Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: From soundbite to policy

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  • Sacha,

    But why on earth would she want to do that?

    Quite seriously, I can see how taking advice simply does not fit with some right-wing concepts of what leadership is - like that strong father stuff from Lakoff. The behaviour we're seeing seems perfectly understandable in that light.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    procedural guidelines for the police

    A Minister can interfere far more directly in enforcement by the Ministry of Education than by the Police (for obvious reasons). Hence my concern about the quality of leadership on offer - it seems a fair trade that if it is going to be authoritarian it should at least be competent.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Everyone here seems to me to be missing the politics of these education changes, as if they think these changes are being done with primarily educational outcomes in mind.

    Alan Peachey may not be the minister of education, but it isn't hard to see the strings on Anne Tolley, who in Hawke’s Bay has a reputation of being a rather dull woman more known for her simplistic dogmatism than sophisticated political philosophy. Bovine loyalty clearly has its rewards in her case. The problems inherent with having MP’s with limited talent promoted to levels beyond their ability will undoubtedly become evident to Mr. Key at some stage, but at this stage in the Tory game this debate shows she clearly has her uses.

    There exists within New Zealand a group of elite state schools that would like nothing better than to create a two tier state education system in which they cherry pick the best students, athletes, etc and leave the lumpenmass to an inferior second tier system. Alan Peachey was a principle of one these schools and is a leading advocate of a two tier model. Nothing facilitates the creation of such a system like the introduction of a system of testing that automatically creates a set of winners and losers, and which automatically confers an overwhelming advantage to the elite decile ten schools.

    Such a two-tier system suits the middle class bedrock of the National Party, because for the middle class the primary purpose of the education system is to tilt the playing field to their advantage as early and as comprehensively as possible.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    It's true we have mainly been focusing on the more immediate aspects of this, Tom, but it's not because we don't see the longer-term ones. No suprise value here.

    Rajen Prasad did a great job during the second reading in pointing up the logical disconnects between the Bill's supposed purpose and its actual content (before he went all rambly and incoherent). Others like Turei chimed in as Hilary noted with the overseas evidence about what actually happens.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Herceptin. Only those of a redistributionist mindset believe that someone else has to miss out on medicine when National increases funding for one drug. Genuinely growing the economy means Herceptin and all the other new drugs can be funded more quickly rather than writing pre judged reports to justify the choice forced by limited funds. I am a strong supporter of what Pharmac does with limited resources. But there is no way National can tell them it comes out of someone elses drug spending. It must come out of general taxation. FWIW for most of the last 9 years spending on health as a % of GDP has been lower than under National.

    Wow. That was a complete bunch of crap. It's like putting a scenario into the computer, and out comes stupid right-wing talking points.

    Such a two-tier system suits the middle class bedrock of the National Party, because for the middle class the primary purpose of the education system is to tilt the playing field to their advantage as early and as comprehensively as possible.

    Hello broad brush!

    Having gone all the way through Allan Peachy's school, and coming from a middle/upper (depending how you define it in NZ) family, some of whom vote National, I can't think of anyone who thinks that's part of the purpose of the education system, consciously or subconsciously.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    Has anyone actually read the bill in question? I sat down now and read through it, and had to wonder WTF all the generalisations about the doomed education system are about.

    Minimum standards in literacy and numeracy. Does anyone seriously object to ensuring that kids can at the very least read, write, and understand the basics of maths? This isn't SATs for primary kids. As far as I can see from what is proposed in the Bill it is asking if kids are on track to achieving a basic level of literacy and numeracy that will allow them to function in society.

    Given our appalling literacy and numeracy record, this isn't really a bad thing. If our school system cannot ensure that the majority of children we are required to submit to their care can at the very least read and write, something is seriously screwy. There will always be issues for some (which is why they have special ed - their flaws are a whole other kettle of fish), but for the majority requiring a minimum ability to read and write is something all of us should be demanding.

    On truancy, the education dept estimate a maximum of 87 prosecutions a year compared with 32,000 truant kids. Doesn't look like a big change really.... Certainly not the evil tory education dawn raids on the wider populace I got the impression of when I was reading through some of the previous posts.

    I have concerns about the way in which the bill has gone through, but the subject matter of the Bill isn't as insidious as people seem to be suggesting.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Given our appalling literacy and numeracy record

    If only that were true..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Tom, is that you calling us "erudite chardonnay socialists"? Hilarious.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Sacha, i am under no illusions of the class bias of most of the people who post on this site.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    If only that were true..

    Those NZ studies estimating that around half our working age population isn't functionally literate are all lies then?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Everyone here seems to me to be missing the politics of these education changes, as if they think these changes are being done with primarily educational outcomes in mind.

    Every bloody one of us, eh? What a singularly perceptive chap and a rare jewel of nature you are. If you hadn't pointed it out I might never have noticed.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    @BenWilson:

    All right then, how would all your benign middle class voters react if we truly did something revolutionary to ensure equality of education for all new Zealanders? How about, for example, we completely abolish all private schools are make it part of every schools charter that their ethnic and demographic make up accurately reflect wider New Zealand society - even if that means bussing kids from Remuera to Otara and vice versa?

    I tell you what you would get - you would get a middle class reaction that would befit a genuine attempt to tilt the class bias in education system back towards the most disadvantaged

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    @Joe Wylie - what's your problem?

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Just to exapnd Sacha - it seems to me your comment "...You calling us..." is an unconciously ironic QED of my point. If Public Address is an "us and them" community, then whose values do you think are reflected within it? This site doesn't appear to be overrun with truck drivers, West Coast miners or low paid perfume counter assistants from Farmers, now does it? I am always struck at the hissing response discussion of class attracts from the middle class. For working class New Zealanders, class is a self-evident truth. When it comes to class the middle class inhabit a la la land where they are largely blinkered by their unshakeable belief in the self-evident universality of their own value system.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    Given our appalling literacy and numeracy record

    Och take a look at the last PISA results for just reading literacy and see where we place on the league table of nations. Because it is all about league tables now...isn't it?

    And for extra credit name the logical fallacy that is the quote.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    A S - But schools are doing this already. At the very least the one's I've taught in are doing it. The teachers I work with are passionate about what they do and constantly evaluating how we can be doing our jobs better and more effectively.

    We're well aware of the students that are failing, in our own classes, in our schools and across the country. It's not as if Anne Tolley has somehow uncovered some amazing fact of life in her briefing papers.

    It's the arrogance of this bill - rushed through under urgency - and the fact that as stated, it's got NOTHING of substance, that will better or ensure improvement - that make me see it as nothing more than a cynical political movie.

    Education has become more and more evidence-based in the last 15 years, and it is rigorous and becoming more constant. I'd expect that same rigour from the Minister of Education.

    We already constantly test and assess your students. I spend most of Term 1 sorting through testing results and making informed choices as to what my individual students need. In Term 2 - I have midyear conferences with all parents. In Term 4 I write reports, oddly enough in English, that explains what students are doing well - and what they need to focus on. Throughout the year I have an open door policy and am happy to meet parents as and when necessary. As a teacher I will ask my students to write down what they know about a subject before we begin, with the express purpose of not boring them by covering what they already know.

    I teach the grammar and punctuation. Students silent read regularly, they partake in literature circles, I teach specific reading strategies to small groups. I love to read aloud - this year it was Neil Gaiman's 'Coraline', Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' and now having just finished "To Kill a Mockingbird" - we will be watching Gregory Peck portray Atticus tomorrow. We listen to speeches by Reagan, Bush, FDR and compare their oral and written effectiveness. It's pretty amazing how insightful an 11 year old can be! I use Joni Mitchell lyrics, when discussing poetry. I introduce Rudyard Kipling's "If" by showing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal reading the poem.

    I give them time to practise basic facts. I do regular speed tests of those basic facts. I spent 4 weeks covering the metric system and how to use it - purely so that my students would head to college with an understanding of one of the core concepts of how we define the world around us. We discuss various mental math strategies, we share ideas in groups and as a class. We attempt to solve problems, such as "How we make a cantilever out of ice-block sticks and blue-tack - and who can make the longest one?" We play maths games. We look at what the standard written form actually means - you know, "what does that little 'carried one' actually mean?"

    I give my students time for fitness, for PE, for art, for topic studies. I have allowed my students to teach for a day - giving them full control of the room, their classmates, and the activities therein. We have tipped our desks over and rebuilt the room into a series of trenches, and worked in them during ANZAC Day studies. I ask my students to write reports on me and tell me what I need to do to be a better teacher - and to be brutally honest, just as I am with theirs. I play New Order and Marvin Gaye and Pavarotti. We argue at times, I throw up my hands in despair at times, we laugh a lot and occasionally we cry.

    Don't tell me I have to teach TO a set standard - because I don't want that standard. I will not teach to some Tolley standard - I want my students to be so much better than that. I want them to be better than me in every way.

    I want the space and time to work with and prepare my students so that they are able to set their own standards - so that they are wanting to be better, in all areas. They need to recognize where they need to improve, understand the effort that will ensure that improvement, and have the self-discipline to make those changes.

    They need to be thinkers - not test takers. They need to be able to solve the mundane and insanely huge problems of the planet and apply wacky ways of fixing mistakes, because god knows, we're leaving the place in a shit-storm. They need to be not afraid to have a go - and have the support to go beyond what they've done before. We need to believe in their potential to be so, so much better than us - and give them tools and the time to discover that potential. We need to always believe in them.

    Peachy was right last night - our children do deserve better. They deserve better than this arrogant dross, that's passing for policy.

    One of my students came up to me after the election last month - and said simply, "Does this mean we have to do more tests now? I don't want to do more tests." I had to smile, albeit a little bitterly.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    I will not teach to some Tolley standard - I want my students to be so much better than that.

    *Ouch*

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    Minimum standards in literacy and numeracy. Does anyone seriously object to ensuring that kids can at the very least read, write, and understand the basics of maths?

    Of course not. I think what people are objecting to is the element of bait-and-switch involved in National's policy.

    Full literacy and numeracy are laudable goals. Whether they will be achieved by a testing regime administered by for-profit, (probably) foreign-owned companies who are demonstrably failing to achieve their briefs overseas is another question entirely. Asking who these companies are, what their educational philosophies might be, and what influence they might have had on National Party policy, are entirely valid questions to be asking. They are quite separate from the issue of 'is literacy important?'

    On another level, National's apparent desire to control what goes on in the classroom while deliberately excluding teachers and the Ministry of Education from discussion seems to speak volumes about their distrust, fear, and, perhaps, contempt for both teachers and Ministry expertise.

    It reflects a wider crisis in Conservative politics, where a general scepticism towards governance, professional expertise, and intellectual authority translates into inept, corrupt, and badly informed government when a Conservative party wins control.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Tim Kong: Bravo! Long may you teach.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I've been out for a few hours and come back to see the Education Amendment Bill is now into its 3rd reading. Great speech by Grant Robertson - emphasised that education is actually about teaching and learning (not testing). It is less than 40 hours since the scanned bill was bought to public attention via the previous Public Address post. We are fundamentally changing the principles of our education system with this legislation. Democracy has gone mad.

    On the other hand I have been out talking to many people this morning. Ordinary non-political people are angry at the arrogance of this speed dial approach to legislation. The Fire at Will Bill has particularly hit a nerve.

    Nicky Kaye just praised 'this fantastic National Government' - already sounds a bit hollow.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • snakeoil,

    Tim thank you. As a parent of an unconventional 10 year old in state schooling, I despair of some of the shit she has to learn.. Homework is a disaster for our life together, I love to come home from work and school and do OUR life together, not spend an hour doing fractions and making pointless posters. Still it was a great pleasure sending her off with a banana shaped presentation discussing the political and ecological implications of the west's appetite for bananas. Only homework fun ALL YEAR. It pains me to observe the traits I perceive as being my daughter's strengths (sense of fairness, unique creativity, quirky and quick humour etc) be the things that 'teacher' despises and seems to be on a mission to destroy. She reads, she writes, she does maths in top group..leave her be! One of her self-motivated projects this year, a bound book titled "I Hate My Teacher" and containing hilarious drawings of various tortures. I know, I know, send her to the psychiatrist, but this is not a violent or antisocial person, but a young member of society already feeling the sting of the expectation of conformity. She'll breeze through the testing, but if there aren't enough teachers of Tim's passion on the horizon, my next enormous debt to the government will be truancy fines.

    Blue Lynn • Since Dec 2008 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    It's now about potential prosecution of parents of school-phobics etc. And liberals want the law to recognise that certain actions shouldn't be illegal, and conservatives are happy to rely on the 'this is about sending a message to bad parents' line.

    Is anyone who has this inconsistency in his or her position concerned about this?

    One of my fears about the s59 debacle was that a parent who did lightly smack would have one more thing to fear when it comes to dealing with truants, school-phobia or, indeed, any problems with their children. The person in authority asks the child "Have your parents smacked you?" If the child answers yes (whether true or not) then the parents would be harassed and blamed for that too - the child has problems because he/she was smacked. I simply do not have enough faith in those who wield such power over children and families that they can meaningfully discriminate between the multitude of family situations. My overwhelming perception of these people is that the last person they listen to, and believe, is the parent. They start with the mindset that the parent is responsible for everything, to blame accordingly, and the way to deal with them is to bully, threaten and scare into submission. I believe there must be a coterie within the Ministry whose thinking accords very much with National's.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Such a two-tier system suits the middle class bedrock of the National Party, because for the middle class the primary purpose of the education system is to tilt the playing field to their advantage as early and as comprehensively as possible.

    Being middle class myself, I can't say that any of that strikes a chord with me or anyone I know personally. Education is not a playing field with a guaranteed winner and loser every time. The idea is that everyone can be a winner, and the middle class want that every bit as much as every other class does. Of course they want their own interests represented, but that does not mean that they need to create a massive set of losers to make themselves higher up some arbitrary scoreboard.

    The problem is simply that there is disagreement in the population about the extent to which grading, and the competition that comes from it, is helpful in upping general standards. Most people are not experts and have opinions that date back to their own school experiences. Most people my age or older lived through a lot of grading and competition, and think of it as quite normal, and thus see changes as radical, maybe politically driven rather than practical. You have to be closer to education to see how out of touch this is.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Having gone all the way through Allan Peachy's school, and coming from a middle/upper (depending how you define it in NZ) family, some of whom vote National, I can't think of anyone who thinks that's part of the purpose of the education system, consciously or subconsciously.

    Middle-class people accept that there are 'good schools' and 'bad schools' and they don't want their children to go to 'bad schools'. That's an unconscious way of accepting a two (or more)-tier system, and wanting the advantages conferred by the upper tier, surely? Do you think our parents would have been totally stoked to send us to the erstwhile Birkdale College, or Hato Petera College, instead of Rangi?

    This conversation is reminding me of season four of The Wire, which just about broke my heart. There's a really terrible/wonderful subplot about standardised testing which manages to explain, in a few scenes, just how fucked up it is for kids to be 'taught to the test'.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    Ken Robinsons' speech at TED is from a while back now - it was popular around the educational blogosphere. He spoke at a principal's conference in Auckland about 2 years ago I think. He is right about many things - and his dry wit is wonderful.

    Do Schools Kill Creativity?

    I do believe there is a generation of teachers who are passionate on the horizon, and currently working, and there are many experienced teachers in the system who are struggling to maintain that passion after years of constant change. At the same time there are teachers whom I cannot defend - both young and old - on a professional level.

    The worst failing a teacher can have IMHO is an inability to learn and listen. To learn on a professional level, from their colleagues, from experience and to listen and learn most importantly from their students.

    This bill will suit those teachers who want only to deliver the required instruction so that students can pass the test. Those teachers who are content with their 9-3 lot. Sadly there are a number of those.

    I can't really think of a more boring existence.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

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