Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A plea to creative/holistic teachers and principals - is there anyone out there listening? Kelvin Smythe speaks out.

A brief personal statement on the holistic

The holistic begins with a conception of the curriculum: a conception of it being a combination of the cognitive and affective; a conception of it being a combination of knowledges – teacher and academic; and a conception of the teaching and learning within it being organised by broad aims.

This conception of the curriculum has fundamental implications for school leadership and the education system – as well as the nature of teaching. The holistic curriculum requires for its well-being an extension to holistic leadership within schools and a holistic education system.

There is an urgent need for a holistic curriculum-driven leadership theory to be developed and advanced to challenge the control-driven leadership theory. Holistic curriculum-driven leadership theory leads to a democratic participatory education system; control-driven theory to a control curriculum.
Kelvin Smythe

Holistic curriculum-driven leadership starts with a conception of a holistic child-centred curriculum with the implications of that working upward through to the leadership; control-driven leadership starts with a particular concept of an adult-centred education philosophy with the implications of that working downward through to the curriculum.

Just as the current objective-based curriculum and control education system are different expressions of the same philosophy – a control one; so are the holistic curriculum and a democratic and participatory education system – a holistic one.

Time to focus on the NZC
 The holistic used to be the default position because the value base of the education system was the holistic – now it isn’t. The holistic, to be restored, must now be understood and committed to, not just taken for granted. The value base of the education system is now about control not the holistic, characterised by measurable knowledge organised linearly, using objectives; holistic knowledge is expansive knowledge organised by main aims and freely available for exploration within that.

Control knowledge in being measurable knowledge spurns the affective; holistic knowledge in being expansive knowledge embraces it. Control knowledge is instrumental; holistic knowledge is democratic and participatory. Control knowledge implies certainty and someone who knows; holistic knowledge implies openness and continuing collective exploration about what is known. Control knowledge because it implies certainty and someone who knows requires a hermetic system based on fear and dependence; holistic knowledge because it is about openness and continuing exploration requires trust and independence. Control knowledge is exclusivist and standardising; holistic knowledge is democratic and characterised by variety.

Because the holistic is about valuing variety; about democratic, participatory relationships – the holistic means the freedom to be holistic not the requirement to be so.
Student centred learning

Since the 1970s those who support the education of control, mainly the political right, have had the initiative in education, the political left, except when it implemented the education agenda of the right in the late 1980s, has been bereft of policy, mainly resorting to implementing a somewhat watered down version of control education. Complementing this lack of challenge to control education has been the ineffective opposition of teachers and principals and their organisations.

The organisations have occasionally been outspoken in opposing control education but, in the long term, ineffective, because a changed education system is not the absence of something but the presence of something better to replace it. The teacher organisations have been dependent, unsure, and lacking in philosophical depth, curriculum knowledge, and unity.

To answer the challenge of the dominance of control education, the holistic is required, only the holistic will challenge it, but knowledge of the holistic, confidence in the holistic, has been fragmented, cast in a bad light, and made forgotten.
Time to fight for holistic teaching!

Teachers have become bewildered participants in their own philosophical demise. Orwell wrote: ‘Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.’ Teachers have become bewildered participants in their own past being made forgotten. To affirm their knowledge and experience teachers need to agree on and reclaim their past. It is a prime source of holistic knowledge the proponents of control do not have access to. The past is not something ephemeral, it is something real that teachers can use as a way to avoid becoming overcome by the present and, in avoiding that, be better placed for the future.

My intention in writing this brief statement was to set out the situation as I see it, mainly leaving any implications to readers as they see it. If the situation as set out is close to the truth, for remedy, it calls for some extraordinary leadership.

Perhaps, I could conclude with a story from my own past when, in 1999, I spoke to a group of principals. My main message was that given the morally and ethically complex times ahead, principals, in doing what they had to do, needed to do that, but on the understanding that they retained, as part of their thinking, the idea that much of what they had to do was not in the best interests of children. They needed to make that distinction for their own integrity, and to be able to challenge that which was not in the best interests of children when opportunities arose. I looked into the principals’ eyes and saw incomprehension, diversion, and a glaze.
Time to see past National Standards

 With the Labour government set to take power (along with some other contributory factors), I decided, after ten years, to end publication of Developmental Network Magazine and campaigning for the holistic curriculum, and take a break.

(Kelvin still intends to posts his thoughts as required – let’s hope he does so. Few voices speak out so loudly against the destruction of what was once was central in primary education.)


Anonymous said...

It seems we have had timid leadership from school principals at best - too many seem to have sold out. Maybe they are too busy to notice where the National Party is taking them? Or simply focussing on making their school look good?

Karyn said...

A great follow on from the post on assessment.

Bruce said...

Thanks Karyn and Anon

If we don't have a fight back by principals and teachers we will lose the creativity/holistic teaching that was a feature of NZ teaching. If we don't we will soon be in the test oriented environment of Aust England and the USA! Time to place the focus back on the 2007 NZ Curriculum.

Bruce said...

When a principal in the late 80s I attended a meeting where Kelvin warned us of the difficulties ahead. I was so busy with implementing 'Tomorrows Schools' that I discounted Kelvin's warnings.

A year or so later I changed my mind as a realised Kelvin was right. The 95 technocratic NZ Curriculum was the tipping point for me!

Those who ignore his plea to keep holistic teaching central will live to regret their lack of insight. Time to put the focus on implementing the 07 NZ Curriculum and put National Standards in their place.