Thursday, June 16, 2011

Who needs the new Ministry SAPS?; the 'disgraceful 50! asks Kelvin Smythe?

Kelvin Smythe rightly warns schools of the danger ahead with the appointment of the new SAPS ( Student Achievement Practitioners) . I hope school ‘leadership’ has the foresight to scan ahead and see what the appointment of the new Ministry SAPS really mean.

In a recent networkonnect posting Kelvin talks directly to those who have taken up such positions , the disgraceful 50, and asks them to consider the dire consequences of their new positions.

To the 'disgraceful 50' he asks:

'Did you know that to become one of Tolley’s 50 was a moral issue; if you didn’t you really shouldn’t be around children. Did you read what has been happening overseas with national standards?

Did you consider the way national standards is just the first step towards much more radical anti-teacher change? Did you consider the way any right-wing change in education always ends up harming economically disadvantaged children?

Did you consider the effects of national standards on the wider curriculum? Did you consider the deliberate policy of demeaning teachers that is part of national standards?

Did you consider the cost for some of making a stand against national standards?

If, however, you did consider these matters and the morality of them, and you still decided to become one of her 50, what is it you bring to national standards? Can we look to the position you just left for indications of a brilliant response to the matters raised? Do you have some answers to the multiplicity of confusions and distortions that are occurring? Or are you simply going to be an agent for the politicians? Oh – and did you honestly weigh up how your decision might have been affected by the chance for you to escape schools, exercise power, further your career?

Yes – you 50, you are going into schools to monitor them – would that be much different to spying on them do you think? You are going into schools armed with new software that will pick up everything that crosses the ministry screens about the schools you are monitoring. That information will be aggregated on the basis of that school. It will all be there: ERO reports, charters, statements of variance, statistics, tittle-tattle, rumours, and lies. Will schools have access to the information your software has collected? Will that information, in its grouping, be added to, and relayed back to the ministry? Of course it will be'.

A thought for school principals:

'Of course, when they turn up at your school, it will not be about national standards, it will be about enlightened conversation about ‘achievement’, it will be all sweetness and light. Just a pity for this argument, though, that their budget allocation was tabbed for national standards. They take us for some kind of fools?'

Back to the disgraceful 50.

'The schools don’t want you there: most of them detest you (nothing personal, of course). Don’t you see the Orwellian nature of your role: the information-gathering, information-aggregating, authoritarian, fear-based nature of your work?

Oh, congratulations on your new job. When you entered teaching I’m sure you had in mind such a role for yourself. I hope schools make you feel wanted and at ease. Yes, you’re there ‘identifying schools for flexible response.’ Which, translated, means you are there to apply the full institutional weight of the government and bureaucracies to bully schools into submission. Charming.

And to think the money being paid to you was made available by the dumping of our wonderful advisers who functioned so inspiringly across the curriculum.

I consider your salary is education blood money. As well, part of the campaign to demean teachers is to have low status people like you come into schools, relying on the bureaucratic weight you bring with you for protection – all unspoken, of course, we are supposed to believe it’s just little old you.

Yes – all schools the same, standardised, uniform, controlled, buttoned-up, button-downed, paralysed by testing, and obedient to the bureaucracies and the government. Yes – the politicians, bureaucrats know best. Yes – this is education for the 21st century –you’ll be so proud to be a flag-bearer for it. This is corporate authoritarianism, but then again for you national standards is just about national standards, and pigs do fly'.

Back to school principals:

'The government knows best, so the provision must be right. I have a regional list in front of me, you’ll love it. There’s no health, or physical education, or technology, or drama, or dance, or music, or visual arts, or science, or social studies, or anything on competencies, or values, or integration, or anything on the new curriculum'.

A teacher wrote the following to Kelvin:

I wish to give expression to the despair and heartbreak I am forced to live with every day. It is devastating to have passionate commitment to teaching and learning whilst, at the same time being required by ministry edict to squeeze the wonder and curiosity out of each precious life I encounter.’

'This is a sentiment that most of us share. This expression was not written as a public statement, it was written out of deep personal sadness.

Not all principals are in a position to line their schools up against national standards, but all principals as individuals are in a position to line themselves up in support of their fellow principals and in support of a variety-based education system. I urge all principals to do this.

We must stand together. National standards are not of a nature that allows compromise because it is not about us, it is about the children, and it is not in our moral compass to compromise on their behalf.

I urge principals to stand firm, for principals to support their colleagues'.

I am right behind Kelvin!

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