because I have just jolly well said it. If they don’t plan to volunteer to do what they did before, then they have banned it.”

“Well,” replied Alice, “that is the strangest thing that I have ever heard. I am not planning to climb Mt Everest next month, neither do I plan to make a strawberry fruitcake tomorrow, but you cannot say that I have banned them. Besides, there are some teachers, who because of subjects or classes that they teach never go on school camps or have school socials or graduation ceremonies. You cannot say that they have banned something if they have never done it in the past.”

The Mad Hatter jumped to his feet once more and threw a custard slice at Alice. “It doesn’t matter whether they all did it or not. Some teachers did those things in the past and so we expect them to be done, and they must be done, before we can talk about giving them a pay rise.”

“We have a plan that will make them come to their senses,” the March Hare smirked as he chewed on a water cress sandwich.

“Yes,” beamed the Mad Hatter,” we are going to ask all teachers if they are going to continue with the bans or not?”

And then what will you do? ” asked Alice as she ducked another custard slice.

“We will give a pay rise to all of the teachers who say that they are not banning anything. Perfectly brilliant plan, don’t you think so, Miss, whatever your name is?”

“My name is Alice and I think your plan is silly.”

The March Hare fell off his chair and the Mad Hatter slumped face first into a bowl of cream cakes. Slowly, the March Hare’s face appeared above the table. He helped the Mad Hatter wipe some of the cream of his face and then turned to Alice and said, “Silly?  Silly?  And why would you say it is silly?  You are the silly one around here.”

“Well,” answered Alice, “it is silly for several reasons.”

“Oh, is it now,” the Mad Hatter said as he removed the last traces of cream from his face. “Several reasons, hey? Alright, give me 41 reasons why it is silly?”

“I can give you some reasons, but not 41.”

“See,” chortled the Mad Hatter as he gave a knowing wink to the March Hare. “She can’t do it. She said ‘several’ and that means a number greater than 1. Now any fool knows that 41 is greater than 1 but she cannot give me 41 reasons. I knew she was silly when she first sat down.”

I knew that she was silly before I even met her,” said the March Hare.

“There is no need to get personal,” Alice replied, “but your plan IS silly. Let us look at it carefully. You are going to ask all teachers if they have banned any activities. Some teachers will say ‘No’  because for various reasons they have never been involved in those activities in the past and are not likely to be involved in the future. You plan to give these teachers a pay rise…for doing nothing. Yet, you told me that no one can get pay rise unless they do extra work. Now that is silly,” said Alice.

“Then, there are lot of teachers, who for many, many years have volunteered their time and efforts in various after school activities but they have chosen not to do so this year. These teachers are not going to get a pay rise. They will be doing as much work this year as the other teachers are doing, but are being punished for all of their time and effort in doing a lot of extra work in their own time in years gone by. That is really silly,” sneered Alice.

The Mad hatter threw his hat on the ground, looked at Alice and said, “The trouble with you, Miss, is that you don’t know anything about education.”

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