Editorial | A childish dispute

April 5th, 2013

This article is more than 10 years old.

With neither side of the teacher lockout looking ready to budge, the government should step in now – for the kids’ sake

In some ways, the current labour dispute between teachers and their employers is a lot like a messy divorce. While both sides stubbornly argue they have their children’s best interests in mind, it really winds up being the kids that suffer most.

At the heart of the current conflict is whether teachers should be required to spend more time in the classroom. The councils propose eliminating the current 25-hour cap on teachers’ weekly classroom hours. 

Teachers, understandably, disagree. They argue that even though they only spend an average of 40 percent of their time teaching, the hours outside the classroom are needed to ensure the quality of their lessons.

Councils, for their part, think children are best served when teachers spend most of their day with students. 

Both sides can present data supporting their position, but the reality is that by failing to come to an agreement, they are showing that what matters first and foremost to them is winning the argument, not serving their students’ best interests.

One of the hallmarks of being a responsible adult is a willingness to set differences aside and come up with a fair compromise. Neither side can be said to be doing so in this conflict, and that leaves government intervention as the only option.

In Danish labour negotiations, the government is mostly a spectator, stepping in only when conflicts prove themselves intractable or detrimental to the nation. Even though the current government has pledged to respect that set-up in this situation, the best thing it could do is step in now. 

Even before the lockout started, it was clear that neither side was willing to budge. Nothing indicates that this will change in the days and weeks to come, and the longer the government waits to step in, the more class time children lose. Worse, the longer teachers and their employers take to find a solution, the rockier their relationship is bound to be once the dust settles. The government might get flak for stepping in early, but aside from keeping up appearances, there is no benefit to waiting.

Getting kids back in school as quickly as possible is the one thing teachers, their employers and parents can all agree on. Even most children themselves want to go back to school, making this one instance where the teachers (and their employers) can learn something from their pupils.


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