Hey, teacher – leave those old folk alone

Scottish teachers are up in arms – again – this time over retirement ages. A Scottish Executive committee is looking into raising the retirement age for teachers. Currently it is set at 60 instead of the more common 65 for most of the rest of the population. Teachers say this is a dreadful idea – predictably – and argue that older teachers will be burned out by the stress of the job, with detrimental effects on their health and on the kid’s teaching. Gee I had no idea that teachers coped fine with their vocation but could suddenly fall apart if pushed beyond the age of 60. Perhaps they all have a little ruby embedded in their palm like Logan’s Run?

I have to say I really don’t think the teacher’s arguments cut any ice. Almost the entire population have to wait until 65 for retirement. Why should they be any different? Especially considering that majority who work longer are paying the teacher’s wages? As there is a shortage of skilled and experienced teachers surely any wanting to work a few extra years after their 60th should be welcomed? Added to which groups for older people are constantly campaigning for employers to recognise the value and experience of senior citizens for some work tasks.

Teachers point to other public servants such as the fire and police services, both of whom have much earlier retirement ages. As these are radically different jobs, often physically demanding and requiring good reflexes to deal with life or death situations I don’t think there is a valid comparison to make (except perhaps in some inner-city schools). I would have thought a teacher would be better compared with another white-collar, well-educated public profession such as the librarians, not fire fighters.

I’m not putting the boot into teachers here – it is a valuable profession that is a requirment for all advanced and equitable societies (plus I have several in the family). As a book professional I obviously extol the virtues of learning. I’m sure it is demanding and stressful, but then so is my job. So is your job. So is everyone’s bloody job! Yes they have to work longer hours than they are mandated to do, marking and preparing lessons etc. But how many of us have to do extra work, evenings and weekends regularly all the year round? And we don’t get the holidays, job security and pension plan teachers get. And for myself I see them earning twice what I earn, funded by my taxes on my meagre pay and have no children and therefore no actual use for teachers. I believe in a welfare state system where we all chip in for the common good however, so I don’t really grudge that too much (just like to whinge about it a bit). But trying to score earlier, state-funded retirement off the back of the rest of the working population, at a time when we’re all being told our pensions are crapping out and we may all have to work way beyond that age is ridiculous. Or I could say fine, go ahead – but if I never have kids I expect my share of my taxes that went to them to be paid back from their pension fund towards mine. Hmmm, now there is an equitable arrangement.