Thursday, June 16, 2011

Time for moral courage -will the real leaders stand up!

I have been impressed with the writings of Kelvin Smythe and, with his permission, I have selected some of his thoughts to shareHe is calling for moral courage to be shown by principals and teachers in the face of  increasing authoritarianism - of a state imposed regime of education that has little to do with what most teachers  hold dear to them.

Teachers , increasingly, now live in surveillance culture where compliance is becoming a way of life. 

 There are courageous schools who stand against such impositions while others show a growing corrosion of character and fall into compliance mode -who go along to get a long. And, worse still, there are a few who see current doctrinal  directions as as worthwhile!

It is time for teachers to organize themselves ( Kelvin provides valuable ideas to consider) and to make a moral stand. What is needed is for a few people to notice what is happening and refuse to tolerate with impositions that will eventually destroy the creativity of the students they teach. Such people need to care enough to link up with others and to take  steps to confront those who would wish to destroy the creativity of our schools.

The appointment of the Student Achievement Practitioners SAPS ( an appropriate name) have tremendous implications for schools if they wish to value the creative diversity of their communities, teachers and  their students. It is ironic that a Government which believes in initiative, enterprise and personal choice  should introduce such a 'one size fits all'  standardised approach - free market Stalinist. Schools are to be run by  a political ideology that has long since passed its use by date. Political superficial populism and Orwellian 'double speak'  is to replace  a democratic and liberal education -an holistic approach that New Zealand was  once highly regarded for. Now we follow the United Kingdom, American Australian down a path that has nothing to do with creativity and innovation.

How long can schools stand by and be part of it all. 

Kevin writes:

'As Orwell explained, because people feel they are such decent, honest, hardworking people, they think that they couldn’t really be caught up in something immoral. But as Orwell further explained, immoral organisations depend on decent, honest, hardworking people fronting for that immorality.

Sophie Scholl, who has had a German film made of her short life (1921-1943), was brought to my attention by Clive James in his monumental book of essays, Cultural Amnesia.

Hans, her brother, did his best to keep his sister out of the White Rose resistance group, but she insisted. They managed to distribute a few handbills before, inevitably, they were captured. Hans and Sophie, from a well-educated German family had glittering Nazi futures, were a few of the very few Germans to protest the treatment of the Jews. Throughout her interrogation, the Gestapo offered her a choice of freedom if she recanted, a choice not extended to her brother. Plans by the Munich party office to publicly hang them were scrapped for fear of the resultant publicity. She walked bravely to guillotine, glanced up at the steel, said not a word, put her head down and was gone.

She had borne witness to goodness against evil, and in doing that provided a point of idealism for her country to begin regeneration.

The real damage is done,’ she had said, ‘by those millions who want to survive. The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own weaknesses. Those who don’t like to make waves – or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature.’

In some ways, these people she speaks of are, to some extent, all of us, but there are still some who will rise to her challenge.

But what of those people who go beyond acquiescence to active participation and become the willing executioners of our ideals? History is replete with such people, and perhaps it is wrong of me, but for them I feel a sharpening bitterness'.

In another posting Kelvin continues:

'I remind readers of Sophie Scholl (from the last posting) of the way she was witness to goodness against evil, and in doing that provided a point of idealism for Germany to begin regeneration.

I have a tremendous feeling of urgency about all this.

It must happen now or it might as well never happen'.

Those schools that have stood out from national standards – yes their numbers will reduce in the face of a brutal use of political power, but those that remain are witnesses for all schools who oppose national standards but, for one reason or another, have been unable to stand out.

We must support these stand-out schools both locally and nationally in a number of ways. They are witnesses for the best in education, for our education heritage and, no matter what happens, when these bad times are over, their example will be crucial for education’s regeneration.

How we respond will be our measure and the measure of the organisations that represent us'.

Lets hope we have the equivalent of Sophie Scholl leading some of our schools.

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