Thursday, October 27, 2005

Failing students

Missing voices Posted by Picasa

It is quick fix time again.

Most of the time we are happy to ignore the problems that are endemic in low socio economic communities believing that, in New Zealand, we all have a fair chance to gain success if we put in the effort. Too many believe we all live in a 'level playing field'.

But when young people get involved in gang murders the blame game starts and instant solutions are all the rage.

Add to this the rediscovery that 20% of all students fail school it is panic stations.

It seems impossible to ask the students to change their attitudes so now schools, according to the latest Education Review Report, are the problem. And of course they are – but only a part of the problem. Currently they are struggling to cope with ‘difficult’ students and it seems unfair to place the responsibility on them not withstanding they could do much better to assist such students.

Quite rightly the editorial in our loacl paper suggests starting early in kindergartens but with little real hope for change. Anyway this will cost money and the effects are too long term for most people.

And of course they slate the welfare system for squandering money on those who least deserve it. I wonder if they mean the very young children who need some sort of assistance. They ignore that the welfare system itself is struggling to cope with those who need some sort of help.

Or newspaper editorial finally places the blame on the parents. The problems according to our local paper are ‘unemployment, solo parenthood and households where education is not valued'. And they usually have a go at the ‘apologists’ who talk about such things as ‘loss of student identity, cultural deprivation, youth boredom and the inadequacies of an education system’. For the editorial in our paper it is all about ‘dysfunctional families where parents have failed to meet their responsibilities’.

And their answer is to ( in their words) 'impose a new set of values and accountability measures on such families'. This hasn’t worked with the young people and it is hard to imagine it will work with their parents, who must be at a loss about what to do themselves. And who is to do the imposing?

Constant attention by police and repeated jail time, they say, will eventually curb the gang leaders and discourage others to follow them. It would seem to me the jails themselves are also struggling and provide only a temporary solution at best.

They are a bit short on answers and heavy on rhetoric.

Current solutions all seem a case of blaming the victims; sounds all very Victorian to me.

It is not just the youths themselves, nor their parents, or the schools, nor the welfare system, that are dysfunctional. This is a community wide problem and must be owned by the community.

All the diverse groups involved with students, and not just those in trouble, must work together. Over the years functions that were once owned by families and communities have been passed over to institutions, who busy themselves protecting their own turf, while we get on get on with our own individualistic concerns.

In the meantime young children fall through the cracks!

The fabric of community needs to be restored and this will demand a new relationship between central government and local community organizations. And, at the centre of this, it will require all ‘helping’ organizations, including schools, to involve people in arranging and taking responsibity for their own development.

Personalization, not standardisation of services, is the basis for new organisations.

The fragmented monolithic ‘top down’ structures of the industrial era have past their ‘use by date’, and a new communal integrated society, based on shared values needs to evolve.

For this to happen the justice, police, welfare and education systems need to be transformed. Until this is done schools with ‘difficult’ students and struggling families will continue to be increasingly dysfunctional.

If this is to happen it must start from the top.

A challenge for our new government?


Anonymous said...

We need a group of recognised and respected 'wise people' to get together to think out some new ideas and then for the wider community to debate the possibilities. Too important to leave to politicians with their short term agendas.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Brilliant idea

Anonymous said...

I agree, we need 'wise' respected people to think about the future of our country - it is too important to leave to politicians, or those trapped in such areas as education.

Bruce Hammonds said...

All our current organisations were designed for a past age and we do need some new thinking - in particular to create networks between the various bodies. A community is a bit like a secondary school - lots of indepedent departments trying to help people without any holistic end point. And, as well, there is the tension beween national and local authority. In the meantime kids and citizens fall through the cracks and end up exhibiting anti social behaviour and we wonder why.

Personalisation of services and ownership of solutions, rather than 'one size fits all' designed by bureaucrats, may be an answer.