George Orwell’s ‘1984’ scared me. Yes for the references to Big Brother, and yes, for all the totalitarian references and the image of a world at war.
But 1984 also scared me for the concept of ‘Doublethink’. Orwell nailed it when he had his politicians twist words so as to make their constituents think whatever it was they were supposed to think.
One who had displeased the party became a ‘nonperson’ and all reference to them was wiped out; the Ministry of Peace tested hand grenades on prisoners; and newstalk was used to indoctrinate the population.
The book is listed as fiction, but seems to have been taken as an instruction manual in the political life of ‘The Best Small County In The World To Do Business’.
Take our successive Education Ministers. To listen to them, life is only getting better for our students, and they think that we should be happy to swallow their bitter pill. I think they are hoping for a version of the last line of 1984 where the protagonist, Winston, ‘loved big brother’
Why am I even talking like this? Lets take a few examples.
Guidance Counsellors, for decades, were an important part of Irish schools. Guidance Counsellors have helped hundreds of thousands of students in subject choice, college choice, and ultimately, career choice. But that is only part of the work they do.
For years now Guidance counsellors have also done a huge amount of counselling work. They have helped students who have suffered abuse, bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts, rape. They have supported, they have referred and they have grieved.
And just like that the government got rid of them. 2 years ago in the budget. Hidden in the nitty gritty, with the stroke of a pen.
And now that we are told the recession is over, Minister O’Sullivan has no plans to reinstate guidance. And she calls this good news. She believes “that it is desirable to give schools some discretion on how to use these increased resources” . She conveniently forgets to mention that to put in guidance, schools need to lose a teacher in another area. But that’s ok, because the schools have discretion.
It’s pure Doublethink. Change the story, and repeat it so much that you believe it yourself. Minister O’Sullivan also referred to the 2015 budget as being the first budget increase in Education in many years. More Doublethink.
Here’s the spin. Yes, there is an increase in funding, but it’s in the capital spend. There has been a raft of new building measures proposed (because we love property). This extra capital is only to ensure school buildings meet increased population demands. This extra spend does nothing to improve pupil/teacher ratios. It does nothing to reverse cuts to those who have special needs.
The downside of the budget is that it was published in a year that schools have their capitation budgets cut, and have been promised, wait for it, another cut next September.
So the Minister talks about an increase in the Education Budget and hopes that we all forget the ongoing cuts and buy the party line.
Sadly, in our media driven society, those who can keep their message going loudest and longest will be the ones remembered. Successive Ministers for Education seem to have taken this lesson to heart.