Friday, September 23, 2005
The Creative Country? Could Be!
Brash or Clark?
The results of the elections are on hold. It is great to have a break from the rhetoric and the promises from the politicians.
I think we had a stark choice last Saturday. Between a return to the hard line individualism of the nineties with all its talk, 'of you know better than the Government how to spend your money', and the 'Government know best how to transform society for you'.
Both parties, in a desire to win or retain power, threw money at the voters – less tax for all or more support for the family.
I must admit to being pleased that the present Government might get a third term but I am equally pleased that the close result will make them look hard at their current approach they have taken about how to transform New Zealand on our behalf.
Unfortunately we didn’t hear much from the major parties about their vision or image of New Zealand for the future, nor the challenges facing our country in such unpredictable times? What kind of country do we want to become? This is important as we move into a new millennium marked by the waning of the mass produced industrial era and the beginning of a diverse global information age that will depend more on the intellectual capital of it's people? And, as far as education goes, what is the role of schools in this new era; what future attributes do we want our schools to develop? Any talk we heard of education was more about 'moving back to basics' by one party (with their reading and maths vouchers) and more bureaucratic micro managing by the other.
If New Zealand is to thrive it is no use trying to produce what can be produced more cheaply elsewhere (China), nor turn our students into knowledge workers (India seems to do that best) , nor to just rely on our primary produce, but rather to rely the innovative and creative qualities and talents of all our citizens.
To developing schools to realize the passions, dreams and talents of all students would need us to transform our school system with their current structures and traditions still firmly locked into a Victorian Era. And this hasn't helped by seeing education as a consumer good! Ironically most of our current entrepreneurs and creative people owe little of their success to their schooling! According to Peter Drucker ( the business 'guru') no country has as yet developed an education system for the 21stC and the first to do so will be the future winner.
We have a great opportunity in New Zealand to do this if we can throw off the deforming effects of our current top down technocratic system with its Industrial Aged mentality of, efficiency, conformity, standardization, fragmentation of learning, and measurement. We have to move past the incoherence and confusion of the cuurent NCEA!
And education, if it were to be transformed, can do much to develop our unique identity as New Zealanders - which can never be the ‘one people’ mantra the basic message of one political party. We have to embrace diversity and difference, no matter how messy it might look to those who prefer intellectual straight lines!
What was missing in the election was a debate about vision, direction and the defining New Zealand’s place in a future world. It was the worst of centrist politics, middle class, middle of the road, and focused on self interest rather than defining an exciting new sense of direction. There was no passion! All you could say was that one party seemed to represent a wider range of citizens and promised incremental improvement (continual tinkering), and the other party who appealed to our innate sense of individual responsibity ( and greed).
So if Labour survives it will need to retreat to consider the lessons it needs to learn so as to evolve some new more democratic ideas. Our country now seems divided by the results and the big challenge will be to unite all New Zealander to work together for both the common good and individual success. Everyone needs to be able to contribute to the creation of New Zealand as a strong, unique country; a multicultural society populated by an innovative and creative people.
National had some good ideas about the need to free us from the excesses of the central technocrats, who will have to stop trying to legislate 'us' into a mind numbing compliance, and consider how to create the conditions to release the energy and tap the talents of all people in all areas of endeavour. There is just too much duplication and confusion of services and too much reliance on measurable outcomes - the important things can never be measured! The fewer civil servants the better - but what we have must be of the highest caliber.
If we want to create a diverse and creative society, able to thrive in the future, then we need diverse and creative organizations.
And the best place to start this re-imagining and reinvention would be our schools. We need school focused on retaining, in all students, a love of learning and not to distorted by measurable narrow achievement. If we want to create a democratic inclusive, caring and entrepreneurial society we need inclusive, caring, democratic, and entrepreneurial schools.
What we want is a more focused Government, a Government that places confidence in the people to do the right things for both the common and individual good, but this can only happen if the right conditions are created. Developing purpose and creating 'high trust' conditions are the true tasks of any future Government.
The next few years ought to focus on the creation of a series of conversation about how this can be realized but, whatever, there can never be a ‘one size fits all mentality’ from either party.
The creation of a shared sense of direction will be everything.