Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mr popularity and Mrs simplicity but where are we going as a country?.

'While I am popular we can do whatever we like - just keep smiling'.

The new government is having a dream run.

Running up to the election they tapped into all the fears and prejudices of the public - crushing boy racer cars, locking up people forever in jail and, of course, introducing national standards in reading and mathematics.

This, plus a electorate grown increasingly tired of the previous government demeaned by those in opposition as leading us increasingly into a 'nanny state', has given them the mandate to put into action a range of simplistic solutions to complex problems.

The simplest solution to a complex problem is the governments answer to education and they couldn't have picked a better minister for the job! Our minister has small range of simplistic answers to any question asked of her.

Recently, in a amazing piece of 'spin' ( propaganda), our minister sorted out the facts from the fiction about national standards. 'Facts', it seems, are whatever the person in power wants them to be and 'fiction' is what other people believe to be facts.

So it boils down to the ministers opinions (and her unnamed lackeys*) versus the others with a wealth of experience who are happy to be identified.

Before the election the government spread ( shock horror) that one in five students leave school without reading, writing and maths skills and, worse still, these failing students made up a long low achievement tail 'robbing children of a bright future'.

The researched 'truth' ( Lester Flockton) shows this tail is not restricted to New Zealand and relates to children coming from disadvantaged socio economic situations. Before the election even our current Prime Minister had discovered that we have a growing underclass in New Zealand. How this underclass had been created is a question politicians would rather not discuss. Nor the relationship between economic hardship and failing learners.

Our minister wants to solve the problem of the failing students and 'her answer', is to impose national standards to find out what students need help and how much help they need. Parents will be told bluntly in 'plain english' using 'plunket' style graphs' where their child stands.

It seems we have exchanged the 'nanny state' for an autocratic 'big brother' knows best one. And we already know which students are failing and the schools they attend. The answer is not national standards, which have failed in the UK, but to improve the teachers capabilities in such schools and, even better, solving the problem of unemployment and hardship these children's parents suffer. The minister is going to get her tame technocrats to deliver better standards than were developed (and failed) in the UK - yeah right!

Our minister does not see national standards as labelling students - well I am pleased she does. I am not so sure that being told twice year, for eight years, that you are below average will be a positive experience for failing learners. And I am not so sure that being judged on a narrow ( if important ) range of traditional skills and in the process ignoring a child's special talents and strengths will do non-academic students any good.

The minister claims the 'their research' indicted parental support for their proposals but other research show almost the opposite - so much for 'truth'. It depends on what side of the political fence one stands.

This is all about political dogma not education - but that is an opinion. The minister counts such a views as mischievous!

She want professional support to implement her idea but she has no inclination to listen to their voices and concerns
- we are moving well a way from democracy in this respect. Professional integrity is of no concern to our minister. Dogma , it seems, trumps integrity.

Opposition to the Ministers dogmatic point of view ( her truth) is dismissed by her shrilly as 'hysterical' or 'threats' from 'naysayers'. She twists the truth to say the reason why other advisers are to be disbanded and replaced by more literacy and maths adviser was at the request of teachers because 'they' said they needed more help in these areas. In the USA such advisers are seen as 'literacy Nazis' enforcing central government orders.

The legislation was rushed through Parliament, there is to be no trial period, no concessions, the minister know best. The parents want them ( read the government wants them and some parents agree) they will be imposed.

For those who speak out against her views she say 'please get your facts straight and stop trying to mislead parents'.

Is she for real

This is the poorest education minister we have ever had - so much for Nationals standards - there are none.

* It seems Mary Chamberlain, Group Manager Ministry of Education, has been given this role - more a 'hospital pass'.It would be a shame if such a respected educationalist were to be finally remembered for the failing introduction of the imported concept of national standards!

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