Diary of a Schoolteacher: Minister, here's my proposals for a course on Life Studies
A while ago I was sitting beside an old man on a train. He gave me a tip that I never forgot; when standing at a urinal, never stand close to the wall because if someone attacks you while you're doing your business you'll be trapped.
It had happened to him and he was mugged so he knew what he was talking about. This is an example of the much-lauded 'university of life' which means that what we learn outside of education is superior to what they teach us in school or university.
With this in mind I'd like to suggest a new course for the forthcoming dinky new Not-Junior Cert curriculum -- Life Studies. In Life Studies, pupils will acquire the crucial skills and knowledge that they otherwise will have to learn the hard way.
Here are a few examples from my first Life Skills exam.
•What connects the TV Licence, the yearly Teaching Council subscription and stamp duty? Answer: They are all rip-off taxes masquerading as something else.
•Outline the differences between the various telecoms companies in Ireland. Answer: Their names and their logos. Otherwise they're identical.
•In what way are Aer Lingus and Ryanair different? Answer: Aer Lingus don't sell scratch cards.
•True or false -- you have to be tall and fit to be a Garda? Answer: False. Short and fat is good too.
•You've run out of money and can't afford this year's sub to the gym. What should you do? Answer: Buy a bike.
•You can't make head or tail of the geography course. History is so last year. What should you do? Answer: Watch Coast on the BBC and the History Channel.
•In the wider sense, are Thomas Paine's Rights of Man universal in Western society? Answer: In some respects, yes, but basically we pay for our freedom by allowing ourselves to be a kind of corn-fed cash-generating livestock for money-making purposes.
•Who is the only man in Ireland today that we can trust to turn things around and offer us a brighter future? Answer: Giovanni Trapattoni.
•Does your school possess 21st-Century equipment such as whiteboards? Answer: Most likely yes, but no one knows how to use them and they're still in their boxes.
•Why is Mr Grade such a cynic? Tip for answer: No genuine opinion required. Just write what you think the teacher wants.
And that's my pitch to Minister Quinn for a nice new course that teaches kids about the way life really is.
Of course this, along with everything else being proposed, comes with a warning not to promise too much. We must never forget the absurd promise of a free laptop for each pupil made by a previous minister.