Stupid competition

Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, March 13th, 2010 - 30 comments
Categories: education - Tags: , ,

I was going to do a post about how National’s implementation of national standards is driven by pure ideology, and appears to be based on no evidence whatsoever. Key and Tolley keep making statements about education that make no logical or factual sense at all. So I was going to choose the stupidest statement of the week and pull apart the factual and logical fallacies. But I have a problem – I can’t pick which quote to use. Should I use this one, by Key:

For the last 20 to 30 years there has been no national standards in New Zealand, and one in five young new Zealanders are unable to read and write properly.

or this one by Tolley?:

“I’m certain what it will do is raise the quality of education,” she said, “because the way you do that is focus on fewer things with an absolutely relentless determination – and that is what we are going to do”.

Gentle reader, make your case. Which of these is the stupider statement, and why? Because I really can’t choose between them.

[Update: Hah. This post also shows that my comprehension skills aren’t all they should be when I write in a hurry. The second quote relates to cutbacks in the Education Ministry, “focusing” their activities, partly in response to but not directly about national standards. It’s also not clear whether it should be attributed to Tolley or Secretary for Education Karen Sewell. Both quotes can still be read as stupid comments about education however!]

30 comments on “Stupid competition”

  1. freedom 1

    the authority of the person quoted should be the first measure, so hands down, our beloved leader

    and i love how his ‘one in five’ are failing exactly equals Tolley’s ‘30% are failing’. good to know Nat Math is balanced and accurate

    and haha captcha: decide

  2. Lew 2

    With the first statement, even though the facts are disputable, and even though it’s false causation, there’s at least the ghost of reasoning there. The second is the more objectively stupid statement, because it’s nothing more than a self-justifying meaningless appeal to will — we can because we can, and we will do it by doing it. There’s not even the attempt at evidence. It’s faith-based, and unselfconsciously so.


  3. Bill 3

    I’m with Tolley.

    “..focus on fewer things with an absolutely relentless determination.”

    Isn’t the flip side that she will have to focus on things she is determined to ignore lest they sneak in under the focus radar demanding attention?

    But I suspect she aspires to be a singular embodiment of the three wise monkeys…either that or she’s the long lost fourth one.

    edit For the sake of clarity, I should point out that I’m not actually with Tolley and am in no position to confirm her lack of apeness.

  4. Olwyn 4

    Both would be good. With the first, apart from the possibility that both sides of the conjunction are false, correlation does not equal cause – that it does is implied but not stated, since the suppressed conclusion seems to be “therefore we should have national standards.” With the second, the main premise seems implausible, being neither self-evident nor supported by evidence. She suggests a deductive conclusion from her dodgy evidential premise, although “I am certain” is not the same as “it is certain” – I can be certain and I can be wrong without inconsistency, since the truth of the matter is not determined by my belief, whereas a claim like “it is certain” cannot be true and false at the same time. Overall, Tolley’s has the most stupid premise; on its basis you could concentrate on raffia work and colouring-in, and education would improve. Key’s suffers from both material and logical failure, since the premise itself seems to be false (we do have national standards, just not the ones he advocates, and 20% functional illiteracy seems a bit steep), and his conclusion does not follow from it. Aaagh! What a way to spend 15 minutes on a Saturday morning.

  5. Bill 5


    Notice how the rhetoric remains constant across societies and (supposed) political divides?

    Schools are ‘failures’ and teachers are ‘incompetent’ in the US as well as here.

    Meanwhile, the inter party working group for school choice report that coolas linked to the other day.. Step Change: Success the Only Option states…

    “of the 57 countries that participated in PISA 2006, only two performed better than New Zealand overall. Only three countries had a significantly higher mean reading literacy performance and only five recorded a significantly higher mean mathematical literacy score.’ The proportion of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 2 or above has increased by 24 percentage points over the last five years.”

    Meanwhile, anyone care to point out any fundamental difference between Obama’s pro corporate Race to the Top educational policy with its promotion of Private Charter Schools and the proposed ‘Eight Step Initiative’ and the promotion of undefined ‘providers’ in this goverments report?

    • prism 5.1

      Good point Bill. I think education to politicians and the chronically dissatisfied is a handy scapegoat as a focus for most gripes about a country’s perceived evils. It is hard to measure how well it works for the country and so though there are already adequate progress measures, the myth of unsatisfactory teachers feeding off taxpayers is easily raised. Then most teachers, like nurses, take their jobs seriously and responsibly and are slow to take action when they are villified with anti-propaganda of gender as well as effectiveness.

      We seem to get most of our wonderful new educational initiatives shopworn from wonderful USA. That’s why we can reduce our Min of Education. Why waste $25 million – let’s stop pretending that we are interested in listening to our specialised advisors. Go straight to overseas sources for our country’s policy – do not pass go do not collect $200 either.

      We won’t end up better off in this country after these cuts just with the same toolkit education that enables All Blacks and prissy clever girls to succeed in their studies and examinations, get good jobs and money with the least educational rigour and breadth of view possible. Look at the National women, good at managing, bad at vision for good policy serving all the country.

  6. Ianmac 6

    God says,” For the last 20 or 30 years, there have been no National Standards for MP’s. This has meant that 1 in 5 are failing to meet the basic level of integrity. I will smite those who lie or mislead.”

    God says, “I exist so it is proof. Anne has a comb. A rooster has a comb so Anne is a rooster, and if the rooster says National Testing will improve the quality above the current very high ranking of NZ schools, who dares to disagree? I will smite those who dare to question!”

  7. Pascal's bookie 7

    I’m going with Tolley.

    It redefines ‘education’ as simply an arbitrary task to be achieved, sets up sucess as making that task smaller, calls that a win, and pats itself on the back.

    • Bill 7.1

      So by focussing with absolute relentless determination on mis-spelling (the arbitrary task) of your mis-spelling of the word ‘success’ (making that task smaller) we discover a win/win and pats all round situation…a quality and multi layered successful outcome.

  8. coolas 8

    Both comments are stupid but Tolley’s reveals a disturbing psychopathy.

    She supports ‘ruthless determination’ to achieve what she knows to be ‘certain’ (offering no evidence)

    Historic references make me shudder. This is turning into major drama.

  9. Roger 9

    Clearly it’s Tolley. Key’s statement shows the cause and effect logic that would be expected from a nine year old. Tolley on the other hand highlights one of the major fears presented by experts as a good thing. To “focus on fewer things with an absolutely relentless determination” does not represent an improvement in education. The only lesson we are learning is the terrible effect that an idiot as minister of education can have on our schools.

  10. toad 10

    It’s neither Key or Tolley r0b – the big winner here is the late Honourable Merv Wellington.

    • r0b 10.1

      A name that has me hunting in my wardrobe for stake, mallet and holy water.

      And in general as far as I can see everyone who has commented on this post so far has vastly better analytical skills than (and twice the brains of) either our PM or our Minister for National Standards. It has to be a bit of a worry really.

    • Descendant Of Smith 10.2

      Hey at least when Merv Wellington was in that role he was able to direct funds towards building a new science block at New Plymouth Boys High School – just in time for the school centenary.
      I think there was also a gymnasium built as well but my memory may not be serving me well – it may have come slightly later.

      At least then there was some advantage to having an old boy as Minister of Education.

      • prism 10.2.1

        What school is Anne Tolley’s alma mater or pater or whatever? It would be nice for them to look forward to some largesse. But these days are not propitious for such endowments.

        Hey look Anne I got educated all right and can use big words and grapple with abstract concepts, and I have learned how to use new technology and done tertiary study as a senior which you are trying to limit these days.

        Can’t have people having minds that are active and enquiring and critical, this vein of Kiwi mental adventurism should be stamped out, today its all being the same and conforming plus concentrating on physical adventurism and activities that are the important things now that we have machines that can think for us.

    • Jenny 10.3

      Alas poor Gumboot, I loathed him well. Probably the most hated Minister of Education in this country’s history till he was outdone by an even more treacherous and right wing Minister of Education in the Lange/Douglas administration. Who was to be punished for his perfidy by his own electorate by being dumped from this previously, and subsequently, safe Labour seat.

      Thank god the modern Labour Party had the good sense not to rehabilitate this closet Rogernome and, or promote him to any senior role in the party.

  11. Olwyn 11

    It would not be all that surprising if Ianmac’s alternatives were plagiarised by one of their speech writers; given the existing standard, they are comparatively graceful.

  12. Richard 12

    The NZHerald article linked to seems to suggest that the Tolley quote was actually said by “Secretary for Education Karen Sewell”. Although the article might just be badly written.

    I suppose if Tolley needs to hide behind officials that speaks volumes about her competency too.

    • r0b 12.1

      You are right. The article isn’t clear, apologies to Tolley if I have incorrectly attributed that comment (though it certainly captures her views). Readers might like to suggest any other stupid Tolley comment to take its place.

  13. coolas 13

    How about to the Napier meeting on her ‘limo tour’ (1 March);

    “National Standards are not about labeling kids, league tables, a new test replacing others, performance pay for teachers, or similar to any overseas systems.’

    All the while on her desk is the Working Group Report advocated all of those.

    How stupid stupid is that when the report says N/S are step 1 of 8 step process.

    Can’t wait for Tolley’s response when MSM wake up and join the dots.

  14. Ian 14

    Tolley. A few things relentlessly does it for me.

  15. Anne 15

    When God came to dish out the grey cells for Tolley he was temporarily distracted and only gave her half a set. He did at least give Key a full set – more or less.

    It’s Tolley by a mile. 🙂

  16. Anne 16

    Ooops I didn’t read latest comments. Still, if you replace with Tolley’s Napier meeting quote as reported by coolas, then most of the comments still stand…

  17. toad 17

    This is the most embarrassing of the numerous stupid Tolley quotes:

    Currently a large number of assessment tools are used by schools, and no one standard applies across them. That is what national standards are. So the existing assessment tools will remain in place, and the national standards will go right across all those tools, so that it will not matter which school a child goes to, or which assessment tool a particular school uses, because there will be a standard that is national. That is the essence of national standards, so the inter-school moderation is exactly that. Parents will know, whichever school their children attend— Well, it just shows that you do not understand— It just shows that you do not understand what national standards are

    Totally unintelligible gibberish!

  18. 18

    Quote 1. Maybe wave & smile should read the NZ curriculum. There are a number of benchmarks and progression steps sprinkled through the primary curriculum.

    Quote 2. The Minister could be quite correct here. Ranking schools on standards results could very well lead to a focus on fewer things. It is termed a narrowing of the curriculum with an emphasis on literacy & numeracy at the expense of a broad curriculum focus.

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