The power of online petitions

Rage Against the Machine were the first non X-Factor Christmas number one in the UK charts for years thanks to an online petition on Facebook.  Millions of people are being petitioned to help the victims of the Haitian disaster this week through the use of social media.  In a much smaller and local way, an online petition began amongst Irish school principals last week against three organisations who came together to ask schools to support them.

Last week, the “Building for the Future” competition was launched by Independent Newspapers with Bank of Ireland and TV3 supporting as sponsors and publicists.  Each of these organisations has been responsible for many teachers’ grittings of teeth recently.  The banks, well, we all know what they’ve done to Ireland how they are expecting anyone to support anything they do is beyond me.  TV3 and Independent newspapers have done nothing but lambast the teaching profession.  In fairness, I don’t think any teacher minds being teased about our great holidays and short days.  However, we have been victimised in a far more sinister targeted way recently by these media on a daily basis with accusations thrown against us, sometimes completely absurdly.  For example, according to newspapers and media, teachers caused the traffic jams to Newry on the day of the last strike.   According to Eilis O’Hanlon, if teacher took “any more time off and they might as well not bother coming in at all. Not that anybody would notice if they didn’t.”  That’s just crossing the line of teasing to insulting.

So, I was absolutely thrilled when I received an email asking me to support a boycott of the “Building for the Future” competition.  Usually, I’d be first in line to enter this but I’ve had enough of O’Hanlon and her crew using her column to incite more hatred against me.  Furthermore, it’s a boycott that won’t aversely affect the children in my school.  Within one day of this email being sent, over 50 principals had signed their name to an online petition and a press release was sent to Independent Newspapers.  Dozens of other principals have since logged on to the petition to add their support.

This was true leadership.

It took one email to make change.  It didn’t need a motion to be nominated, seconded, sent on to some committee then appoved, rubber stamped, brought to congress, and then finally voted on by a chosen few.

Somebody had an idea.  She put it out there and found that everyone agreed.  Another person added to this idea to organise a press release on behalf of all who agreed with the orginal person.  Two days later, a press release was sent out.  After that the Irish National Teachers Organisation came on board supporting the cause.  There were no ballot papers, no shows of hands, no motions for congress.  There were 50 signatures – enough to make an impact.

Yesterday, it was revealed that the Irish Independent were dropping the Building for the Future project this year.

Today, one person is all it takes to make a big difference.  We should be teaching this to our children.  Ask them what they believe in.  Tell them to tell others.  99 times out of 100, they may get no support.  All they need is that one chance.  I would suggest that the principal who started the boycott should be celebrated. It’s interesting what happens if we use 21st century methods for change and see the results of what one of person can do.

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