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An Open Email to Hekia Parata

Written By: - Date published: 1:21 pm, May 22nd, 2012 - 41 comments
Categories: education - Tags:

Ko Hikaroroa te mauka

Ko Waikowaiti te awa

Ko ngā waka ; ko Uruao, ko Araiteuru ko Takitimu hoki

Ko Waitaha, Mamoe, Kai Tahu ka Iwi

Ko Ka hapū ko Kāti Huirapa,

Ko te marae te Puketeraki

Ko Pat Newman ahau

Tihei Mauriora!

 

Tena Koe Minister Hekia Parata

I pen this Open Email to you, with the purpose of saying respectfully that your arguments re: the proposed changes to class numbers, staffing ratios are so false, that you must be aware that they have little to do with doing what is right for children. Rather they have more to do with politicians using glib phrases to try and justify the further ruination of an education system, that was once the best in the world. Minister it is not you and your colleagues, nor is it me and my colleagues who will suffer from your changes. It is the children of this nation!

Minister, there may have been 42 in your classes at school

BUT WHEN YOU AND I ATTENDED SCHOOL:

1.    The Behavioural and Special Needs Children were rarely in the classroom, being found jobs in the garden, cleaning, rubbish collecting, working with caretaker etc…..

2.    The numbers leaving school in your day without the ability to read and write were hidden by full employment…….

3.    There was little testing, little remedial work, lots of whole class regurgitation…….

4.    You were lucky to have one meeting a week…

5.    Parental expectations were considerably lower….

6.    Teaching was basically rote learning, a system that works for low level learning but certainly is not a method that will cover the educational needs of our current generation.

7.    The huge number of children attending school with severe social and behavioural problems were not there. They were expelled…. (Not saying that is what we should be doing at all but that was the reality then…..

8.    The 100000 New Zealand children we have on drugs for ADHD etc. for some reason were not apparent…. Perhaps because parent s had time to work and talk to their children…. Perhaps because of whatever reasons, they didn’t seem to exist in our societies classrooms when you and I were pupils!!

AS WELL

It is being blatantly dishonest to the public when to infer/state that a few extra kids in a class won’t make much difference. You know as well as I know, that where your cuts will hurt is the very groups that you say you care about:

– those needing extra help, those falling behind, included in those, are many of our own children that you  say you care about…

Why do I say this, because it is the ability to use the staffing schedule at the level it is at, to provide staffing for individualised or small group extra learning, to take a group of children out of the class for a time each day over say a term, and provide them with intensive help.

You know this, and although I would never say or think it, I have heard others say that it is blatant political dishonesty to hide the effects of your changes from the parents of this country.

I include Dr Snooks latest address, perhaps it may rekindle the fires and expectations that I know you once held for children’s learning

 

Ka kite ano


Graduation Address, Massey University, 16th May 2012 – Emeritus Professor Ivan Snook

 

The ritual of today’s ceremony is an ancient one but it speaks to contemporary values: it acknowledges talent, hard work, learning and professional dedication. I join in congratulating you on your achievement and in honouring those – parents, teachers, families, friends, university staff – who have helped you to get here. Most of you crossing the stage this morning are working or will be working in educational settings: early childhood centres, schools, tertiary institutions – or in other organisations which support formal education.

Much is heard these days of the importance of literacy and numeracy and of studies which lead to employment and support the economy. These are important but my simple message to you today is that you have a higher calling: to educate your students, opening their minds and hearts to the treasures contained in our cultural traditions.

Literacy is important as a tool for living but more importantly it opens the door to the stories of peoples past and present—opening up a lifetime of enjoyment, engagement and creative contribution. It reveals to us the rich treasures of literature, history and the arts, helps us to make ethical judgements and enables us to make a positive contribution to society.  It would be sad if we improved reading scores while our people read less  and were less engaged with the cultural world they inherit.

Numeracy too is important as a tool for living but more importantly, it opens up for us the scientific traditions which have been slowly built up over the centuries: by hardworking people carving a living from a hostile environment, by creative geniuses theorising in their studies and by hard working scientists in their laboratories. It would be tragic if the stress on numeracy were to be accompanied by a reduction in scientific understanding—as a recent report has suggested.

True education has the following features:

1. It has no immediate end. At the present time there is a fixation on narrow and immediate outcomes but the true outcomes of education are manifest only in later life when people live more critically, more creatively, more ethically.

2.   Education opens minds – sometime dangerously so (that is why it is so often feared).  This is opposed to current movements which value  conformists and unthinking consumers.

3. Education is critical, especially of grand claims advanced by people in power. The educated person asks: whose interests are being served by these claims or these policies?

4. Education poses ultimate questions of value: Not just, “will this work?” but “will this lead to the welfare of people?”

I have suggested you are called to education.  A calling was once named a vocation. Today this term survives in the expression  vocational education (that is, training to make one’s living). The great educational thinker, John Dewey pointed out 100 years ago that it is a distortion of the whole meaning of vocation to narrow it to our paid work. It includes this, of course, but also extends to our whole life: as spouses, parents, neighbours, friends, church-goers, community members, and citizens of a democratic society. In this sense all good education should be vocational: preparing us for our full participation in the life of our society. It is a perversion to restrict it to paid employment.

Of course, there are enormous challenges. We have to ask

  • How can you liberate minds when the daily grind involves the filling in of forms and the mindless completion of checklists?
  • How can you encourage critical, creative and ethically aware citizens when social forces demand passive consumers?
  • How can you truly educate when you are expected to focus on a narrow range of outcomes and never question  prevailing orthodoxies?
  • How can you, faced with demands to prepare for a pre-determined future, manage to work to make the future better than the past?

It is strange that when the business world is asked what they want from the education system they say that they want employees who are creative, flexible and able to work in a team.  But then they support educational policies which lead to the very opposite: people who are timid, inflexible and competitive.

Only you can come up with answers to these questions. I can only urge you to

  • keep up your reading, thinking and professional discussion with colleagues so that you can stand up to nonsense even when it comes from principals, ERO officers – or university professors.
  • keep close to parents. While they are sometimes enlisted by those with agendas hostile to education, they, like you, have the interests of their children at heart.  You and they are natural allies.
  • As I have told countless groups teachers over the past 20 turbulent years: conform when you must, resist when you can.  In the long run, the forces of light may be more powerful than the forces of darkness.

Quite recently….last week in fact… someone wrote that the the sensitive teacher is always

“Searching to find a way forward….

and delighting in the magic moments When beauty and truth are expressed”  (Kelvin Smythe)

Delighting in the magic moments when beauty and truth are expressed.”

May you have many such moments. Whether you do will  depend not on glossy brochures, smart slogans, or flowery mission statements, but on the personal qualities you bring to teaching and how you use them.  I wish you well in your task of helping to create the future.

Pat Newman

Principal Pat Newman T.T.C. Dip Ed(Waikato) B.Ed(Massey) Dip.Tchg,  ANZPF

Http://www.horahora.school.nz

41 comments on “An Open Email to Hekia Parata”

  1. tc 1

    Yeah but they have opinion that differs so it’s a steady course to wrecking what works and breaking what didn’t need to be fixed.

  2. Carol 2

    Ah, yes indeed. Education is important to understanding and participating in the wider culture, to help people think critically, etc, etc… This was what was in the air when I trained as a teacher in the late 60s. Then, in the 80s, with the neoliberal shift, the focus has been on education for work, and measurement of short term outcomes.

    Emeritus Professor Ivan Snook mentions John Dewey. I seem to remember reading Dewey, who had a focus on critical thinking as a necessary goal of education for all in a democracy.

    some of the important points from the above address:

    …my simple message to you today is that you have a higher calling: to educate your students, opening their minds and hearts to the treasures contained in our cultural traditions.
    […]
    True education has the following features:

    1. It has no immediate end. At the present time there is a fixation on narrow and immediate outcomes but the true outcomes of education are manifest only in later life when people live more critically, more creatively, more ethically.

    2. Education opens minds – sometime dangerously so (that is why it is so often feared). This is opposed to current movements which value conformists and unthinking consumers.

    3. Education is critical, especially of grand claims advanced by people in power. The educated person asks: whose interests are being served by these claims or these policies?

    4. Education poses ultimate questions of value: Not just, “will this work?” but “will this lead to the welfare of people?”

    […]
    Of course, there are enormous challenges. We have to ask

    How can you liberate minds when the daily grind involves the filling in of forms and the mindless completion of checklists?
    How can you encourage critical, creative and ethically aware citizens when social forces demand passive consumers?
    How can you truly educate when you are expected to focus on a narrow range of outcomes and never question prevailing orthodoxies?
    How can you, faced with demands to prepare for a pre-determined future, manage to work to make the future better than the past?

    […]
    As I have told countless groups teachers over the past 20 turbulent years: conform when you must, resist when you can. In the long run, the forces of light may be more powerful than the forces of darkness.

    And the bits in bold are my addition to highlight the key points.

    Well said, Prof!

  3. NattyM 3

    We know that class sizes really do matter and so do all the parents who have the luxury of being able to send their children to private schools. John Key’s son goes to Kings which proclaims on its website:

    King’s is proud of its academic record and, through our Entrance Examination, we ensure that students have the ability and potential to cope with our academic curriculum. Class sizes are limited and our policy of a low pupil-to-teacher ratio ensures students are given greater individual attention in the classroom.

    If it didn’t matter, private schools will increase their class sizes to cope with funding pressures.

    So yet again, the privileged children of the rich get even more advantage in life while the rich Nacts and their cronies running this increasingly vicious and hateful government pretend that it’s all about level playing fields and anyone can succeed if they try hard enough. yeah right!!

    • marsman 3.1

      If Private Schools want more funding will they be told to increase their class sizes?

  4. captain hook 4

    wasting your time folks.
    she cant read.
    she totally externally referenced.
    i.e. if I look good in my pearls and black number then I am ok.
    yeah right.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      Parata is pretty intelligent. Just sayin’.

      • marsman 4.1.1

        CV i.e. she is being deliberately malevolent?

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1

          Not exactly. Worth remembering that Tories always keep their eye on the prize. She is doing whatever it takes to improve her chances at an eventual leadership tilt.

    • Sam Hall 4.2

      In Full Formal Fascist Battledress Today

  5. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 5

    principly class size –

    How many kids in your class?

  6. insider 6

    Jeez if he wants to make an impression on the minister it would help if he learnt to punctuate; The first sentence is appalling and a disgrace coming from a professional educator who chooses to lecture criticise others who are wanting to improve the education system.

    • Carol 6.1

      There is nothing wrong with the first sentence, but maybe you have difficulty following a complex sentence. I ran it through word 2010 grammar check and it was judged to be fine. And Word has a tendency to not like complex sentences.

      • insider 6.1.1

        Word grammar check is very dangerous. here’s a few issues I found

        I pen this Open Email (unnecessary capitalisation of nouns) to you, (superfluous comma) with the purpose of saying (are you penning or saying?) respectfully (I’d have separated this word from the main clause with commas, but accept some might not) that your arguments re: (why is there a colon here when there is no list or separation of clauses?) the proposed changes to class numbers, (why is there a comma here? Shouldn’t there be a conjunction?) staffing ratios are so false, (why is there a comma here?) that you must be aware that they have little to do with doing what is right for children.

        • Carol 6.1.1.1

          nitpicking, much! Do you have any comment on the content, BTW? Or are you looking to divert the discussion from the important issue at hand?

          Unnecessary capitals? – it’s part of the title of the email, so really, not a problem. And is in-keeping with the context of being an email, in which a colloquial tone is acceptable, in my view.

          This bit is an insert into the main direction of the sentence, and therefore is separated out by commas:

          , with the purpose of saying respectfully that your arguments re: the proposed changes to class numbers, staffing ratios are so false,

          saying or penning? Really – so much nitpicking! Not unacceptable. Commas around respectfully, not necessary and would overly complicate the flow of the main intent of the sentence.

          “re:” I wouldn’t have used, but it indicates a fairly informal, spoken word tone to the email – and it is an email. In a more formal context I would have used, “with respect to.”

          I don’t have a problem with the last 2 commas – nit-picking again.

          And I like the “exuberant” tone – it gives a sense of the urgency and indignation behind the email. IMO, it falls somewhere between formal written English and spoken language.

          Now, do you have any comment on the content, which is very pertinent and significant?

        • felix 6.1.1.2

          Penning or saying? Really, insider?

          There’s nothing unusual about using the written word to “say” things. Some of us do it all the time.

          Perhaps it seems odd to you because for all your penning you say so very little.

          • bullcat 6.1.1.2.1

            Considering the fact that this is the writing of a professor, I don’t think it is nit-picking to assume that the basic sentence structure should be accurate. Especially when she is published in a public forum like this.

            Assuming that only a moron would use a computer program to check grammar, it’s lucky that some people still have their own brain to recall primary school level linguistic information, such as “use ‘and’ to join items in a list.”

            Thus, the omission of an appropriate conjunction in the first sentence (“…class numbers, staffing ratios …”) is more bad grammar. I assume this would be a “needs improvement” or “not achieved” for a 14-year-old, so it should be a “hide your head in shame” for a professor.

            Or, perhaps the professor is trying to highlight, through her ‘deliberate errors’ (I know that teacher’s trick from my days as a student with useless illiterate pc monsters teaching values instead of usable skills because they are basically useless), how bad the education was in the past when she and Hekia Parata were at school?

            Get the professors next, Hekia. Cut every cost you can by sacking anyone who can’t prove their literacy. It’s time for language testing for all education professionals. How many of these Te Reo speaking professors would flunk an IELTS test?

            • Jason 6.1.1.2.1.1

              Awesome, ‘bullcat': baited enough and you reveal your essentially racist thinking in your last paragraph – if this were me winding up a drunk in a shady bar – I’d know you were just about to swing. I teach English in a community that has a dialect that is not yet formally recognized, and I come from a province that has an officially recognized dialectial variation on NZ English. As such, I think I can say with some clarity and authority, that you, Sir, are being a prig and a bore. PLEASE PLAY THE BALL, NOT THE PLAYER. (That’s a metaphor, and deliberate caps abuse, yes, I WAS emphasizing).

    • North 6.2

      Nitpicker – watch your own punctuation.

      And how does increasing class sizes reflect a wish to improve education ?

    • Murray Olsen 6.3

      My question to you, insider, is why are you here? You seem like a typical Tory, thinking that style is more important than content. In other words, the guy in the flash suit must be intelligent and important, even when he talks complete rubbish. Good on the headmaster for taking a stand.

      • bullcat 6.3.1

        This isn’t about Left vs Right, Murray.

        If you want to draw pompous conclusions without engaging in debate with those who have different views to your own, why don’t you start up your own forum where you moderate all the comments to read like cheerleading chants for your opinions?

        The debate over how to improve teacher quality includes the question of how to judge teachers so that money isn’t wasted. One obvious way to judge teachers is by their ability to use language, both as a means of expression and as a proof that they themselves have high standards of education, which can be passed on to students they teach.

        Insider raised a point that might have touched on a nerve with your own low standards of education and resentment of those who have taken the time to acquire skills and knowledge which make them more valuable to society than you.

        Nobody is questioning whether good teachers are important.

  7. Rupert the Beer 7

    Wow – I like Pat, and support what he is saying, I just wish he wouldn’t write while he’s excited.

  8. Roy 8

    It’s an email. I think that it is generally accepted that the standards of punctuation and grammar in an email may be lower than those required for a formal document.

    • insider 8.1

      It’s a formal open email (or should I say Open Email) which has been publicly released to make a political statement. I think that puts it in a much different category than day to day emails.

      • Rupert the Beer 8.1.1

        I agree. Ignoring his unconventional style, an over-use of ellipses and multiple exclamation marks strikes me as a little unprofessional when he’s communicating with a Minister, and undermines his message IMHO.

      • mac1 8.1.2

        Interestingly, I first read Pat’s statement on facebook where the first sentence about which insider complains is punctuated differently. Pat also in giving permission to a user for this, not the Standard btw in this instance, gave a caveat about errors.

        I prefer his facebook statement and am in agreement with him and with my old school teacher, Ivan Snook.

        Now, insider, to the substance of Pat Newman’s open e-mail……. whaddya reckon about his and Dr Snook’s arguments?

  9. acting up 9

    I’ve met Pat a few times. He is a top class bloke, and a great educator. He has huge respect in the education field. He is someone with an opinion to be respected. I hope the minister pays him due attention.

    • Pat Newman 9.1

      Thanks for the comments about being a good bloke… Its the message that is important…

  10. pat newman 10

    Wot a sanktamoeous twit.. iwrit this to be read alloewd… to be honist if all he can critissize is my grammrr then he muxst. Be one of those boring farts who kill creativitie with adherense to ruls………

  11. Jenny K 11

    Good on yer, Pat ! I luv the mis-spelling . Insider obviously has no idea about how to write something which is eye-catching and also passes on a serious message.

  12. Dave 12

    While Pat does have some good points, it would be better if he used correct grammar and punctuation throughout his letter, given the subject matter and his occupation.

    • Pat Newman 12.1

      Dave when I accessed your blog site Extra Mural Students Association, it was good to realise that your comments re my position and status and grammar(OOPS three and’s in one sentence… that will give the pedantics another few hours of writing!!!) were not reflected in your own blog……

      I am also over the moon that you condescendingly comment that I have some good points……. perhaps if you actually worked in the field i do, you just might realise that I made my statement from experience and not academic theory and that everything I said came under the title”Good Points” not just some of it!!!!!!!!! I like using lots of explanation marks, so there…………….. and dots and anything else that makes me feel better when I write!!!!??XX!!!!!

  13. Dv 13

    Who said this?

    The Government was wasting an opportunity (with projected falling rolls) to shrink class sizes “to have better relationships between families, teachers and students which research shows is really important for achievement, particularly disadvantage kids

  14. We Live in Hope 14

    Parata waxes lyrical about addressing the so called “tail”of students that are failing to achieve and leave school without Level 2 NCEA. She wants to improve the quality of teaching so the best way to achieves this is to reduce the amount of Government funded teaching staff by very close to 20%.

    The mantra is that it is better to have more kids in the classrooms of competent teachers than less kids in the classes of incompetent teachers. The issue is that by increasing the class sizes of teachers from 23 to 27.5 (-19.56%) on average will mean that there is an increased likelihood that the good teachers will wither try to move to private schools who sell themselves on their low class sizes and greater individual attention or they will drift away from the profession. We are likely to end up with larger classes in the hands of less able teachers. Makes all sorts of sense. Schools will endeavour to cope by reducing the programmes that take up teacher hours such as music, drama, reading support, maths support and the tail will simply become longer as those kids who need extra support especially at primary school levels will not have it available to them.

    This has all the feeling of a corporate restructuring where everyone has to reapply for their jobs so the good people bugger off and get jobs with the competitors and the less able are left to fill the roles. But we would need a MBA to work out that sort of strategy.

    Then Parata wants performance pay but she is clueless on the criteria that can be utilised to determine the wheat from the chaff and she wants the performance pay determined by the well intentioned boards of trustees who are not qualified nor able to undertake such a task on what in all probability will be a set of criteria that have a fair degree of subjectivity. Makes all sorts of sense.

    The Ministry of Education has not yet been able to deliver a National Standard that is moderated and consistently applied from school to school so what chance of performance pay criteria.

    Despite all the window dressing that the government is trying to put around this it is simply a 20% cut to coal face teacher funding.

  15. red blooded 15

    Let’s take a deep breath and stop wittering on about proofreading and punctuation. The point is that this Minister (more articulate and telly-savvy, and therefore more dangerous, than the last) is on the attack. She and her mates have always wanted to teach teachers a lesson; the last time they were in charge the phrase they used to exclude teachers from having an input into education policy was “provider capture”. They seem unable to appreciate that most teachers are motivated by a commitment to helping kids learn and seeing as many of them as possible achieve their potential.

    Let’s remember, too, that the teacher unions (NZEI and PPTA) are two of the last strong, membership-driven and active unions in our fair land. They both have a strong professional core, spending members’ money to develop policy about education practice and resourcing that is based on best practice for students and a strong commitment to state education as the best way of providing equity of access and quality of learning. They both include principals, managers and classroom teachers (although principals are employed on separate contracts), and they are prepared to take action when needed. Other state employees (such as nurses) reference their earnings to those of teachers when bargaining on their own behalf.

    Class sizes have a direct effect on teacher-pupil interactions and contact. Let’s put this together with the issue of performance pay, too, which has been shown in countries and states where it is used to narrow the focus of learning, discourage the sharing of resources and expertise and grind down base pay rates. It looks like we’re in for a long two years…

  16. Georgecom 16

    A couple more matters relating to Minister Parata stating how she was in a class of 42.

    1. Back in her day at school half of all students who sat School Certificate, as I understand it, failed. Is Minister Parata also advocating for a system of examinations that fails 50% of students?

    2. Back in her day at school, a student could leave school at 15 and fairly easily walk into a job. Unemployment was around 1%. Is the Minister going to allow students to leave school at 15 and guarantee the unemployment rate at 1%?

    If the answer to these questions is “No”, then Minister, why raise at all the matter of you being in a class of 42.

    Isn’t it a dishonest justification and defense of your decision to raise class sizes?

  17. cray 17

    I’m am a father of two. Being a father of four would not be twice as hard. It would be exponentially harder. I have been a teacher of 30 students. Teaching 33 students was not a ‘little bit harder’ it’s exponentially harder. Teaching 35 students and beyond is almost undebatable. One minister teaching 42 is not substantial empirical evidence. Can someone who is not a teacher please show some support?

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