A lot has changed since I was at school. Kids have all types of technologies nowadays. The internet is a world of information, instantly available, at the touch of a smart-phone button. Blackboards and chalk have made way for interactive smart-boards. Jamie Oliver crafts ‘designer’ school dinners, and cheesy pasta and pink custard are no longer daily staples. There has, indeed, been much progress in recent times.
One thing that I didn’t think had changed was the human resource – the hard-working, doggedly determined teachers possessed of seemingly endless reserves of optimism and resolve. I went to Our Lady and St. Patrick’s (OLSP) in Dumbarton, although it was called Notre Dame High School back then, and the quality of teaching was second to none. But on Wednesday night at the OLSP consultation meeting, I witnessed some behaviour from teachers that made me wrinkle my brow somewhat.
I overheard a teacher with 30 years tenure at the school loudly and passionately saying, “None of these [save Posties Park campaigners] care ONE BIT for the kids!” This was being whole-heartedly agreed with by the people she was standing beside, and I assume that at least some of them were also teachers.
This was really disappointing to hear, because it’s patently untrue, but mainly because it’s the kind of lazy debate technique that I would expect from religious extremists or UKIP MPs, not from those who are trusted with shaping the minds of our young people. Surely this isn’t how we’re teaching kids to approach issues nowadays?
I vividly remember learning about activism in Mr. Kane’s modern studies class. When he taught me about the miners’ strike, he was balanced and impartial, presenting the facts and facilitating opinion-forming, rather than imposing his own views on an impressionable teenager, as I was then. We had some interesting discussions and debates in his class, and many other classes, including geography where I learned about the environment and its vulnerability. I expected this level of debate from the teachers on Wednesday night, but it’s clear that, some of them at least, have been so brain-washed by this entirely divisive consultation that they’ve completely lost their objectivity.
Terry Lanagan’s chairing of this consultation meeting was inappropriate, given his declared bias, and the whole thing served simply as a vehicle for him to expound the myth that people who care about the children of West Dunbartonshire must, by default, support his plan to build the school on Posties Park. Ergo, the converse must also apply. I imagine that he’s been drip-feeding this message to the teachers, parents and pupils of West Dunbartonshire schools at every opportunity, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that some of them have been taken in by him.
But I beg of the current teacher cohort at OLSP – please, please remember your responsibilities as leaders and influencers and take care not to perpetuate the myth that the citizens who oppose any development of Posties Park are somehow driven by a desire to ruin the lives of the young people of West Dunbartonshire. I’ve never heard any of the campaigners saying that the kids don’t matter or that a new school shouldn’t be built. This is purely a campaign about saving Posties Park, one of the few green spaces in our town. Please do not lose sight of the importance of this, and if you’re in any doubt, go to your assembly hall, look up at the stage, and really consider the message on the banner that your pupils made :
ENVIRONMENT : You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
And if your pupils ask you why their local authority is considering putting the new school on Posties Park and depriving the people of Dumbarton of this valuable green lung, please don’t lie to them. Don’t tell them that it’s not an important ecological site. Don’t tell them that the flora and fauna don’t matter. Don’t tell them that one section of the community is more important than another. And please, above all, don’t tell them that the people who are fighting to save the park are the enemy.
I am completely convinced that, if Posties Park was taken out of the equation and the current site was the only option in this consultation, Terry Lanagan would have stood in front of us on Wednesday night and extolled the virtues of building at Castlehill. He and his team would have worked hard to convince us all of how creative we can be in overcoming challenges to achieve exemplary results, and how OLSP has a long history of doing just that. The energy he has expended on his propaganda war against Posties would have been turned instead to explaining how the challenges of the current site are all infinitely resolvable. We all need to recognise that this ‘consultation’ is being driven completely by a man who bestows no value whatsoever on Posties Park. He said himself that he’s not a local, so why should he care about a small Dumbarton park? He has never said in public or in the press that he struggles with any kind of human/environment dichotomy, or that he recognises or respects the values of the Save Posties Park campaign. But surely the good people of West Dunbartonshire who teach at OLSP or have kids at OLSP, or indeed the pupils themselves, must not fall into this soulless and selfish model. If ever there was a time when people needed to take a ‘big picture’ perspective, this is it.
Posties Park should never have been considered for this development or any other, and we need to challenge our Council as a whole on why they feel it is acceptable to play fast and loose with our local plan in this way. But, on this particular proposal, the messaging starts and finishes with Terry Lanagan, a man who cares nothing for Posties Park. That’s unfair and undemocratic, and our councillors shouldn’t let this happen.
High school wasn’t a particularly good time for this blogger. I was self-conscious, lethargic and often completely disinterested, and I tried very hard to waste my education in a number of quite creative ways (although I didn’t necessarily know that’s what I was doing at the time). However, in spite of my best efforts, I was able to leave school with a clutch of good O’Grades and Highers, and this is chiefly owing to the efforts of my teachers, rather than my own half-baked contribution. And so it is that I have every confidence that the kids of OLSP, present and future, will continue to punch above their weight and that the school will go from strength to strength, wherever it is sited. Don’t lets be fooled into thinking that this will only happen if Mr Lanagan gets his way and Posties is sacrificed. Lets have the best of both worlds – a first rate school and a beautiful public park.