Siege Warfare in the 21st Century

colchesterWho cares about them, they’re only peasants!

When two great forces fought in the dark ages, often it came down to “siege warfare” — where one side or the other or more rarely both would hold up in their fortress and lob stones at each other. They’d wage a war of attrition. The people within the walls living on what supplies they had brought or stored within and what water they might have access too. The people without the walls living off the land which perhaps had been put to the torch by the castle defenders before they closed their gates.

You might wonder where I am going with this short history lesson — we have modern sieges happening all the time around us. Two opponents digging in their heals and waiting for the other side to break… or to break the other side. In the meantime, in the once fertile valley between the fortresses are the peasant farmers — now unable to farm due to the armies trodding upon their fields or burning them. The warring armies often paying lips service that they are doing it all for “the country” “the Crown” “the people” “for God” or some lofty purpose are mostly doing it for themselves in the end, but the people paying for it are the peasant farmers, slowly losing their livelihoods and slowly starving.

ARUNDEL CASTLE SIEGE AND GARDEN (2)Who are the warring armies? Who are the peasants? They aren’t distant armies or nations or starving rabble. I am talking about government and public service workers. I am not talking about whether the workers have a right to bargain or negotiate. I am not talking about whether the government in power has the obligation or right to protect the public interest in the negotiations or whether they are making wise decisions in their budgets. I am talking about the peasants being treaded upon in the meantime with the posturing and the siege warfare while all the so called bargaining and negotiation doesn’t happen.

It is very rough when education is the battlefield of choice. Teachers, or whichever public sector involving the education system happens to be in dispute with government may have legitimate reason for complaint. Government also most likely is having a tough time balancing the budget with many hands grasping for money for shrinking funds and growing needs. But, though in the long run these arguments must play out and solutions must be found, students “live in the now”. I don’t mean that they don’t plan for the future or that they fiddle and play rather than work. Rather, that each year is important.

When I was in my graduating year — grade 12 for me, the year before starting university — there was a “janitor’s strike”. which lasted for a good chunk of the school year. They did keep the schools open for most of that year. I did graduate. But I know many students were hurt by the shortened half days of classes, the loss of any non-class activities that might take place on school grounds. There was also destruction caused by increased vandalism due to many who thought it might be interesting to either accelerate things or perhaps get a day off.

However, I don’t know if it hurt my own education.

I don’t know if it hurt my own education because, I only took Grade 12 once.

ARUNDEL CASTLE SIEGE AND GARDENMost children only take each grade in school once. Even those who might repeat a grade still are only taking that year uniquely and the year they repeat is unique unto itself and taking it a year older is very different from the previous year.

Each year to a young student is important and a priority to that student.

So, “working to rule” and cutting back on non-essential activities really do change the lives of the students in school. The peasants are having their fields stomped on. Perhaps they might still take in their crops. The the crops will have some degree of damage.

True, teachers might be fighting for limits to class size and similar things “for the students”. But, that is for students to come and harming students that are here. Even parents are another army on the field. One of the first things I heard when schools were to be closed for a week was “What will I do about daycare?” — not “How is this effecting my child’s education?” It isn’t every parent or all the time, I am sure, but it was the first thing out of all of the parents’ mouths when asked for comment on the news. I know that daycare is important. But.. although finances are important, shouldn’t the first question be about the child.

Perhaps I am too harsh there as looking out for the well being of the child and worrying about where they will be cared for is important. But it did rub me a bit wrong the way the parents worded it — the wording felt like they were looking at how it inconvenienced them, not their children.

I don’t know the solution. The naive solution was mediation. But, that doesn’t work when both sides pull into their castle and close the drawbridge. IE. Neither side is willing for any compromise.

The only thing I can see is, sadly, looking at the rights of the students first. Saying, “When election time comes, you can encourage the voting population to vote for another party. For now you have to keep teaching those we have entrusted to you.”

Or are there other solution?

colchesterI come from a family of educators with  3 school principals and 3 or more additional teachers numbered among close relatives, not to mention perhaps a half dozen more who have been to teacher’s college. In arguments on whether teachers are overpaid, I normally take the side that they are not overpaid.

But, I feel that the fields are being trampled into the earth and the peasants are starting to hunger.