Letters to the Editor: Antagonistic ASTI might shoot itself in the foot

Teachers' union's actions foisting extra stress on Leaving Cert students
Letters to the Editor: Antagonistic ASTI might shoot itself in the foot

The defiant and impetuous behaviour of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) in recent days is not acceptable and must be called out, especially considering the extra level of mental stress its actions has foisted on Leaving Certificate students and their parents.

Sadly and unfortunately, it’s not just in recent days that the said union has displayed such antagonism during this pandemic.

In May of last year, the ASTI was notably tardy in coming on board with the grading of last year’s Leaving Certificate, having to make a point of meeting the minister about the matter of “indemnity” which other teaching unions did not make an issue of.

Some months later in September, after the Trojan work and dedication of many to get schools reopened, it threatened to ballot on strike action because of the dangers it perceived in being back at school.

Now, within the past week the union has voted to reject the latest public service pay agreement Building Momentum, before its high profile and abrupt quitting of confidential discussions with the minister for education pertaining to this year’s Leaving Certificate examinations, soon agreeing to rejoin the talks after some self-serving “side dialogue” with the minister.

While it is a perfectly acceptable prerogative for trade unions to be difficult and truculent in their dealings with employers, the ASTI seems to be especially skilled in the belligerence of rejection and constant negativity. 

It’s grandstanding in continuous “no” mode, is indicative of a serious lack of empathy, damages the union’s credibility and the standing and reputation not just of its own members but of teachers generally.

The ASTI needs to tread very carefully especially against the current backdrop of other professions that continue, on a daily basis, to confront more severe challenges than its members, with full appreciation of the realities that many of its students may come from homes where a parent, perhaps both parents, have lost their livelihood because of the pandemic and where the mental health of our young generation is seriously threatened.

Michael Gannon

St Thomas’ Sq

Kilkenny

ASTI displaying nasty self-interest

Teacher union ASTI’s behaviour in withdrawing from talks to open post primary schools laid plain its true colours and motives.

It displayed nothing but selfishness and self interest.

It sacrificed nothing but our children’s education and wellbeing. It offered nothing but argument and division.

It gained nothing but opprobrium and derision. For once the Department of Education stood up to them.

It should do so again until nASTI unions understand that our children’s education, their health and wellbeing is not for sale, and not to be sacrificed on the altar of union’s nASTI self interest.

Kevin T Finn

Mitchelstown

Co Cork

Provide students with exam certainty

Second-level students had little to celebrate on St Valentine’s Day. In fact, they’ve had little love and affection during the past year. 

They’ve had no social life, recreation nor sport worth mentioning. They spend their days in the attic struggling with remote learning for an undefined objective.

It’s about time that the grown-ups stopped playing havoc with the mental health of 120,000 students and provided them with certainty. 

It’s time for the powers that be in education, to bang their heads together in a locked room and to emerge with a proposal that is student-centred and workable.

Timetable the Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams for June, as per usual, but with a few modifications. Nobody will object to students being offered more choice on an exam paper or a single exam paper in a subject where two is the norm.

At Leaving Cert level, predicted grades can be determined by the teachers over the next few months in a confidential and relaxed manner. 

Both the ASTI and the TUI did a splendid job in that regard last year and will rise to the challenge again this year.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) is back in the mix this year to run both exams so let’s have no public rows about algorithms, moderations, instruments, standardisation or Canadian psychometric experts. 

Don’t rank students, work in grades rather than percentages and don’t be a slave to a nebulous “normal curve” as these students have so little normality in their lives. The result released to each student could then be the higher grade in each subject across both options.

Billy Ryle

Tralee

Co Kerry

Pension policy protects wealthy

I was disappointed to see Michael Clifford’s glib analysis of the pensions problem Age-old issue of pensions hasn’t gone away ( Irish Examiner, February 14).

While I agree that no political party has brought forth an answer to the questions that demographics and CSO figures tell us is on the horizon, the preferred solution of the parties of the right — to extend out retirement age — is every bit as populist as those of the parties of the left who he singles out for criticism. 

The “push-out-the-retirement-age” policy is not a “solution”. Going down that road will just see the need to keep pushing out retirement age as demographics shift. 

It will, however, protect the wealth of those who hold it and will see those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder take the full hit by being forced to work on until they drop. On the other hand, the comfortable classes, as represented by the parties of the right, will still have the means to retire whenever they want.

The solution to this “problem”, as with every other social ill we suffer, is distributive justice. Distributive justice would give every citizen the means to contribute to whatever system is deemed appropriate to ensure that each citizen has a minimum income in their latter years.

Jim O’Sullivan

Rathedmond

Sligo

USA’s democratic credentials are lost

Having listened to the blatant hyprocisy of Mitch McConnell’s speech, after the US Senate failed to convict Donald Trump, I wonder how long more can the US delude itself as to its democratic credentials.

Despite its seriously flawed foreign policy history, the US used to be seen as the standard bearer of democracy, as it managed to maintain a functioning bipartisan political system.

However, what autocrat looking on now could take seriously any grandstanding criticism from a US riven by political corruption and deep societal divisions.

The Senate has emboldened Trump and his followers.

Barry Walsh

Blackrock

Cork

We need O’Gara as Ireland backs coach

I watched two rugby matches at the weekend: Ireland v France and the Wales v Scotland. In the latter game four tries came from beautifully placed kicks behind the defence.

Joyful to watch. I cannot remember even one kick behind the opposing defence by Ireland or in their first game.

After appointing Paul O’Connell as the forwards coach, surely it is time to bring Ronan O’Gara, one of the greatest of all time, back from exile, and appoint him as the backs coach to the Irish national rugby team for the next “forty years” please.

Ray Cawley

Douglas

Cork

Could PC stifle the question of origin?

During the early ‘90s I worked in Texas, and one morning I stopped to get petrol. There were two beautiful women working behind the counter, and as I paid I went out my way to make sure they heard my mumbling Irish accent. One of them said “where y’all from?”. I told her Ireland. I said to her ‘have you ever heard of it?’. She said “no, but it sure sounds pretty”.

I recall being told to leave a site in London in the early eighties because I was Irish, the woman who owned the property heard my accent and went to my boss and said “get that Irish bastard off my property”. 

My boss afterwards apologised to me about the incident. Over the years I’ve had remarks made to me about being Irish but they were made mostly in a jovial manner, there will always be someone who has a problem.

I run a little ice cream shop in Dawson St, Dublin. I see many nationalities and also the Irish from different counties. When a new customer walks in the most frequent question I ask is “where are you from?”. 

It starts the conversation and by no means does it stray into some sort of ignorant racist question, I’ve asked thousands of people that question and it has opened up fantastic conversation and led to really nice friendships.

I guess I’m writing this because it looks like this question of asking someone where they are from is going to become non-PC or even counted as racist.

I don’t see it that way and I hope this letter explains why.

David Hennessy

Sun Bear Gelato

25 Dawson Street

Dublin 2

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