Thursday, April 22, 2010

A take on the current politically inspired changes

Measurement mad technocrats, ivory tower academics, and limited vision politicians have far too much influence in education - time we all woke up! A satirical view from my friend Mac from Auckland.

A Bunch of Nasty Statistics

A small tear in the time space continuum had seen the beginning of a new era in the land of Edu Ka Shun. Patrician Anatoly had been replaced and in schools all around the land there had been great anticipation as to the direction that the incoming Patrician would take.

The first action taken by the new patrician had been the calling together of all the Bureau Rats with an explanation demanded of them about the state of education and the expectations of student outcomes on a national basis. The new Patrician had caused much whispering and incredulous looks when holding up a publication that all but a few had forgotten about over the preceding years. This publication it seemed was one the new Patrician intended to ensure was implemented in schools as he felt its intent was such that it would provide students across the country with the basis of a life long education based on the acquisition of thinking skills and using approaches that favoured and supported creative learning opportunities. The older Bureau Rats of course remembered this document - the revised NZC- and the time of its intended implementation namely around the same time as Patrician Anatoly had taken the reigns of power.

Initially it had seemed the revised NZC was to be the saviour for Edu Ka Shun, which for many years had been tied up with approaches based on educational minutiae and an expectation that all learning was linear in its outcomes. The new approach that favoured inquiry and allowing students to set and pursue their learning goals was welcomed as a means of allowing creative and thoughtful teachers the ability to provide programmes of work that were student centred and interesting. However, the expectation had not become the reality.

In a short space of time Patrician Anatoly had launched a bunch of Nasty Statistics on schools throughout the country and as these settled new outcomes began to become evident. The Pointy Hats, who remained well removed from classrooms, continued to provide an on going source of Nasty Statistics and these regularly invaded schools by means of media statements and publications from the Bureau Rats. Consequently, and in spite of various opposition from concerned parents and school leaders, the Nasty Statistics and their sidekicks the League Tables had subsumed the revised NZC. So a great despondency settled on the land of Edu Ka Shun as schools evaluated, assessed, graphed, reported, assessed some more and reported some more as was expected by the Pointy Hats and the Short Term Acolytes who provided the Patrician with the necessary “public support” for the continuing infiltration of Nasty Statistics.

It would be true to state however that there had been pockets of dissent and defiance in some places throughout this time because a group named the Creative Pedagogues had continued to ply their trade and enable students to be involved in a range of curriculum areas that included The Arts. These Creative Pedagogues while recognising the importance of Reading, Writing and Maths had also continued to expose students to the full range of curriculum through programmes that in fact mirrored the expectations of the revised NZC. They had been encouraged in their endeavours by the writings and statements emanating from Bryce Hambones and his able lieutenant Nug Backstop. It was speculated that these statements and their creators, originated from a hidden location in the shadow of Mt Taranaki however this was never substantiated. Suffice it to say that the statements gave much support to those embattled Creative Pedagogues and it is speculated that without this support many may well have begun to question their beliefs and could well have withered and vanished in the overwhelming mass of Nasty Statistics that had become the norm. Even as the dreaded Performance Pay lapped the shores of the land, in the wake of the attacks by the Nasty Statistics and the scourge of the League Tables, these Creative Pedagogues continued to recognise the talents of students even to the extent of providing for Dance and Drama, and Art and Music on a regular basis. Thankfully, the Pointy Hats had not yet found a way of launching their Nasty Statistics at these and the Patrician saw no merit in doing so while schools remained up to their ears in documentation already.

Much incisive, investigative writing published by Bevin Scythe, of Awa Waikato, also contributed to the challenges that were made from time to time against the reported comments made by Patrician Anatoly. Scythe’s comments served to provide the basis whereby leaders of schools could examine their own school's assessment practices and counter in some way the on-going attacks by the Nasty Statistics. This became even more important in those schools where the Nasty Statistics and the ever-present League Tables highlighted the gaps caused in no small part by the economic conditions prevailing in school communities. Consequently, and thankfully, Scythe’s stance also did a great deal to ensure the practice of labelling students with an L on their forehead remained in place for only a short period of time. This practice, which applied generally in places where the Nasty Statistics were most prevalent, was only used for those who had not measured up to the Pointy Hats expectations in terms of their learning and as it was done with felt tip pen it was not seen as a cause for on going concern. Scythe’s writings constantly challenged those of the Pointy Hats, with their simplistic approaches to learning, and provided a more realistic and student based philosophical approach.

Yet the accepted view, continually reiterated through the media and from the Short Term Acolytes, was that Edu Ka Shun was on the right track and improvements were just around the corner. It is disappointing that this stance was also the one often adopted by the Philosophically Challenged brigade who sought to enhance their own status by recourse to published comment that supported the bleakness that the Nasty Statistics wrought even though this stance ran counter to the mainstream view of educationalists around the world. Inevitably though change would happen.

It was now some years later and as earlier noted the new Patrician was ready to change the face of Edu Ka Shun. Yet it was not quite as simple as that as the Patrician needed some research to show the Bureau Rats that the long-term answer was in fact the revised NZC. He therefore instructed senior members of the Erroneous Reporting Officials to prepare reports that in fact showed the advantages of his new approach and if no sound evidence was available they were to use Executive Summaries or other such obscuration to enable positive press statements to be made. To highlight the importance of this reporting the new Patrician reminded the Erroneous Reporting Officials that a spell in the classroom for all of them was a distinct possibility and this certainly had the desired effect on the resulting research outcomes. By now too the Bureau Rats had fallen into line and were regularly agreeing with the new Patrician and so the future for Edu Ka Shun land looked bright.

It needs to be remembered however that changes elsewhere seem inevitably to impact on Edu Ka Shun and just when teachers seem settled and meeting the expected outcomes of the current Patrician……….

With thanks to the contribution made by the writings of Terry Pratchett who noted in his book “Moving Pictures”:

'You get just one chance. You live for maybe seventy years and if you're lucky you get one chance. Think of all the natural skiers who are born in deserts, Think of all the genius blacksmiths who were born hundreds of years before anyone invented the horse. All the skills that are never used. All the wasted chances.'

Our kids deserve every chance let’s not waste any on disproved ideologies.

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