The Bard offers chance for new Minister

Written By: - Date published: 7:43 pm, November 15th, 2008 - 46 comments
Categories: education - Tags:

This afternoon I read with a degree of surprise that Shakespeare’s days as standard classroom fare could be numbered:

Shakespeare’s plays and other great works of literature considered too difficult for some pupils will disappear from classrooms under proposed changes to the curriculum, alarmed principals say. There are also fears that basic content in maths, history and business studies will be axed in a drive to make subjects easier, “dumbing down” schoolchildren and further undermining NCEA. Education officials are reviewing the way secondary-school subjects are assessed in preparation for the new curriculum, to be introduced from 2010.

Well that should be an easy enough re-direction for our yet to be named Education Minister! I look forward to seeing the National team in action on this one.

46 comments on “The Bard offers chance for new Minister ”

  1. Standardised testing will also cut into subjects like PE so we’ll have (to borrow a term from Supersize Me) more “fat readers”.

  2. Doug 2

    National will have to scrap NCEA, retrain the teachers and go with the Cambridge examinations.

  3. slightlyrighty 3

    You can’t say I didn’t warn you guys!

  4. QoT 4

    OH GOD THAT ARTICLE. Any Min Ed employee who refers to senior high-school essays as “faithfully reproducing content” needs to spend less time in marketing meetings and more time actually near a classroom.

  5. Our education system has been a shambles for a long time. Who ever let kids write their exams answers down in txt lange shd be sht.

  6. So we can say goodbye to such greats as Death of a Salesman and Othello now?

  7. Liar 7

    I wish we could say goodbye to a demented glowing pussy cat.

  8. Ag 8

    It’s no real surprise from a country where most people tend to hate knowledge pursued for its own sake. The fact that mindless subjects such as “business studies” are in the curriculum shows the writing was already on the wall.

  9. Alan 9

    A typical bit of lazy journalist beat up on NCEA in the DomPost. The reviewed matrix of standards for English, at least, will be more closely tied to the curriculum levels described in the National Curriculum document. This will mean that teaches will have to pitch their lessons & teach to the described curriculum level – i.e. Level 1 NCEA will be at Level 6 of the curriculum for both Achievement and Unit Standards. This will probably mean that less than the accepted 70% will pass the Level 1 NCEA exams.
    Check out the information on the various subject association websites (English is: http://nzate.co.nz ).
    The level 3 conflated literature standard does not specifically mention a study of a Shakespearean text but insists that the texts studied be at Level 8 of the National Curriculum – i.e. University level texts — hardly a dumbing down of the curriculum given that the standards actually prescribe the curriculum level of the text.
    However, I don’t expect the incoming Minister of Education to understand this as he, like his cabinet members & leader, only react to the sensationalism of the lazy journalist and the hackery that is the NZ Herald.

  10. randal 10

    natoinal is going to scrap all secondary schools unlees you can pay the fees and everyone else is going to be shipped out to afghanistan
    everyone knows that is the most cost efficient way to solve the problem and costs are the overriding commitmenet of every small time entreperneur who cannot take advantage of economies of scale and is therefore caught in the position of having to exploit not only their own family but anyone else they can manipulate into conditons of servitude
    I mean we are straight talking now natoinal is on power aren’t we?

  11. step away from the flagon randal.

  12. randal 12

    sorry bb
    dont smoke and dont drink
    thats why I can see clearly and you are still seeing life through rose tinted spectacles
    so you can go back to ticking your boxes and watching crummy tv about the south of france
    hows ya grey shoes and polyvinyl walk shorts shirts and socks mate

  13. gingercrush 13

    How is business studies mindless?

  14. randal 14

    why is a mouse when it whistles

  15. gingercrush:

    I can’t say much for the High School curriculum but at my university it’s only the business subjects that have multiple-choice exam papers. Does that answer your question?

  16. Shonkey 16

    I’m afraid I don’t hold out much hope for a party that proudly displayed “less bureaucrats” on their billboards. And they want to set new literacy standards????

  17. Santi 17

    “national is going to scrap all secondary schools unlees you can pay the fees and everyone else is going to be shipped out to afghanistan”

    Randal, are you a pom? Stop the whining mate.

  18. Alan 18

    I agree Shonkey, mind you the “gone by lunchtime” syndrome of the Nats is still in force. Pansy Wong has assured voters in Botany that the testing against National Standards policy has already gone and been consigned to the dust bin of “this will grab the electorate by making us look tough but will be ignored” policies that Crosby-textor developed for this campaign.
    Pansy, after being told by a Botany Principal at a prize giving, that the National Standards testing idea was so much rubbish took him aside and told him that the Party had already decided to ever so quietly dump it as being impractical.
    Perhaps the lack of grammar in their billboards was an adequate display of the paucity of thought behind the tory policies and thus lead them to dump policy?

  19. Ag 19

    “How is business studies mindless?”

    Because it isn’t really an academic subject, but rather a hotch potch of vocational training with some small and bleeding chunks from genuine academic subjects thrown in. Among its other crimes we can count a murderous assault on the communicative capacity of the English language via a peculiar form of business Newspeak (some of which makes contemporary French philosophy look lucid), the fostering of a vapid and venal view of the role of commerce in human societies, and a general aversion to critical thinking. It’s just silly and awful.

    Our Lords and Masters seem to have forgotten that the humanities need to be taught with the exacting standards and rigour they once benefited from. Students ought to be forced to read Shakespeare precisely because it is hard to read and thus reading it improves one’s standard of comprehension. A high standard of comprehension and the ability to reason effectively and logically are necessary requirements for the proper exercise of democratic citizenship. It is a civic duty not to be an oaf or a boor in these respects, and the job of the state to ensure that citizens receive an adequate education to that end.

    Anyone who doubts that our education system sucks should read a few letters written 100 years ago by people who only had a high school education. Most of them put to shame the efforts of current university graduates, and all because our ancestors taught English properly and were not prepared to accept substandard work from students. When I was schooled in New Zealand, formal grammar had even been abolished from the curriculum (mine is still pretty bad because of this). The standard of high school English education in this country has been a national disgrace for decades.

  20. keith 20

    Dumbing down the education the masses receive has been a longterm agenda of the corporatists on the right; you want a dumb, fat, sugar-soaked population that sits in front of the tele to obey the advertising propoganda.

  21. I’d like to hear the other side of this recommendation. It isn’t necessarily “dumbing down” to not teach. The language in Shakespeare’s plays is often obscure, full of obselete ancient slang and cultural references that are today unknown and / or unfamilar.

    In order to understand it, it is almost necessary to learn a second language. I’m certain the subject of English can be well and properly taught without having to do in-depth study of Shakespeare’s plays in each year.

    The subjects and themes he dealt with are dealt with elsewhere in literature as well or better….if not for the first time.

    keith: It’s up to each of us to NOT be the sort of person you refer to.

  22. AG?

    Business studies is mindless??

    That is a subject that should be compulsory.

  23. higherstandard 23

    AG

    “Students ought to be forced to read Shakespeare precisely because it is hard to read and thus reading it improves one’s standard of comprehension.”

    I agree AG we should also not forget that Shakespeare is still rightly regarded as the greatest writer in the English language if not all languages – to not teach Shakespeare in school would be obscene.

  24. Quoth the Raven 24

    They need more Shakespeare not less if I remember my high school years correctly and they need more poetry. I say make Poe part of the curriculum.

  25. randal 25

    santi they will make an exception for people like you and you can go too!

  26. Ianmac 26

    Alan @8:09: “Pansy Wong has assured voters in Botany that the testing against National Standards policy has already gone.”
    Alan, I have hunted everywhere for that information. Do you know its source? Makes me mad that it probably affected some voters but was never going to be accepted by teachers.

  27. Janet 27

    Shakespeare was taught appallingly when I was at school – all it did was put me off. But I have seen recently how good teaching can make it alive and relevant. Even the less academic students go around quoting passages.

    As with the rest of the school curriculum there is some leeway for each school to adapt content to suit their particular school. It doesn’t mean that standards drop – just means you have a better chance to engage students in learning.

    Re compulsory testing. I am still not sure how the Ministry of Education can have fewer staff, and schools have less compliance, while having a whole new mandatory testing requirement imposed on them.

  28. randal 28

    Janet
    its about the same as how someone can make millions out of trading someone elses money

  29. John BT 29

    The dumbing down of education standards started over 3 decades ago. The culprits are the feminists who now totally control the education sector.
    Like so many guys I lost interest in the feminist movement when they stopped burning their bras, which was a big mistake. Nowadays you will find that every boss in the ministry is a woman wearing sensible shoes.
    Out of 13,700 early childhood staff, 134 are men.
    Because males have always done better at school in the past the curriculum was and continues to be altered to favour females. Hence the dumbing down.
    I appreciate that this might sound sexist and we are all supposed to be equal but even my wife and girlfriends agree with me.

  30. gingercrush 30

    I think inevitably there will be a shift away from Shakespeare. It’ll still have a place in education. But when I was at high school which ended in 2001, there seemed to have more aspects of media and cultural studies included in English. Has there been a further shift to such areas? Shakespeare will always have a place in English but there is so much that can be included in English besides Shakespeare. Interestingly, in my high school there wasn’t that much spent on Shakespeare anyway. One of his plays for each year. And sad to say I barely remember much of it.

    I wish we had Business Studies in high school, sounds pretty good. But our school was small so anything outside the main subjects was via Correspondence.

    Who is likely to be the cabinet minister for education anyway? Wasn’t that Katherine Rich’s portfolio??

  31. randal 31

    she only knows how to count
    make her minister of business studies

  32. Janet 32

    Heather Roy is going to be assoc min of education. Will be interesting re the above issues.

    But Rodney as Minister of Local govt! That is a simple way to make the govt unpopular. Can’t wait to see him and Tim Shadbolt dancing around each other.

  33. randal 33

    it is amply demonstrated on this blog and most others that it is the right who cant spell, cant punctuate and in general cant compose a well formed sentence
    they complain about compliance costs when the problem is they cant really read either
    ho hum

  34. the sprout 34

    If ever there was a subject where the Emperor Has No Clothes, it’s Business Studies.

    “often obscure, full of obselete ancient slang and cultural references that are today unknown and / or unfamilar… In order to understand it, it is almost necessary to learn a second language”

    Yes Steve, that’s why it’s so beneficial. It provides a contrasting comparator, which in turn helps for a more sophisticated understanding of the target language, modern English. Learning a second language proper also benefits people’s understanding of their own language too.

  35. QoT 35

    @Steve Withers: But part of the whole point of reading Shakespeare or anything not directly relevant to our present day and culture is that it increases understanding and widens people’s views of the world.

    Then maybe we wouldn’t have people like one young woman in my third-year German history paper at uni asking, incredulously, “So, like, did people in the 20s not live together before they got married?

    Heck, just to throw Godwin’s Law straight out there, we have to expose people to notions like “not all societies valued exactly what we do or think exactly what we think” so that yet another student wouldn’t have had to ask, “So did Hitler lie about being anti-Semitic in order to get elected?”

  36. higherstandard 36

    Randal have you got something against apostrophes ?

  37. Ianmac 37

    Ideally Shakespeare would be integrated with English, Maths, Science Geography, Performing Arts and others. Imagine the powerful imaginative message that could be developed! Not just a dry old joker from a different “irrelevant ” time but a connection with today and politics and economics and the delight of language used in context!
    Oh but wait. In order to satisfy the Requirements of Testing and “Raising Standards,” we must have a narrow focus, and test the recall of a few unrelated bits. Could be exciting in school but….

  38. Janet 38

    GC
    Anne Tolley has been the Nat Education spokesperson but her performance (to use the media’s favourite word) has been underwhelming and her grasp of the issues minimal – so who knows whether she will get this portfolio. But what experience does Heather Roy bring apart from as a parent of high achieving privileged middle class kids, and a long term campaigner with Stephen Franks against NCEA?

    It is possible that they give it to Pita Sharples, which would be very interesting.

    Meanwhile with Rodney in charge of local govt there will be amalgamations galore and John Banks’ current direction for Auckland will become the norm. We tried this it in the 90s and many public facilities such as libraries and parks barely survived.

  39. Anita 39

    Janet,

    Plus privatisation of water etc.

  40. the sprout 40

    And those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it… 🙁

  41. randal 41

    the thing about business studies depends on whether it is the harvard business school case study. the wharton business school mathematical model or how to actually run a business in New Zealand.
    all three are different
    but in the end they all have the same objective
    how to measure return on equity
    anyway
    to startup a business in nz requires capital, objectives and psychological propensities & drives
    so
    all we hear from the business study people are slogans
    and very little new business
    they haven’t got a clue
    most businesses in nz have been handed down to inheritors
    the stuff you read about in the business mags is mostly fluff
    nobody here knows how to properly analyse another business and come out with a comparative advantage or genuine new innovation
    notice I am not talking about the money market but the productive sector of the economy
    we need new business allright
    and smart business
    but so far only dunderheads
    with very bad models
    there are always opportunities
    and the markets always move
    meet the challenge
    start vibrating
    pingg
    poooooffft
    new york new york

    hs
    are you the editor?

  42. Ag 42

    “In order to understand it, it is almost necessary to learn a second language.”

    ?

    Shakespeare is English at what is probably the furthest expressive limit to which the language has been pushed. No other person has had a greater influence on English idiom.

    It’s not as if it isn’t relevant to today either. We still have problems with obsessive and controlling husbands and racism (Othello), and almost everyone knows a couple that resemble Macbeth and his skank of a wife.

  43. higherstandard 43

    Randal

    No I just thought it was odd that you were frothing about “righties” who can’t spell or punctuate when you seem to have similar problems – you’re blogging style is starting to resemble that chap philu.

  44. Josh 44

    The headline should have been “Deplorable Auckland principal with longstanding antipathy to NCEA undermines kids’ hard work just before exams with annual pile of crap”

  45. Alan 45

    Pansy Wong’s statement that the National Testing was gone before lunchtime can be attributed to the Principal of the Secondary school whose Senior School Honours ceremony Pansy attended earlier this past week.

  46. randal 46

    hs
    ,
    has hooten been setting your controls to random lately
    ?

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