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Children bigger than politics

Written By: - Date published: 7:21 am, November 8th, 2010 - 29 comments
Categories: dpf, education, national - Tags: ,

Shame on those who put politics above the well-being of children.

Pity those who wallow so intensively in the mud of politics that they are unable to see any issue in other than political terms.

Shame and pity on those, like National’s pet blogger DPF, who are prepared to advocate a system likely to damage children because all they can see is politics. They can’t see the evidence. They can’t see the children. Only the game.

DPF’s record on the national standards debate has been disgusting. In August he wrote:

This is hilarious. Do you know why? The NZPF [New Zealand Principals Federation] is refusing to actually detail their concerns about the standards. They keep saying they are flawed, but have declined every request to detail how exactly they are flawed. They say they will not detail the flaws, unless the Government agrees in advance to suspend the standards.

As I replied at the time, this was utter bullshit. NZPF’s concerns were plastered all over their website, e.g.:

W. B. Elley, May 2010

1. The National Standards policy assumes ‘One Size Fits All’. But our children vary enormously in backgrounds, interests, needs and abilities. They learn best if their teaching is pitched just above their present level. Each child should work to his/her own standard.

2. The Standards have been hastily prepared by committees, and untested for difficulty or intelligibility. They may well prove to be too hard, or too easy for the majority of children. … etc …

We didn’t hear any more of that particular line of nonsense out of DPF. But now he has another just as puerile, trying to portray the massive opposition to national standards as a Labour / union driven political campaign. For this he relies on documents produced by another blogger (a known forger of evidence) and speculation that a Board of Trustees chairwoman (Jane Forrest) must be the same person as someone with a similar name who was an activist 14 years ago. Yes — really.

Two things. First, you know the Nats have lost the debate when all they have left is shooting the messenger. From Tolley on down to the grubby little bloggers the Nats have nothing, no evidence, no reasoned argument, nothing except union-bashing hysteria. And second, let’s grant that it’s all true. Some of those active in the revolt against standards are unionists and even (teh horrorz!) members of the Labour Party. Now — so what? Are they are automatically wrong? Are they automatically barred from having an opinion? Teacher unionist: “We should rescue the children about to be run over by the bus!”. DPF: “It’s all a union political campaign!”.

Let’s remember where all this started. With warnings from the government’s own education advisor Professor John Hattie:

Prime Minister John Key has credited Hattie, a highly influential education expert who is often called in to advise officials on education matters, with inspiring the system. But today Hattie is going public with a critical discussion paper – which he says is a to-do list rather than an attack on the system. The paper warns that although the national standards system could be a “wonderful opportunity” it:

Could be the most disastrous education policy ever formulated.

Will only barely raise student achievement, if at all.

Could “pervert the nature of teaching” by pitting schools and teachers against one another.

Hattie also writes that the standards themselves – the targets students will be measured against – are “untested and experimental” and need to be drawn up based on evidence, not committees.

Is the government’s own educational advisor a credible source? Yes. Is the government’s own educational advisor running a union campaign? No. And it is his advice (and other experts emphasising the potential for national standards to harm children) that lead to the widespread schools’ rebellion. Are the schools refusing to participate in standards (early list here) all from Labour electorates? No. They are from the length and breadth of New Zealand. They aren’t running a union political campaign, they are standing up for children.

Summing up. The government’s own education advisor says that national standards could be the most disastrous education policy ever formulated. When the government refuses to test the standards and drives schools and the boards of trustees representing parents to eventually oppose them, National and their lapdogs do not engage with the evidence or the professional debate. Because they can’t. All they can do is threaten schools and look for ways to attack the messenger. It is an utterly shameful abdication of responsibility to the worst kind of “win at all costs” aggression. They are quite prepared to damage our children for the sake of the political game.

29 comments on “Children bigger than politics”

  1. I find it interesting that Farrar and Whaleoil are running a scene from a 15 year old documentary as their evidence of Forrest’s political views.

    They clearly didn’t go trawling through every piece of material including old documentaries searching for dirt on Forrest and co themselves. Only the nat research unit has that kind of resourcing.

    The irony in saying that anyone with political views can’t legitimately express a view on a political issue is that Farrar and Whale are the first to be delegitimised by that logic.

    Of course, what it’s really about is bullying and intimidating anyone who speaks up against the Government: ‘keep quiet or we’ll drag your name through the muck’. Good to see the msm isn’t buying it so far.

    • burt 1.1

      I find it interesting that Labour are running policy from the 1800’s – but hey that’s politics.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        Burt, It’s National that’s trying to run a policy from the 1800s. Labour, and pretty much everyone else, is trying to keep the policy that developed over the last few decades and which happens to actually work.

      • bbfloyd 1.1.2

        don’t know why you bother burt… it’s just the same tired old partisan drivel every time you sit at your keyboard.. i hope you get a thrill from doing this… cause it would be totally pointless otherwise..

  2. jcuknz 2

    Perhaps you should note the difference between ‘could’ and ‘will’.
    Sounds like an academic putting a bet on both ways to me and of course those who don’t like the idea pick up on it and trumpet it for all they are worth, even though the comment is worthless …. amusing really.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Except academics are usually extremely conservative with their language. The fact that Hattie chose the words he did shows an extreme level of concern around child education risks and outcomes. Hattie is not going to use the word “will” because he is a researcher aware of probabilities not a fortune teller.

      even though the comment is worthless …. amusing really.

      In addition to bagging the Government’s own top advisor, why don’t you leave the discussion around this to people who take child education seriously.

    • Ari 2.2

      Academics hedging their bets talk about probabilities and difficulties, they don’t fiercely criticise the implementation of policies they were passionate advocates for.

      Try again.

    • bbfloyd 2.3

      j.c..Worthless… bit like your comment really.. but not amusing.

  3. So that is two out of 240 schools where an attempt at a smear has been made. What is the bet that the other 238’s boards of trustees are having their personal details googled in search of incriminating evidence of (gasp) left wing action.

    This really is disgusting behaviour and we see it time and time again where the messenger is attacked and not the policy.

    • Roflcopter 3.1

      At least they aren’t sending people over to Australia to trawl through boxes of paper.

      • mickysavage 3.1.1

        Does this mean R that you think that Farrar and Whaleoil are out of line too?

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.1.2

        Good to see you are on board. The H fee stuff was ordinary.

        Seriously though, is it me or are we developing a public nastiness and petty vindictiveness at the moment. If someone opposes you you leak information about people which unleashes a hidden moral outrage. Then someone rom the government makes a snide talking point (in the general of course) to keep the debate going.

        You saw it in the 2008 Presidential election against Obama who came out and used it to hurt the accuser. These people don’t give rats about policy and good decision making they are only interested in power and influence. If we let it occur unchallenged NZ is going to be in a pretty poor place in a couple of years.

  4. ianmac 4

    I think that it is probable of the 240+ BOTs, that at least half would be chaired by and/or populated by members or supporters of the National Party. Perhaps DPF could go digging into the National background of some of the more outspoken ones? (Or does it mean that only Labour supporters are interested in Education?)

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 4.1

      Why does everybody in this country have to run around with a red, blue or green sticker?

      • grumpy 4.1.1

        Good point, also, if 90% of schools have no trouble implementing National Standards, why are we even discussing the 10% dissenters..

        Not many issues get 90% support.

        • ianmac

          We do know that 12% of BOTs have gone public.
          We do know that the bulk of schools are very concerned about the down side of NS.
          Please tell me who the 90% are Grumpy.
          (I do know that the 11 schools in our area are not joining the boycott, but their press statement say that they are very concerned about the process and that the lack of credible research give flawed results.)

        • Colonial Viper

          12% of the NZ workforce walking off the job would be 300,000 people downing tools, downing pens, downing mice.

          That’s frakin up there.

      • Crumble 4.1.2

        I agree Zaphod with your general idea here. National Standards, as the stand right now, are not good educational policy. This is the outcome of a number of studies and is an evidence based decision.

        The issue of National Standards has become a political one and is very quickly moving away from the real issue. Is the govt’s policy of National Standards a good education policy? The answer for me, the 240 BOTs, and a ever increasing number of teachers and parents is no.

      • Vicky32 4.1.3

        So Jan and Trev Average can tell who to support and who to denigrate?

  5. Zaphod Beeblebrox 5

    Grumpy. Don’t know about the 90% bit- most parents I spoke to were not that impressed with the new school reports (your child is yes, no or maybe- with no context or analysis). But I do agree we don’t need our schools to be turned into a mini- parliamentary debating chamber. The appropriate place to air dissatisfaction with govt policy is the ballot box not the School Board meeting. This sort of stuff just diverts attention and gets Tolley off the hook.

    • grumpy 5.1

      If the Trustees are indeed boycotting National Standards without authority from parents, then School Board meetings are a good place to start.

      It will be interesting to find out the real situation when Boards reply to the Min of Ed’s survey.

  6. ianmac 6

    Zaphod : “The appropriate place to air dissatisfaction with govt policy is the ballot box not the School Board meeting.”
    Catch is that the hurry of implementation puts the issue in the “now.” In due course sure ballot box for BOT elections or General Election. And yes making it a political debate is unhelpful to kids.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      I tend to believe that its not a real democracy if you have 2.9 years of dictatorship with a month or two of democratic activity and a vote inbetween times.

      • grumpy 6.1.1

        How about 9 years?

        • Craig Glen Eden

          Yeah, I agree nine years of National was terrible aye? May it never happen again in my life time.

      • TightyRighty 6.1.2

        what would be a real democracy then CV? constant peer and social review against a particular set of benchmarks, with politicians removed from office for failing to meet these?

        • Colonial Viper

          I’d take the focus off politicians for a moment, away from the Few and on to the Many. Give the Many the information, forums, news, democratic levers to act on and use over a wide range of issues. Ensure that everyone can participate in democratic debate and that democratic principles are utilised in business life as well as in Government.

          Your ideas of peer and social review of Government and politician performance would fit well inside this framework.

  7. My children go to one of the 90% of schools that have implemented National Standards and I do not believe this experiment will last long. I do see parents at our school slowly coalescing into a strident opposition to this foolishness. This policy has a history of failure on an international scale. It is not about improving the learning performance of struggling school children as much as it is another tool with which the well-to-do can abuse lower decile public schools.

    As far as I can tell the only benefit this program will provide is statistics ‘proving’ well resourced, state subsidised, private schools perform better than resource starved lower decile public schools. These ‘statistics’ can then be used to provide a foundation for implementing future policy which rewards ‘success’ and punishes ‘failure’.

    There can be no doubt the social catastrophe the Key regime is currently overseeing will create a steady stream of lower decile school ‘failures’ and -although these kids are suffering from a variety of environmental deprivations outside of the education system- this will be promoted as the rationale for increasing subsidies for the private school system at the expense of the already struggling public sector.

    People like DPF and Matthew Hooten are worth watching because they seem to be the harbingers of National/Act party policy intent. As ugly as they are, they must be listened to carefully. At the moment both seem to be sounding a little desperate in their support for the National Standards fiasco. It appears the National party is prepared to go down with this ship and I think Matthew Hooten and DPF are getting sea sick. Although they both want to see the Key regime attend to the peculiar interests of their core support network, they also understand that that effort could easily cost them the next election.

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