Common decency prevails as students and teachers speak out over A level results

Yesterday, whilst students took to the streets to protest, I was listening to Edward Snowden on Joe Rogan’s podcast. I found myself endlessly fascinated by his story. I see similarities between his journey in the intelligence service and mine in teaching.

His family came from a military service background, mine from a political and educational one. He felt drawn to serve his country as best he could, and slowly became more disillusioned with the systems he saw in place, eventually deciding to speak out against them at vast personal risk.

Teachers do not face the same level of risk in speaking out for education, but they are gagged by their institutions. After my first article on education, someone sent an email to my school demanding that I get sacked.

I was lucky on three counts. Firstly, I was lucky that hiring a competent maths teacher is so difficult. Secondly, I was lucky that I had already left the school, and thirdly I was lucky the sort of person that takes this kind of action is not usually the most competent and they had emailed the wrong school.

But there is a risk. This weeks events have seen many teachers decide the risk doesn’t matter. They can’t see the efforts they have made, and the efforts their students have made, made irrelevent by a questionable algorithm that students could not appeal.

Teachers know best. No ifs. No buts.

Gavin Williamson decided that being insultingly patronising was the solution saying “giving students good grades would harm them for life.”

Labour rapidly responded with an excellent video striking at Boris’s achilles heel: personal responsibility. Today, surprising absolutely no one, our spineless, cowardly and incompetent government has “decided” to make a U-turn.

This decision could not have happened without the students and teachers who took to social media, the press and the streets, to cry out for justice.

They should feel extremely proud of the courage they have displayed.

It echoed this extract from Snowden’s podcast appearance. He is currently in exile in Russia after being denied fair trial in the United States.

Despite providing him safe haven, he refuses to stay silent on Russian politics. He gave the following statement, and I think they are excellent words to live by.

The thing is this: what’s the alternative?

Yes the Russian government could screw me, but they could screw me anyway.

So should I shut up and be quiet in the face of things that I think are injustices?

Because it makes me safer?

Well a lot of pragmatic people will say: “Yeah! You’ve done enough. You’ve done your part, they say. Be safe, live long, be happy.”

But I didn’t come forward because I wanted to be safe.

If I wanted to be safe, I’d still be sitting in Hawaii making a hell of a lot of money to spy on all of you.

And nobody would have ever known about it!

The system would have gotten worse!

The system, the world, the future, gets worse every day that we don’t do something about it.

Every day that we stay silent about all the injustices we see, the world gets worse, our children’s lives get worse.

And yeah, it’s risky.

Yeah, its uncomfortable.

But that’s why we do it.

If we don’t, no one else will.

For years I sat there, hoping someone else would come forward, expose mass surveillence.

But no one did.

I was waiting for a hero.

But there are no heroes.

There are only heroic decisions.

You are never further than one decision away from making a difference.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a big difference.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a small difference.

You don’t have to save the world by yourself.

In fact, you can’t! All you have to do, all you can do, is lay down one brick.

All you have to do is make things a little bit better, in a small way, so that other people can lay their brick on top of that or beside that.

And together, step by step, day by day, year by year, we build the foundation of something better.

It’s not going to be safe, but it doesn’t matter. Because individually its not, you know, just me or you, whoever you are.

I don’t care if youre the biggest doomsday prepper with hundreds of cans of beans. If the world ends, its going to affect you.

We make things better. We become safe together, collectively. That is our strength. That is the power of civilisation. That is the power that shapes the future.

Because even if you make life great for you, you are going to die some day. You are going to be forgotten someday. Your cans of beans are going to rot.

You can make things “safe–er”, you can be more careful, you can be more clever, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But at the end of the day you have to recognise that if you are trying to eliminate all risks from your life, what you actually doing is eliminating all possibility from your life.

You’re trying to collapse the universe of outcomes in such a way that what you lose is your freedom.

You lose the ability to act because you are afraid.

Edward Snowden

These are politically turbulent times, and we must all find the courage to speak out.

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