Education and ‘professionalism’


Sir, – “Professionalism” is a word that turns up a lot nowadays at staff meetings and training days. Of course the word itself has always been around in teaching but in the past it had a different significance. It used to be associated with high standards. Increasingly it seems to me that “professionalism” is used as a means of coercion and control. Just try voicing a criticism of the new junior cycle for teachers programme (JCT) and suddenly you need to be professional. Just try arguing that you don’t need information technology in order to study Shakespeare, and you will be told that you need to be professional. Try pretty much anything individual or interesting and you will be considered unprofessional. Rather, you should be professional by being constantly aware of all 10,000 achingly earnest statements of learning, by having specific learning objectives and an individual plan for each of your 250 students, and by always taking into consideration all stakeholders at all times, even if many of them hold diametrically opposing views. Just accept the increasingly prescriptive demands made on you even when you understand that educating teenagers is a nebulous exercise that cannot be distilled into appallingly soporific jargon. Then, and only then, will you be professional.

The word “professionalism” is being used by school managers and the Department of Education in the same way as the American right uses the word “patriotism”. Offer a liberal opinion and you are unpatriotic. Question dubious foreign policy and you are unpatriotic.

Good teachers with years of experience and knowledge are being ignored when they object to the dismantling of the education system. It is acceptable to ignore them because they are “unprofessional”. I think we should stand up to it before we all end up sporting red baseball caps urging God knows who to “Make education great again”. – Yours, etc,