Thursday, May 26, 2011

Boy! Has Kelvin Smythe got it right! He woke up with the nightmare clear in his head. Time for us all to wake up!

For too long we have submitted to the Ministry C.R.A.P. ( continuously revising all polices/procedures) and taken their untested advice, usually picked from other countries, while ignoring the ideas we know have worked in creative schools - or more to the point, in creative classrooms. Time to change the wheels and run over the false leadership of self serving politicianS and bureaucrats with their neo liberal ideology.

Education is all about providing students access to a better world. Current standardised state imposed approaches are destroying the possibilities of all students succeeding. Some schools , by amplifying the imposed surveillance culture, by going along to get along, have now become part of the problem.

We collectively know what is right - far better than politicians and the contracted educational mercenaries .We just need to sort our ideas out.

And it will only get worse unless schools have the moral courage to decide what is worth fighting for.

I haven't changed a single word OF Kelvin's - it is so good.

Ministry considering authoritarian post-election moves
By Kelvin Smythe

If you haven't signed up for Kelvin's posting do so now - just google him!

This posting is an addendum to the eclectic mix that was the last posting. In that posting I detailed how the government’s policy on national standards (based on information from ministry sources) is to proceed quietly pre-election, but post-election to move quickly into gear and legislate in authoritarian-style against stand-out schools. I also discussed how schools whether stand-out or participating are not ‘doing national standards’, they are doing national standards’ policy – national standards only become national standards when they are tightly moderated across the system, high stakes, competitive, with results publicly available. The posting then linked national standards to corporate authoritarianism which has as one of its aims removing poverty from the agenda in relation to educational outcomes, also scapegoating and humiliating public school teachers. One expression of corporate authoritarianism in education is a narrowing and impoverishment of the curriculum – it has a limiting effect, in particular, on the social, educational, and vocational opportunities of working class children (which given the make-up of the working class, means diminished opportunities for Maori children).

The posting then went on to discuss the curious meeting last Thursday of the NZPF executive with John Key. In a muffled way, Key offered to put the executive in touch with Anne Tolley which the executive later rejected. The tenor of the meeting, of course, is entirely consistent with my information that the government is trying to quieten things down.

But the main idea in the posting was a suggestion to local principal and teacher organisations to develop action groups to stand together against bureaucratic bullying. I suggested that when a school feels it is being bullied, being undermined bureaucratically, it should be able to appeal to the action groups for support. The support could come from senior principals visiting the school to check out the fairness and validity of bureaucratic actions and then for their findings to be expressed in a media release.

Interest in forming action groups within their local NZPF district has already been indicated.

I have been told that for the post-election moves everything is on the table, including removing funding from stand-out groups of integrated schools, stopping professional development funding to stand-out schools, and legislating to translate principals into state servants. This last one was explored last year – networkonnet readers will remember that Frances Nelson and Ernie Buutveld were hauled before the State Services Commission and warned that if principals continued with their protests they would be re-classified as state servants, a status that would compel them to follow instructions. Tolley then backed off and we had the charade of her requesting that this policy not be continued with. The ministry faces two difficulties in carrying out this policy, first, it changes the employment conditions for principals’ mid-employment term and, second, it interferes with the powers of boards of trustees.

In relation to the stopping of all professional development funding to stand-out schools I suggest a data base be organised by NZPF central office (fed into by the districts), listing principals, teachers, university staff, advisers made redundant, and retired educationists who would be willing to take professional development courses. These people would be available to take courses cost-free except for travel expenses. This would be a heartwarming way to allow a broader range of people to express in a positive form their admiration and support for stand-out schools. As well, it would deliver a powerful message about the issues involved in the campaign against national standards, including a protest about the devastation being wrought on the wider curriculum.

I see such an undertaking, along with the action committees suggested above, as being a rallying cry for the moral basis that underlies the campaign.

Yes – these are dark times for our education system, the corruption of idealism and ethicality of large swathes of our system will, when the light of decency shines brightly again, take years to restore to full health
: the behaviour of the education review office, based as it is on a narrow view of education and on fear; the behaviour of some in the ministry (we know who you are); those who take up many of the contacts at the cost, to us, of their silence; the way we have lost NEMP; the quantitatives – where are your voices against the diminution of the curriculum and the belittling of teachers (are you enjoying your contracts?); the research the government has bought; the universities we have lost – Otago, in my view, and Auckland; the way NZCER disgraced itself with its recent maths research; the way Learning Media has been swallowed up by corporatism; the membership of NSSAG; and now we have the disgraceful 50.

For three years national standards has wallowed as the government has tried to reconcile the irreconcilable. Now we have predictions by national standards’ protagonists (Gary Hawke, for instance) that it will take another five years to get right – in other words, never. And leaving aside all the array of technical contradictions (all symptoms of hopelessly awry process) there is one central problem pedagogical problem: when a teacher is working with a child, whether, for instance, running records, Six Year Net, or STAR, the teacher’s task is to concentrate on gathering in all the rich information made available, to gather all the rich information those normed and teacher- and child-friendly tests can provide, then to move the child on from there – national standards are not a natural part of this process, they are an obstructive artificiality – to force them onto the interaction between teacher and child is to intervene destructively in something very precious.

Do the disgraceful 50 understand this? Did you know that to become one of Tolley’s 50 was a moral issue; if you didn’t you really shouldn’t be around children.

Did you read what has been happening overseas with national standards?

Did you consider the way national standards is just the first step towards much more radical anti-teacher change?

Did you consider the way any right-wing change in education always ends up harming economically disadvantaged children?

Did you consider the effects of national standards on the wider curriculum?

Did you consider the deliberate policy of demeaning teachers that is part of national standards?

Did you consider the cost for some of making a stand against national standards?

If, however, you did consider these matters and the morality of them, and you still decided to become one of her 50, what is it you bring to national standards? Can we look to the position you just left for indications of a brilliant response to the matters raised? Do you have some answers to the multiplicity of confusions and distortions that are occurring? Or are you simply going to be an agent for the politicians? Oh – and did you honestly weigh up how your decision might have been affected by the chance for you to escape schools, exercise power, further your career?

Yes – you 50, you are going into schools to monitor them – would that be much different to spying on them do you think? You are going into schools armed with new software that will pick up everything that crosses the ministry screens about the schools you are monitoring. That information will be aggregated on the basis of that school. It will all be there: ERO reports, charters, statements of variance, statistics, tittle-tattle, rumours, and lies. Will schools have access to the information your software has collected? Will that information, in its grouping, be added to, and relayed back to the ministry? Of course it will be.

Of course, when they turn up at your school, it will not be about national standards, it will be about enlightened conversation about ‘achievement’, it will be all sweetness and light. Just a pity for this argument, though, that their budget allocation was tabbed for national standards. They take us for some kind of fools?

The schools don’t want you there: most of them detest you (nothing personal, of course). Don’t you see the Orwellian nature of your role: the information-gathering, information-aggregating, authoritarian, fear-based nature of your work? Oh, congratulations on your new job. When you entered teaching I’m sure you had in mind such a role for yourself. I hope schools make you feel wanted and at ease. Yes, you’re there ‘identifying schools for flexible response.’ Which, translated, means you are there to apply the full institutional weight of the government and bureaucracies to bully schools into submission. Charming.

And to think the money being paid to you was made available by the dumping of our wonderful advisers who functioned so inspiringly across the curriculum. I consider your salary is education blood money. As well, part of the campaign to demean teachers is to have low status people like you come into schools, relying on the bureaucratic weight you bring with you for protection – all unspoken, of course, we are supposed to believe it’s just little old you.

Yes – all schools the same, standardised, uniform, controlled, buttoned-up, button-downed, paralysed by testing, and obedient to the bureaucracies and the government. Yes – the politicians, bureaucrats know best. Yes – this is education for the 21st century –you’ll be so proud to be a flag-bearer for it. This is corporate authoritarianism, but then again for you national standards is just about national standards, and pigs do fly.

And you’ll be delighted with the PLD to be provided by the government. The government knows best, so the provision must be right. I have a regional list in front of me, you’ll love it. There’s no health, or physical education, or technology, or drama, or dance, or music, or visual arts, or science, or social studies, or anything on competencies, or values, or integration, or anything on the new curriculum.

Sympathies to all those in the education system because I know you would have fought long and hard for a rich encompassing PLD provision. Mary Chamberlain promised the new curriculum would not be neglected so, even though she’s left the ministry, I know we’ll find on file her vehement protestations. I know because she is an honourable person.

And Karen Sewell at the recent VUW graduation ceremony spoke of the ‘liberal, holistic, curiosity-based characteristics of New Zealand’s world class system.’ So she would have fought tooth and nail against such a miserable curriculum provision because she is an honourable person.

A teacher wrote the following: ‘I wish to give expression to the despair and heartbreak I am forced to live with every day. It is devastating to have passionate commitment to teaching and learning whilst, at the same time being required by ministry edict to squeeze the wonder and curiosity out of each precious life I encounter.

This is a sentiment that most of us share. This expression was not written as a public statement, it was written out of deep personal sadness. Our concern for education is not just for those we teach, but also for those closest to us. Nothing could be more revealing, more troubling, or more a spur to action. We know the chances of our children and grandchildren coming across a brilliant and inspiring teacher have greatly lengthened because we agree – it is a system designed ‘to squeeze the wonder and curiosity out of each precious life’.

Not all principals are in a position to line their schools up against national standards, but all principals as individuals are in a position to line themselves up in support of their fellow principals and in support of a variety-based education system. I urge all principals to do this. We must stand together. National standards are not of a nature that allows compromise because it is not about us, it is about the children, and it is not in our moral compass to compromise on their behalf.

I urge principals to stand firm, for principals to support their colleagues. I have read Karen Sewell’s media release about the charter – it is bluster. Stand firm and stand together.

Ko te mea nui kia tutea, kia korurerurehia nga whakaaro ki te matauranga e whakamatika nei, e whakapuioio nei tatou.


Allan Alach said...

He sure has! I've sent his article on to everyone I can think of, flagged as a MUST READ.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Let's hope every principal reads Kelvin's posting. If the government wins it will be because of lack of moral courage by principals - or a sad lack of insight.

Girl said...

Kia Ora. I am here just thinking about the current climate of education and want to know if anyone has more suggustions around how we can push for change. All I see is the future generations that are going to suffer from the decisions of Ministers and govrnment that know nothing about what happens at grassroots. I'm apalled at Mr Keys thinking, and the cheek of him putting a Maori woman to head his most controversial arm of NZ Ministry. This shows cowardess in the highest degree. Hekia Parata is but a puppet in his game. Anyway I'm keen to be updated about anything to change the current polices. I am no longer out teaching but I am Teaching students in the Bachelor of Ed. degree so this affects my students going out as beggining teachers.

Bruce Hammonds said...

The only way to get real change is or opposition parties to present an alternative to National'a agenda - which they are.

I don't really follow your 'Maori woman' comment but I do do agree she is a puppet to push the government's agenda.