Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Zealand Elections :More of the same - or a turning point to a fairer more sustainable world?

Some pre -election ramblings!

( Adding to my earlier blog on the elections)

Market Forces is a failed concept, the rich have got richer the poor poorer.

NZ at a crossroads.
 It's the voice of private enterprise ( in reality international corporations)  rather than the needs of people that are now listened to. A majority of people still cling to the belief that John Key's government will save then. It seems you can, contrary to the saying, 'fool most of the people all the time'!

We are like the story of the rabbits sailing out in the ocean in a boat made from a carrot selfishly busy eating their own boat without time to think of an alternative. Or, like  the Easter Islanders, so busy chopping down their trees to build their monuments  to notice their forest had gone.  Today some call this 'vulture capitalism' ;  capitalism based on growth to solve all problems without any real appreciation of the effect such growth has on the sustainability of the environment. The issue of climate change , in such an environment, is in the too hard basket. As one environmentalist has written 'we are eating our future!'

The phrase 'market forces' and a trickle down economy are no longer being mentioned by National Politicians except for their allies  the ACT party. The public  it seems just want to believe in the assurances of John Key -  personality politics.

Whale Oil
 In earlier times Margaret Thatcher used to say 'there is no alternative (TINA) but this is no longer the case. Between them the Labour and Green parties provide a real sustainable alternative but sadly they have not gained the imagination of the voters  - particularly Labour.

Opposition parties, with the exception of Internet/MANA,  have  chosen not to attack the failure of  the market forces ideology and  instead  have focused on providing positive  alternatives. In contrast the National Party have had no such qualms in attacking their opposition and have  unashamedly made use of right wing 'attack blogs' - the worst being Cameron Slater and his destructive Whale Oil blog. I am not not sure that this reluctance to attack the premise of market forces has been a good move.

This would've been a more honest hoarding!

Inequality, which ought to have been one of the most important issues, created by thirty years of market forces, has not been faced up to. National's answer is to rely on growth with no mention of the 'trickle down' metaphor!. The trouble is  we are not creating enough jobs; too many jobs are poorly paid ;many families have to survive by both parents working; and there is now a group of citizens now classified as the working poor. As well the majority of workers have not received a  recent pay rise while at the same time the wealthy were given tax cuts.. We have become a self interested me first society; greed above need.

Read what Nigel Latta and Max Rashbrooke have to say about inequality in New Zealand

The excluded are still waiting in NZ.

Right wing governments world- wide continue to follow a neo -liberal market forces ideology based on:  less government ( and as a result less protection for citizens); less  regulations ( particularly for the financial sector); and individual choice ( for those with the power to use it)   . The real winners of this ideology have the international corporations, the financial sector and  wealthy individuals  all who avoid  paying their  fair share of tax and make full use of tax havens.

Consider the implications of the TPP

The time has come for a new political ideology to replace the market forces.

Live like it's 1929!!
 Looking back over history it seems political movements have a viable life of three or four decades. If National return it will be putting off the inevitable need for change if we ever  are to face up to problems of inequality, sustainability of resources and the challenges of climate change.We now , in so many respects , are in a similar position to the world in 1929 which led to the great depression.. Following the  share market crash ( and later the destruction of World War 2) Western countries developed social welfare policies - the welfare sates of the UK and NZ and the 'New Deal' of President Roosevelt.Such programmes delivered great prosperity and equality in contrast to out current 'me first' dog eat dog society.

 We need such 'new deal' again - a 'green new deal'. 

Market Forces - ever see a dog share a bone!!

Market forces has run its course - re-electing National is only delaying the inevitable.

The world we live in.

It certainly didn't come about in the US.

 Sir Geoffrey Palmer , reflecting on the problems resulting from alcohol has written ,'the  companies that operate in this industry are big multinationals whose tentacles stretch into every country. There is absolutely no doubt at all to stand up to them requires some intestinal fortitude.'

Something National is not prepared to do!

Some people are easily fooled.

A design fault in current thinking!
Right wing governments decry the 'nanny state' believing private enterprise is preferable - which it is for the powerful. In its place they have introduced the surveillance culture of 'big brother knows best'.

Privatisation and financial deregulation has passed  the power over to multi-national corporations as we have seen in the reluctance of our government to challenge those who control alcohol - and this can only get worse. The so called 'hidden hand of the market'  , which has dominated for thirty years, has worked in favour of the rich and  the world wide corporations while deepening the  corrosive qualities of inequality and poverty worldwide. As a result of privatization public assets have been sold and many public services have been contracted out to private providers - even in such important fields as education and prisons - profit making trumps service.

Only a strong nation state can ensure corporation are kept in their place - and ensure democratic  rights of all citizens are protected.

The state, contrary to popular belief fed by right wing politicians, is a vital safeguard or the peoples interests and are crucial to stand up to corporation pressures. The belief that markets can work for the common good of all is simply not true. Successful  Nordic and  Asian countries ( including China) retain a strong role for the state. Only a strong  democratic state can ensure all its people are looked after. A strong state can introduce good regulations to protect its citizens and also ensure all its citizens, through education and training, can contribute to ensue the protection of common good for all.

Modern societies need to be inclusive , adaptable, inventive, well informed and creative.

The future requires the political will to realize such a society and to create an inspiring future vision that will capture the imagination of all people. After several decades of 'there is no alternative' we now have a chance to regain a sense of shared optimism that will create a better world than we currently have.

'Vulture capitalism's' gift!

Our generation needs to make such a transformation - to place the common good above self interest - to leave a world worth inheriting There is a better society to be won. A society based on the principles of decent work, an
environmentally sustainable environment, and an economy that places the needs of all people as central.

That many people in this election fail to see this opportunity, preferring growth as usual; placing self interest above common good; failing to see that the current market model is now the problem, is sad.

I guess we will have to wait and see what the voice of people say this Saturday.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Educational Readings - boys v girls/ slow educ / NZ elections.....

By Allan Alach

Staying in Croatia

New Zealand readers - Ive voted from Croatia. Whats your excuse for not voting in New Zealand?

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

STEM is incredibly valuable, but if we want the best innovators we must teach the arts

Education or testing?
A foundation in STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed all within set processes, but its not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. It doesnt teach us empathy or what it means to relate to others on a deep emotional level.

The Fatal Flaw Of Education Reform

Nevertheless, I believe that this movement (to whatever degree you can characterize it in those terms) may be doomed to stall out in the long run, not because their ideas are all bad, and certainly not because they lack the political skills and resources to get their policies enacted. Rather, they risk failure for a simple reason: They too often make promises that they cannot keep.

Boys Learn to Interrupt. Girls Learn to Shut Up.

He who speaks first slides first!
When boys and girls play together, boys interrupt more. A lot more.

The more boys there are in the group, the less often girls in the group interrupt.

When girls play together without boys, they interrupt more. A lot more.

Why replacing teachers with automated education lacks imagination

Early testing machine.
The corporates behind GERM have this fantasy of classroom where computers do the teaching with adults available purely as backup. All to make money, of course, and nothing to with actual education.

The belief that technology can automate education and replace teachers is pervasive. Framed in calls for greater efficiency, this belief is present in todays educational innovations, reform endeavours, and technology products. We can do better than adopting this insipid perspective and aspire instead for a better future where innovations imagine creative new ways to organise education.

Are You Ready to Join the Slow Education Movement?

Education must be personalized responsive to the real needs of each student. This could mean the abolition of grade levels based on age. When education is personalized, it emphasizes student interests, teaches skills using worthwhile content and most important shows kids how to tap into their own innate motivation to learn. It puts the onus of learning on those who have the most at stake in school: students.

Beyond Caricatures: On Dewey, Freire, And Direct Instruction (Again)

This weeks heavy dutyarticle but dont let that stop you from reading it! This is important.

The empowered student necessarily requires the classroom offered by the empowered teacher. Any who teaches must first work through the philosophical evolution that Dewey and Freire representas well as continuing beyond the possibilities offered by Deweys progressivism and Freires critical pedagogy.

Dispelling the Myth of Deferred Gratification:What waiting for a marshmallow doesn't prove

By Alfie Kohn:

Underlying self-discipline and grit is the idea of deferring gratificationfor example, by
putting off doing what you enjoy until you finish your "work." The appeal to many educators of transforming kids from lazy grasshoppers to hardworking ants explains the fresh wave of interest in a series of experiments conducted back in the 1960s known as the marshmallow studies.

Gifted primary school children need more than special classes

Many gifted boys and girls find the gifted label stigmatising, and go out of their way to dodge the dreaded nerd status. Would these children be better off in specialised school environment? The gifted education community is sharply divided about this issue with some educators perceiving that the specialised school environment is the ideal setting for gifted children, whereas others believe that they would be better off in the regular school milieu.

This weeks contributions

Common Core's Five Big Half-Truths

Bruces comment:The US has a Common Core Standards that are neither  common nor core (Sir Ken Robinson calls them a race to the bottom) New Zealand has National Standards that are neither national or standard. Both are political and populist. Both narrow the curriculum, encourage teaching the tests and side-lining of creativity and  the arts. Both are the equivalent to the McDonaldisation of education.

School is back in session, and debate over the Common Core is boiling in key states. As governors and legislators debate the fate of the Common Core, they hear Core advocates repeatedly stress five impressive claims: that their handiwork is "internationally benchmarked," "evidence-based," "college- and career-ready," and "rigorous," and that the nations that perform best on international tests all have national standards. In making these claims, advocates go on to dismiss skeptics as ignorant extremists who are happy to settle for mediocrity. The thing is, once examined, these claims are far less compelling than they appear at first glance.

4 Big Things Transformational Teachers Do

Bruces comment: Are you a transformational teacher read this then decide.

Transformational teachers don't react. They anticipate and prepare. Lee Shulman, as reported by Marge Scherer, suggests that expert teachers demonstrate the following, despite enormous challenges:

Planting the Seeds of Innovation in Education

Bruces comment: An innovative high school class/teacher.

Don Wettrick is on a mission: revolutionizing the world of education by training the next generation of innovators. A reformed teacher (he taught to middle and high school students for 17 years), Don started planting the seeds of innovation at the Franklin, IN High School 3-and-a-half years ago, having found inspiration in Daniel Pinks book Drive.

Leading the Shift to Digital: School, System & City

Were living through the most significant shift in how human beings learnits bigger deal than the printing press and happening a lot faster. Almost everyone has a stake in the quality and speed of transition from the old model organized around birthdays and books to personal digital learning. In the near future, in cities and across networks that lead the shift, we could see a significant improvement in career readiness and economic participation.

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file…

The corporate takeover of society and education.

Since the early 90s society has been reshaped by a neo liberal corporate ideology. An emphasis on private enterprise and self-centred individualism has replaced an earlier concern for collective good of all members of society.   As a result of this ideological shift a wider gap has been created between the rich and poor causing a number of social concerns. Schools as part of this shift have been transformed from a community orientation to being part of a competitive cut throat ideology.

Creativity – its place in education

Wayne Morriss essay on education for creativity. Brilliant  - from one of Bruces closest associates.

Creative students lead richer lives and, in the longer term, make a valuable contribution to society. Surely those are reasons enough to bother. Creativity in the classroom what does it look like?

Howard Gardner on creativity – are schools encouraging creativity? The challenge of creativity.

By definition all life is creative and schools ought to be the best place to develop the creativity of all their students but this is currently not the case.

For New Zealand readers about to vote in the general election - heres some political postings from Bruce:

New Zealand Elections – are we missing the big picture?

That we had the lowest voter turnout last election indicates that many citizens no longer feel motivated to vote. Many seem to feel it makes little difference and, unfortunately, those with most to gain in change seems the most indifferent.

Max Rashbrooke:  NZ  A Paradise Lost –now a land only fit for the rich. Inequality in NZ

Gods own country –  once supposedly the best place to bring up kids in the world, seems no longer to be the case. A country originally founded to escape the worst of the class structure of England seems to have given up on the idea of giving a fair go to all citizens. The view of many well off people now is that the poor are the authors of their own misfortune and only need to set about and pull up their socks and all will be well; there seems little empathy for those in difficult situations.

Nigel Latta: The new ‘Haves and Have Nots’ – time for Moral Leadership in New Zealand

Hugh Fletcher
Hugh Fletcher (one of New Zealands richest men) states bluntly the trickle-down theory doesnt work.’ ‘All the fruits of the economy has gone to the top and the average income hasnt gone anywhere in the last 30 years. Fletcher is concerned about the inequality because of its effect on social cohesion; extreme poverty does not bring about cohesion.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Educational Readings -dirty politics/ the cult of order/ 'grit?'/ beyond the '3Rs'

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This weeks homework!

The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction

Cameron Slater !!!!
This article describes what seems to have been a coordinated dirty politics attack (as part of a government wide dirty politics programme) on New Zealand primary principals (including me) in 2011, for daring to object to the governments national standards in education agenda.
And if deep collusion has occurred and basic human rights have, indeed, been transgressed, I look forward to the day when a test case for damages to individuals is undertaken, substantial damages awarded and with that done, a process of truth and reconciliation following.

Cameron Slater - Whale Oil blogger

Welcome To The Teaching Profession: Are You Ready To Go To War?
The teachers who stay in the profession have realized that they are in the fight of their life. Teachers can no longer do what they love, what they spent years being educated to do; they have to fight for their students, their parents, their colleagues, and their selves. They have to fight against the education reformers who have never been teachers but somehow are allowed to make policies that impact other peoples children while their children go to private school.

The Cult of Order
Yet another gem from Peter Greene - educations version of big brother?
Many, many, many reformsters are members of the Cult of Order.
The Cult of Order believes in blind, unthinking devotion to Order. Everything must be in its proper place. Everything must go according to plan. Everything must be under control.

Newspapers are Bad News for Teachers
Some research from Australia that is applicable all over.
As such, an accumulation of negative and critical media reportage about teachers is likely to erode public trust for teachers and the teaching profession. This is an unacceptable situation where a teachers role is made more difficult with the gaze of non-educationist onlookers second-guessingteachersevery move; and the status of teaching become less attractive for those contemplating their career opportunities.

Parents, I Cannot Protect Your Children
Parents, I cannot protect your children. I must be honest in telling you that the war is alive and well in our classrooms, and children are being harmed every day. What is happening is evil, cruel and abusive.

Scientists Say Child's Play Helps Build A Better Brain
Dont know why we need scientists to tell us the obvious!
When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.

Got Grit?Great on a T-shirt, not so good in a gradebook.
Without rehashing the entire story, the basic premise is that to teach grit, the school and its teachers create an artificial obstacle or challenge that students must overcome (almost like a washout course in college).  Along the way, the mantra of growth mindsetand gritare common, but the basic positive regard for students seems to be deliberately hushed.  The teachers and leaders actually avoid confidence boosting statements like, You are a smart kid, they discourage the usual positive comment as dirty wordsin favor of the new language of grit, failure is success.  This story struck me as a decent idea gone awry.

OECD Says That Competition in Education Has Failed
The OECD has issued a damning verdict on education policies that promote competition between schools. Its latest PISA in Focus brief says bluntly that the PISA international test data shows that more competition has failed to improve student results and has increased social segregation between schools.

This weeks contributions from

'Grit' May Not Spur Creative Success, Scholars Say
Seems Bruce has been following this grit meme as well
Curiosity before grit
Ms. Grohman found that neither grit nor two related characteristics of consistency and perseverance predicted a student's success in various types of creative endeavors, including visual and performing art, writing, scientific ingenuity, or even creativeness in everyday problem-solving."These are 'no results' that we are actually excited about," Ms. Grohman said during a presentation on creativity. "Creative achievement and grit, intellectual creativity and grit, everyday creativity and grit: no effects whatsoever.

Back to School: Looking beyond the 3 Rs
Bruces comment: Ontario could be the first province in Canada to measure not just what students learn in school, but also how well the needs of the whole child are being met. A new programme launched this week aims to objectively examine how schools promote creativity, develop social skills and teach citizenship.
‘“These are the things schools say they have been doing for the past 100 years developing a childs ability to relate to others, to understand society, to appreciate the arts, to become a citizen, so lets take it seriously and measure it,he said. We can measure creativity, we can measure whether a school attends to studentsmental health. We can measure whether a school provides a positive school climate.

3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do
Bruces comment: So what do you think formulaic teaching or student centred learning?
Differentiated Instruction (DI) casts a spell on educators as to how it meets all students' needs. The skillset required to differentiate seems mystical to some and incomprehensible to others in this environment of state standards and high-stakes tests. Where does one find the time? The reality is that every teacher already has the tools to differentiate in powerful ways for all learners.

6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use with Your Students
Bruces comment: Some useful ideas to explore.
What's the opposite of scaffolding a lesson? It would be saying to students something like, "Read this nine-page science article, write a detailed essay on the topic it explores, and turn it in by Wednesday." Yikes -- no safety net, no parachute, no scaffolding -- just left blowing in the wind.

Students can be helped into helplessness! Irene Whittaker 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

New Zealand Elections – are we missing the big picture?

Who pulls National's strings?

I happened to catch the final episode of a UK political thriller called ‘Secret State’. I wish I  had watched earlier episodes but the final  showed the prime minister giving a dramatic idealistic speech asking for the house to have a vote of no confidence in his own party.  He was making a plea for the democratic principle of thinking about the rights of ordinary citizens rather than falling in line with the vested interests of big oil companies, power hungry corporations and  financial interests.

The ending was left unclear but the Prime Ministers rhetoric was defining two alternative pathways to the future.

The Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand has expressed that the two main political groupings offer two very different pathways to the future but his plea seems to be falling on deaf ears.

Latta exposes social ills.
It is pretty clear if you have bothered to watch NigelLatta’s excellent series in NZ that vested corporate interests hold the realpower behind the current National Government.
Recommended changes to liquor laws are blocked by corporate interests. Even the appalling amount of sugar in our food and  soft drinks are not to be challenged by government, but according to industry spokesperson,, are to best left to individual choice! Powerful business lobbies have the real power in New Zealand. And then there is the appalling behaviour of far right bloggers working to destroy the opposition – and it seems with support of government politicians.

The National Government is ‘working for New Zealand’ but in reality the wealthy elite; the Queen Street entrepreneurs are the real winners.  Cunningly, even cynically, they have introduced policies like free medical care for children up to the age of thirteen, extended paid parental leave and protection of rivers from dairy pollution to suggest to middle income New Zealanders that they care.

The Leader of the Labour Party vision of a more positive New Zealand – one based on fairness for all is being ignored as is the alternative vision of the Green Party.

Chris Trotter in a recent  opinion piece column reports that there is a group called the Opinion Partnership ( led by John Third a Wellington businessman, Owen Jennings former president of the Federated Farmers  and an ACT member, and John Ansell, famous for supporting National leader Don Brash with his infamous ‘Iwi /Kiwi’ billboards). Their aim is to ensure a National Party victory by undermining public support for the Greens and Labour. 

The Opinion Partnership intention is, according to Trotter, ‘to frighten all those otherwise conservative voters thinking of giving the Greens their vote into thinking again’. Add to this the
Chris Trotter
undermining of the opposition by the Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and his associates and it contributes to a well-planned fear campaign.  Right wing bloggers reaching a new low have created a toxic /corrosive  political culture.

Trotter is not against the right of the Opinion Partnership to express their views to protect their position; he is more concerned is the apathy of many voters towards considering the need for change referring to ‘those New Zealanders whose comfortable stake in the status quo impels them to risk nothing at all. They will cast their vote on election day without the slightest regard to the growing body of evidence pointing to a “long list of abuses and usurpations”’.

That we had the lowest voter turnout last election indicates that many citizens no longer feel motivated to vote. Many seem to feel it makes little difference and, unfortunately, those with most to gain in change seems the most indifferent. But as Trotter says, concluding his column, ‘in the end, democracy is about defending ourselves – voting’.
It seems you can fool the people?

If the government returns, as it is increasingly likely, then our version of the Secret State will continue. The business and financial elite, and the international corporations will continue to be the winners; the inequality gap will continue to widen.

The chance to develop an alternative pathway to a more positive people orientated sustainable economy (rather than waiting for the wealth to trickle down) may have to wait until 2017.

NZ as National likes it!
The National Party, if re-elected, will continue with its emphasis on, less government, individual responsibility and the privatisation of government public services such as education and health. These neo liberal policies based on individual greed have been found to fail around the world as best exemplified by the 2008 financial crisis. Ironically the most successful countries have strong state governments and lower inequality gaps.  In contrast, if the government is returned, issues like climate change and sustainability will continue to be side-lined by the drive for short term economic growth. If China cuts back on requiring commodity imports a new financial crisis will eventuate.

Read what the Pope says!!

  • The market knows best philosophy of our current government has little to do with human needs other than for the elite. The neo-liberal market fundamentalism has had thirty years to prove its worth - increasingly it has been shown has not to work for the benefit of all or the sustainability of our increasingly fragile environment. As Chris Trotter writes , 'thirty years of devil take the hindmost capitalism' has corroded our once caring society. The 2008 financial crisis may prove only to be an early warning. As it is the Economist reports that our housing market is 74% overvalued - heading for a 'bust'?
A real alternative requires a new progressive alliance best expressed by Labour/Green policies. Finance needs to be focussed on the needs of the community and productive industry not to reward a wealthy few – and those who want to join them.

This is do-able – but only if people can see past the idea that the status quo is the way to go!