50 Years Ago: The plight of the teacher

The National Union of Teachers has been in existence for 35 years. It has three representatives in Parliament, a membership rivalling in numbers the great Trade Unions, each member a “captain and guide of the democracy.” An Archbishop sends greetings to its latest Conference. Vicar and Major, Ex-Cabinet Minister and M.P., all unite to “welcome” and patronise the delegates assembled at said Conference. All are greeted with rapturous “applause,” and all is as well as well can be in this best of all possible educational worlds.

And yet—and yet—the career of a “captain,” the lot of a “guide,” is still like unto the policeman’s life “when constabulary duty’s to be done.” List to the plaint of the President:—

“A career inadequately remunerated, passed under harassing conditions, practically, in many cases, the servants of officials who rule with an iron hand, depending for their livelihood on voice and brain, and, if these fail, cast aside without remorse.”

He is a little higher than the artisan, and a little lower than the bank clerk. In any case he is absolutely dependent upon wages for his subsistence. He is, in short, a proletarian. Does he ever seriously consider that, for class purposes, he is ever busily employed in manufacturing better material for the merchant and sweater, sturdier stuff, mayhap for “cannon fodder,” obedient tools to shoot their own kith and kin if necessary.

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If 35 years of Unionism has effected so little for you. might it not be worth while to seriously review the position, and, dominated by a set definiteness of purpose, recognising your position as but units—useful units—in the great Capitalist game of Grab, infuse a more dignified, less cap-in-hand attitude into your Union? The declared reason for the existence of the N.U.T. is the furtherance of the interests of the child. Is there not a danger that it may become the happy hunting-ground of the eloquent Party-man in a hurry to round his own life into a success?

[From the “Socialist Standard,” June, 1906.]

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