Thursday, November 12, 2009

Creativity places creativity further at risk.

New Zealand creative teachers about to be straitjacketed by the imposition of the failed concept of national standards.

NZ is introducing national standards in education. This is akin to shifting the deck challenges on the Titanic! It will finally destroy what is left of creativity in the system after a decade of conformist ‘best practices’. We need a better vision of what the world can be and then to develop education systems to develop all the gifts and talents of our students to help this vision be realized.

In NZ we have a futurist curriculum but it is now being sidelined by reactionary national standards.

New Zealand currently sits in the company of the best in the world educationally yet the populist (and thus popular) conservatist government is determined to introduce the failed concept of national standards.

Our Minister seems set to destroy the creative spirit of New Zealand teachers.

Educationalists know the damage that will result: a narrowing of the curriculum, distortion of teaching and a limiting of teacher creativity and innovation. All this will create confusion just as schools are introducing a new innovative future orientated curriculum.

Kelvin Smythe has written that the pressure created by national standards will in effect make the standards the ‘de facto’ curriculum.

Lester Flockton makes the valid point that national standards are not ‘neither good nor bad’ and that it is nonsense to say that the standards are neutral; they represent the political mindset of those who construct them.

New Zealand assessment expert Terry Crooks, after a lifetime in educational assessment, says there is little evidence that students actually improve when testing is in place. ‘The answer isn’t measurement’, he says, ‘it is one of motivation’. ‘What we want is better teaching to engage all learners. We need’, he says, ‘to compliment their interests and find ways to broaden them. This is the prime purpose of education.’

US critic Alfie Kohn gives us further inspiration for us to fight back writing, ‘A plague has been sweeping through our schools wiping out the most innovative instruction and beating down some of the best teachers…ironically this has been in the name of improving schools invoking such terms as tougher standards. This heavy handed, top down, test driven version of school reform is turning schools into test prep centres, effectively closing off intellectual inquiry, and undermining enthusiasm for learning…this is a political movement that must be opposed.’

Herbert Kohl (an inspirational voice from the creative 60s/70s) recently wrote to President Obama about the President’s misguided intention to develop USA wide standards, saying, ‘this teaching towards standards naturally leads to boredom and alienation from school based learning. This impoverishment is reinforced by cutting programmes in the arts The free play of imagination, which is so crucial for problem solving, is discouraged in a basic programmes lacking in substantial artistic and human content,’

Frank Smith (Literacy expert) says. ‘I discovered the brutally simple motivation behind the imposition of all systematic programmes and tests – a lack of trust that teachers can teach and children can learn’.

I am with Kohn, Kohn, Smith, Smythe,Flockton and Crooks. Even John Hattie ambivalent about the value of national standards -I guess he wants to protect his own testing marketing. Who is actually is on the other side other than politicians?

We are faced with ‘Free market Stalinism’; the ‘big brother state’ will become the NZ Way!

Are we to prepare our kids for a life of testing or the tests of life?’ Our schools are already over testing for little lasting effect; the tail is already wagging the dog’!

If only politicians would listen!

The creativity of New Zealand teachers, having had to put up with recent formulaic 'best practice' teaching, is now at real risk.


Anonymous said...

Teacher creativity has been going downhill since the introduction of the National Curriculum of the 80s with all its heavy accountability and of course the audit culture created by ERO. And just when we get a decent curriculum the current government stuffs it all up with national standards. Who will want to be teacher in the years to come?

Bruce Hammonds said...

I agree. Who will want to be a teacher in the future - only those with accountability mindsets. God help us - or more to the point our students.