Saturday, April 07, 2012

Political ideology trumps educational philosophy

The church used the inquisition to ensure heretics toed the line. Sounds familiar?
Society today is being directed by the financial wizards of corporate greed and few school voices are brave enough to stand up for what they know is best for their students.

Even the  Secretary of the Treasury  Gabriel Makhouf is using his position to support the corporate ideals  of the current government  to push stronger for  the current ideological influences. That the ideology  of  the market know  best and the importance of competition and self interest led to the state bail outs of American Banks and once powerful capitalist businesses ( too big to let fail!) and the string of failed finance businesses in New Zealand hasn't dented their enthusiasm. Somehow ethics and corporate  needs/greed just don't mix!

Two agendas are competing to influence the future directions of schools (and society); the business world’s standardization agenda based around school competition and the humanistic personalized learning approach best exemplified by the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

Currently schools are scrambling to comply with the narrow demands scientific management being pushed on schools by what American educator Diane Ravitch, once a supporter of standardized testing, calls the ‘Master (and Mistresses) of the universe types’. ‘Such corporate executives’, she writes, ‘seem to believe schools can achieve miracles by relying on competition, deregulation and management by data’ Through such approaches schools ‘ can inspire societies less fortunate to aspire to similar success - no poverty excuses allowed’.

To such corporate reformers, who are detached from the reality of schooling and indifferent to important influences of family and poverty, the problem lies with poor teaching. It is worth reflecting that in countries that have imposed such a market based approach it has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum, teaching to the tests and the ignoring of the need to tap into students’ dreams, interests, passion and talents. To make things worse the countries that follow such an approach, such as the UK and the US, are well down in international ‘league tables’.  Diane Ravitch admits ‘I was wrong. Testing has been a disaster and has done nothing to change the conditions that cause those gaps’. Ravitch also reminds us that the strategies they want to impose are ‘similar to the ones that helped produce the economic crash of 2008’.

 Professor  Linda Darling Hammond , former adviser to Barrack Obama, extends the debate writing, ' the profession of teaching and our system of public education are under siege from another wave of scientific managers, who have forgotten that education is about opening minds to inquiry and imagination....that teaching is about enabling children to make sense of their experience, to use knowledge for their own ends, and to learn to learn, rather than spend their childhoods...feeding the voracious data banks that govern ever more decisions from the bowels of the bureaucracy.'

Such scientific management she says provides mandates that 'would "choke a horse" and 'threaten to replace the opportunities for teachable moments that expert teachers know how to create with their students'.

'These new scientific to rank and sort students, teachers, and our schools - rewarding those at the top and punishing those at the bottom, something high achieving countries don't do but often forbid'.

'And the new scientific managers cleverly construct systems that solve the problems of the poor by blaming the teachers and schools that seek to serve them, calling the deepening levels of severe poverty an  " excuse"

...this is the equivalent of deciding that if the banks are failing, we should fire the tellers’.


Anonymous said...

Good blog Bruce. Do you think school principals and teachers know what they are getting into or are they too busy to notice? Or do they care?

Ignoring the problems created by poverty , created by government policies, just cannot be ignored. As good as some teachers are it is hard to compensate for such difficult experiences.

I wonder how politicians would go as teachers. John Banks seems to believe he can fix the 20% of students who fail - the same 20% who live in poverty - with his Charter Schools

Bruce said...

Thanks anon. My feeling is that most school principals have little idea of the ideological forces being pushed on them by right-wing politicians.

Those that do will have a difficult fight on their hands - but only they will be in a position to sharpen up their philosophy to make their position clear. The rest will 'go along to get along' - principals as compliant accountants or managers and teachers as formulaic 'best practice' technicians.

No room for creative thinking.

ace-d said...

Anyone got the data to prove the relationship between the level of political influence and standards of education. Not that I doubt it, I just want to wave it!

Through my research I have come across a host if insightful and thoughtful debate on what is wrong with education and how to put it right. Authors such as: Glasser, Dweck, Langer, Hattie, Prashnig, Robinson etc have as far as I can see "nailed it". The trouble is it appears to be being ignored by those who control education policy and practice. Perhaps we need a political arm, it is as simple as that. They are ignoring us, we need to find out how to by pass them.

Bruce said...

Thanks ace-d. And you could add Claxton Sir Ken Robinson and Linda Darling Hammond to your list of 'nailed it' educationalists ...and many more.

Nothing will change until bigger changes happen politically to encourage more creative approaches.Until then it will be a battle not many schools will be willing to get involved in.