House of Cards

Today (as in “our times” and not the place squashed between yesterday and tomorrow) we watch power struggles and suffer the consequences.

Last week my colleagues and I witnessed a power struggle at work. Since Corona showed up, it’s been difficult in my school, for obvious reasons. I mean, on-line learning is perfectly possible to do well, but not with one day’s notice. We were sent home on a Friday and started trying to teach online on Monday. We were unprepared, and our students were unprepared. The protocols came and went and changed constantly. In the end, I had to watch the news for the press conference to find out if and when we were working and what we were allowed to teach. We teachers were never informed of anything before the politicians showed up in front of a camera. Once it was understood what the virus could do and couldn’t do, the government in my country let us teach in person at the beginning of this school year.

Just before of all this, the school principal for thirty years retired, and we were given a new, ambitious young man. I neither liked him nor disliked him. We’ll call him “A”. He was competent. The criticism I had of him is that while I saw him smile, I never felt it, if you know what I mean. He never really laughed.

Some of the vice-principals were also ready for a break, so we had a lot of changes during the Corona year. The new team is very competent. We’ve maybe never had a better team.

Our new principal “A” is a climber and at the end of the Corona school year, he announced that he was promoted to be an assistant to the boss of all the principals (“D”). “A” loved working with head administrator/secretary of our school, “B”, so he offered her a job and is taking her away. So this is one more loss of someone who knew what she was doing in order to run the school.

A new man, a newer-new principal “C”, was given the job of principal at our school starting last autumn. I like him. He seems honest. He had a nearly impossible task of trying to take on a job in the middle of the year during a pandemic, but he managed well and we were all looking forward to working with him.

While all this was going on, the principals of the other schools in my city were in revolt. The protocols for Corona were constantly moving, and their boss “D” (the boss of all the school principals) was ruling with a stick but no carrot. A couple went on leave for health reasons. A few talked to the press. He, apparently, found this intolerable.

The boss “D” has just fired our new-new principal “C”. He used a pretext of a complaint by some parents (parents always complain about something, this was nothing serious) to demote our new-new man to be a simple teacher (we get tenure in our schools, so you can’t throw someone out entirely). He used information from the head secretary “B” and the old-new principal “A” to get at him.

So we have no principal during the time of year (end of term, organizing the next school year) when we need one the most. This is because some of the directors complained about their treatment and talked to the press (in a context where we have been informed by the press for over a year because no one bothers to inform our collaborators directly.) “D” has now scared the school principals into shutting their mouths, because who would want to be a simple teacher?

It’s all very destabilizing, and it’s painful to watch, and I don’t really understand what it’s all for. I mean, what is the purpose of these power moves? There’s no real power to be gained here. We’re talking a small school district, not a major country or big enterprise. There’s no money involved, since in the end these folks are all civil servants with fixed salaries. It seems to be power for power’s sake.

What “D” gets, if he wins, is to tell people what to do and have them obey him without complaint I guess. I wonder why he has a job in education and not in the army.

I tried to explain all of this to my family and finally just gave up and said “It’s like there’s an extra season of House of Cards.” I hope “A”, “B” and “D” remember that Frank Underwood dies….

The chances of being killed by a cow are slim, but never zero.

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