Teachers in politics

Is Ruel Reid kicking over the ladder of success he used?


Friday, February 15, 2019

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The move by Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid to kick over the ladder on which he climbed to political power may be selfish, or pre-empts some unseen evil. The headline screeched 'Reid wants code of conduct for educators in politics' (The Gleaner, January 31, 2019) and peeps say the move may well be aimed to stop Dr Walton Small, who retires from Wolmer's High School for Boys, from joining Team People's National Party.

So what triggered Reid's move? A code is useful as politics duties rob kids of classroom time and schools of supervision and most fail. Common decency says a CEO of a failing firm would not take an outside job, but insensitive principals are unmoved by their 70 per cent failure rate and will take on other stuff; failure is normal — shame! Is Reid's code to amend this deficit or erect hurdles to trip-up competitors?

Reid speaks of “the formulation of a code for politically active persons who are educators, including monitoring their social media activities” (Gleaner op cit) and the word educators suggests it is more than teachers. Education has many educators; curriculum and guidance folk, chairmen, lecturers, researchers, managers, private schools, nursing and other educators are around.

The Education Ministry, not known for speed, had a 'Code of Conduct and Regulations for politically active Public Sector Teachers and School Boards' in short order; but to change teacher's terms will impact nurses and the public service.

Peeps say money and power attract teachers as productive, well-paid workers are not usually moved by politics. Once, public sector jobs and politics were the preserve of blacks who got equality with business people that even a degree did not deliver, as using bureaucracy they frustrated business people. The new 'ease of doing business' tack is diametrically opposed to public service tactics since we took over in 1962; is some embedded?

Teachers and principals lead in politics involvement compared to others, yet they have no skill sets to grow an economy, manage a billion-dollar ministry, execute security strategy, so why? Check this! Politics here is words and promises, not actions or results!

Politicians include rich Members of Parliament who serve of choice; they don't need it. Some have a passion to serve; and unionists, teachers to whom pay, perquisites, and celebrity status is as never before fight to keep the job.

So why is teaching a big portal to politics? First, it is an easy job for the uncommitted; it is unsupervised and has no output metrics. It is ideal for wankers waiting for a good job; work is a mere 190 days, paid vacation, holidays [in America teachers are not paid in holidays]. Here, results suck, but there are no real consequences; mischief thrives, parents are supine, and kids can't vote to make their disgust felt.

Like Mr Reid, they have a post held for years, other careers in limbo, good teachers are frustrated. Unacceptable!

Will Reid's code correct this? A good unintended consequence of this code may be pressure for access to politics as afforded teachers by workers with more relevant skills.

Reid impugns free speech by issuing threats regarding “social media activities”. Unacceptable! The autocratic skew of the Andrew Holness's Cabinet-senator letter, ban on parent's voluntary auxiliary fees says our democracy is not to be taken for granted so Reid must recant his heresy. Spend on paternity leave when good workers in business are not aided — teachers are; to vie for a Member of Parliament's job is to diss our need for better politicians.

Minister Reid suggests Government and Opposition talk, so talk about how to level the field to get top potential like Dr Nigel Clarke in politics. No more losers fleeing school. We need innovative people from all sectors to create and execute the prosperity agenda.

This code for teachers may be useful. For example, no teacher or principal from a school which has not achieved 80 per cent, or the agreed mark, should be allowed to vie for political office, then teachers and principals of high performing schools should have first refusal to segue into politics and the State must encourage good candidates from more relevant public service and business entities to enter politics. We cushion teachers in politics at great public cost (long leave, posts held), so do something for others as business funds most of the education budget and is the major user of output of schools.

We may one day have many Members of Parliament whose reputation for performance and probity precedes them. Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Dr Peter Phillips, no more dud principals in politics! Sirs, forget Senator Reid's code, or change it to incentivise, and mine the workforce for the next generation of political representatives. Level the playing field!

Peeps say Reid's code is a ploy to intimidate teachers who may defect to the PNP before the next elections. If you do as suggested above voters will have massive quality choice! Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or

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