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The stamp of democracy

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, December 17th, 2009 - 120 comments
Categories: education, Media, national/act government - Tags: ,

Another disgraceful Herald editorial recently:

Teachers must learn to obey Govt’s orders

Three years ago, when the National Party announced its plan to make all primary schools test pupils’ ability in reading, writing and mathematics, teachers were scornful. … The union, in league with the Principals Federation, says the standards are being rushed … Mrs Tolley is surely right to suggest the unions’ arguments are now purely philosophical. This has underpinned their resistance from the start. It has endured despite the Government concessions and despite the public support for national standards. It is the only reasonable explanation for the dragging of feet and the increasingly radical demeanour.

An interesting smorgasbord of aggressively negative framing (teachers are “scornful”, “in league with”, “radical”) with a side order of firm disciplinarian hectoring. Tasty.

As anyone actually following the issue knows, the teachers issues are not “purely philosophical”, they are completely practical. Teachers are working, as they always do, for the interests of the children that they teach. The way the national standards are being introduced is a probable disaster, according to both the international evidence and the government’s own own expert advisors.

In short, the editorial is as bad as they come. Narrow minded propaganda that ignores the real issues of concern. But what really lodged itself firmly up my left nostril was the way this nasty bit of union bashing tried to wrap itself in the Union Jack trappings of democracy:

The minister has strong arguments to support her stand. Most fundamentally, National’s policy was put to the electorate at the last election. It comes with the stamp of democracy. … Similarly, teachers have a responsibility to heed the policy of a democratically elected government. That is a lesson they, and their unions, seem to have yet to learn.

bambimeetsgodzilla“The stamp of democracy” – has a lovely ring to it don’t you think? Pretty much sums up the main fault that the founders of many democratic institutions clearly understood and sought to avoid, namely “the tyranny of the majority“. Being a democracy does not mean that we abandon our free will, our minds, and our common sense for the three year term of a government. It does not mean blindly following orders. It is the job of the citizens to do as the teachers are doing, to raise valid concerns, to resist stupid policies, and to hold the government to account. That’s why we have – you know – an Opposition (an institution that the Herald’s editorialist would like to do away with?). Holding the government to account used to be one of the functions of the media too. The Herald editorial disgraces what is left of that tradition.

[Update: to be fair – other Herald editorials on this topic have been rather better!]

[Update: Good piece by a Wellington school Principal here.]

120 comments on “The stamp of democracy ”

  1. Dan 1

    Minister Tolley’s trump card yesterday was the ERO report. My understanding of the report is that it criticises the lack of training and individual attention given to Year 1 and 2 students. This from a minister who wants to fast track teacher training of graduates!
    The Minister fails to recognise that a major criticism by educationalists, particularly in the UK, is that national standards encourage teaching to the test, and to the school’s advantage for league tables. National standards do not improve standards; they only improve results in tests.
    The negativity is not philosophical, it is practical.

  2. andy 2

    I talked to a teacher yesterday about this issue, she was not to worried about national standards. She just wanted to know when she was going to get the standards from the ministry and curriculum so she can prepare before she goes back to school in six weeks, they have quietly been told it won’t arrive until february and they will be blamed again.

    It all seems very rushed and Tolley is fighting the fight, but not preparing for the occupation.

  3. Sam 3

    I heard Tolley on The Wire yesterday on bFM (first time I’ve ever seen or heard her on any form of student media but I digress) using the same interesting rhetoric. Demonise those who disagree by falling on the catchy cry of “it’s about the children” and “let’s work together” and so on, and a new one of the “philosophical opposition”. So being philosophically opposed to something is bad now is it? How can that possibly be the case? If something is bad for the “philosophy” of teaching, then it must go against what produces the best educational outcomes, which is what the “philosophy” of teaching is about. How can it be bad to object to something that so fundamentally and adversely alters the teaching quality of every system that has implemented it? Looks like the same old rhetoric of “pragmatism” that means nothing but the Nats sure do love to cover themselves in it.

  4. Sanctuary 4

    Tolley’s latst little bit of dirty politics, and the utter contempt for the minister obvious to the listener in Mary Wilson’s interview with the head of the principals federation last night on checkpoint confirms that the minister has lost the respect of the education profession and now can only stand on her authority and bullying.

    There is no doubt about it. Communication has totally broken down and open warfare has broken out. This has all the hallmarks of another crisis of non-leadership from John Key. Allowing a minister to move into open warfare with her own employees before belately realising a disaster is looming and trying to stitch together a last minute deal. The trouble is Tolley is such an ignorant and egotistical bully that the only choice Key might be left with is to sack her.

  5. Tim Ellis 5

    This was one of the policies that the National Party was elected on. Teacher unions are threatening to boycott the policy. The unions have to learn, unions don’t set government policy, democratically elected governments do.

    • Pascal's bookie 5.1

      Were they elected on a ‘no trial’ policy?

      It’s funny old thing.

      Some (elected) school boards are in agreement with the teachers. One has instructed the principal not to open a box of related material from the ministry. The minister has said she might sack any elected boards that don’t buckle under.

      • Tim Ellis 5.1.1

        Boards are being pressured by unions to boycott government policy. The (elected) Government has the power to sack boards. So what?

        • Pascal's bookie

          How do you know the boards are being pressured by unions? What does that even mean? Your conspiricy simply gets bigger.

          As you say, the govt has the authority to sack the elected boards, (they don’t have a mandate to do so though, any more than they have a mandate to institute an untested scheme over the objections of teachers and school boards), this authority gives them much more pressure over baords than the unions have. That boards are siding with the unions is something the govt should consider very carefully before trying to turn this into “teach the unions a lesson” play.

          That’s why I said it’s a funny old thing. Meaning these democracy arguments.

          • Tim Ellis

            So when NCEA was rolled out by Labour they had a pilot in schools did they?

            Actually government does have a mandate to institute its policy. It’s called an election. If unions want to get a public mandate from the public to institute public policy, they can support a political party and see how the public feels about their policy plans.

            Oh that’s right. The unions did support Labour last time, and lost.

            • Pascal's bookie

              Tim you seem very upset about this. I know that anti-authoitarian things give you the gripe, but that’s just something you are going to have to face.

              You initially claimed a specific mandate for this policy, as if that was the end of the matter. But things have changed. I doubt anyone thought National would be so pigheaded and arrogant about this scheme. They don’t have a specific mandate for this bull at the gate process.

              You are of course correct that they have a mandate to govern, and I never hinted otherwise.

              On the flipside of course, there is a long and proud tradition in liberal western democracy of protest; up to and including civil disobediance. These too, are a part of our democracy which doesn’t end at the ballot box.

              The govt has a right to govern, and a monopoly on the use of force. Citizens have a right to put that to the test by refusing to do what the government says, and seeing if the government is prepared to use force to get its way.

              At that point, various outcomes are possible.

              The government might back down, in which case the protesters win.

              The government might choose to force the issue. If they can do so, and retain a mandate to govern, then they win. (If they lose the confidence of the house, or the next election, they lose).

              So democracy, freedom, and the consent of the governed are a little bit more complicated than you seem to think Tim.

              They should teach people about this stuff in schools, but the authoritarians’d just call it c8mmunism and a threat to the natural order.

            • Pascal's bookie

              And I think NCEA was in the pipeline for many years, being developed. I’m not sure though I didn’t follow it closely. I’m paying more attention now, for family reasons.

            • sam

              NCEA and National Standards are not analogous – they are very different beasts indeed. It’s ok though, you clearly have little understanding of effective educational policy and philosophy so it’s an easy mistake to make for the uninformed.

              As for the mandate to do it, if it’s so clear and strong, why did the majority of submissions on the National Standards oppose it?

      • grumpy 5.1.2

        The “trial” is a mechanism proposed by the Unions to, in effect, delay implementation in the vain hope that somehow Labour might get in the next election and can the whole thing.

        it is widely known that senior Labour MPs are happy with the proposal which they knew was needed but Labour could not introduce due to the power of the unions over them.

    • r0b 5.2

      I’ll ask Tim, and any other righty who thinks that teachers should just shut up and do as they’re told, a hypothetical question:

      Suppose teachers had proof, 100% unarguable cold hard proof, that implementing this policy would be damaging to children’s education. Should they go ahead and implement it anyway?

      • Tim Ellis 5.2.1

        Yes they should r0b. If they’ve got the evidence they should present it and let the public decide. It’s called an election.

        • prism

          How interesting Tim. Elections are sacred rituals to you with the authority of god/s behind them, all of us being small gods.
          I think you are talking with forked tongue. Governments who respond to the kneejerk responses of voters without question, are dangerous to the wellbeing of the people. The wellbeing of the people is at risk from kneejerk responses to problems of its government. Merely having a majority doesn’t make any of government’s actions correct.

        • sam

          So teachers now have to speak up every time there’s an election and a party has a wishy-washy, totally unspecific policy on the table? You think people would listen at all and not be completely focussed on TAXZ CUTSZZZZ OMG!!!1111?

          I’m guessing you use this line to justify the other rampant abuses of democracy that this government has committed thus far (pack raping the select committee process, for example).

        • r0b

          Elections are not decided on the intricacies of education policy Tim. As you well know.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Tim thinks the government should damage kids education.

    • Pete 5.3

      Colour me ignorant, but I thought that the government was elected on the ‘wave of change’ and anti-Nanny State rhetoric. Oh, and the promise of tax cuts “North of $50”.

      But let’s pick ‘n’ choose.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.4

      When all the evidence shows that the democratically elected government policies are completely stupid then we, the people, have a responsibility to tell them to stop implementing those policies.

      There is no such thing as a mandate in a democratic country.

      • Rex Widerstrom 5.4.1

        There is no such thing as a mandate in a democratic country.

        The, surely, there’s no such thing as a mandate anywhere?

        But I get what you’re saying I think. “Mandated” stupidity* is still stupidity.

        OTOH National did go to the country with such a policy. The question is, as sam points out above, whether that particular policy was, in fact, opposed by the majority of those who voted National because they supported entirely different aspects of that party’s platform (including those, as Pete points out above, which haven’t been implemented, but that’s another story).

        The answer, then, is to introduce ways to involve the electorate in policy-by-policy debate and decision making. We elect a government of whose general direction we approve, but can make course corrections along the way.

        Technology permits this now, yet no party will commit to it.

        It doesn’t even need a law change. A party can simply commit to opening up its internal decision-making to public input and, if its brave enough, public vote (either guiding or binding).

        Does anyone have the courage to do so, I wonder.

        * I’m not referring particularly to this issue, on which I’ve opined in the past, but in a general sense.

        • Roger

          “The answer, then, is to introduce ways to involve the electorate in policy-by-policy debate and decision making. We elect a government of whose general direction we approve, but can make course corrections along the way.”

          I believe that (in theory anyway) that this is the role of the select committee.

          • Draco T Bastard

            That is what the select committee was for – until this NACT government where they just went ahead and did what they wanted (usually under urgency) without taking any note of what the people wanted anyway. The majority of people opposed Rodney Hides Supercity plans but NACT went and removed Auckland’s right to have a referendum on it.

          • Rex Widerstrom

            That should be so, yes.

            But the farce which Select Committees have become was thrown into stark relief during the investigation into Winston Peters during the term of the last government.

            National and Act went in to that committee having predetermined that nothing short of impeachment (ideally accompanied by a spot of burning at the stake) would do. And, equally, Labour went in determined that even if Winston whipped on a bib and dined on a freshly roasted baby right there on the committee room table, he needed to emerge whiter than the driven snow. And so it went.

            While a good 90% of the public knew exactly what had gone on, and that it was neither as catastrophic as National and ACT wanted us to believe nor nearly as innocent as Labour desperately needed it to be.

            Okay so we didn’t get to make submissions on that, but in theory the “all powerful Privileges Committee*” is the top of the heap. If it can’t hear serious charges against one of its own without things becoming a farce, then what hope the humble submitter to one of the “lesser” committees?

            * (c) every tedious hack with a limited vocabulary.

        • Draco T Bastard

          OTOH National did go to the country with such a policy.

          They did, yes, but since then evidence has arisen that shows Nationals policy is pure stupidity which means we can say that we don’t want that policy. Of course, the MSM isn’t actually reporting that which doesn’t help.

    • Tim 5.5

      How annoying! The union IS the teachers. They are not separate entities. Union support among teachers is astronomically high. I cannot understand why people like you Tim and the Herald editorial insist that they are not.

      The union works on behalf of the teachers. The teachers generate their responses to various issues and then the union fights for them. I know the theory is that by suggesting that the mean, manipulative big union in the sky is really pulling the strings you can demonize them further and what they are fighting for, but the union is the teachers that are concerned primarily with the students in front of them.

      Make no mistakes it is easy for a teacher to teach to the test – it isn’t a workload issue. This is an issue about putting into place failed policies that in the US and the UK have done more harm than good over the past twenty years. It is about having a Minister ram through legislation that everyone that works in the sector thinks will not work.

      Why does everyone feel like they are experts on education and know more than people that have been doing it for twenty years?

      • grumpy 5.5.1

        Because the failures shown up in the ERO report would seriously question if teachers are the experts they claim to be.

        • Roger

          Quotes from the ERO 2009 report:

          “the overall quality of the teaching of reading in Years 1 and 2 was either high or good quality in 69 percent of the schools. There was a considerable difference in the quality of the teaching of reading in nearly a third of the remaining schools. In 21 percent of schools the quality of the reading programme was adequate, and in the remaining 10 percent it was limited.”

          “the overall quality of teaching was high in 25 percent of the schools. Thirty-nine percent had good quality writing programmes. In 22 percent of schools the teaching of writing was adequate, while in 14 percent teachers had limited understanding about effective writing programmes and the quality of their teaching suffered.”

          It appears that the vast majority of teachers are the experts that they claim to be. The report, if you actually read it, doesn’t consider the education of reading and writing for years one and two as being riddled with failures.

  6. I have done something that most reporters (and editorial writers) have not obviously done and I read the report. It is at http://ero.govt.nz/publications/pubs2009/readingwriting-y1&2-dec09.pdf.

    Some results:

    1. 86% of overall quality of teaching of writing considered to be adequate to High.
    2. The 70% figure is the estimate of teachers making “good use of a range of an effective reading and writing practices”. The report then drifts off into a kafkaesque description of the remaining teachers having ” little or no sense of how critical
    it was for children to develop confidence and independence in early reading and
    writing”. According to the report writer there are no adequate teachers, just good ones or inadequate ones.
    3. Internationally our students are doing well. “The Progress in International Reading
    Literacy Study (PIRLS-2005/06) showed that the mean reading score of New Zealand
    children at Year 5 was higher than the international average. New Zealand has a
    relatively large group of children that demonstrate advanced reading comprehension

    The report actually reads not bad apart from some clangers that ERO are prone to drop.

    But like ACC, the LSA, and the ETS there is this strong sense that a crisis is being created so that the Government can then smash through reforms.

    After hearing Tolley this morning on Morning Report I can confidently say that she doesn’t have the foggiest idea what she is talking about.

    Pretty scary really.

  7. Sanctuary 7

    Gosh Tim, do they? Authoritarianism is never far below the surface of most right wingers – democracy blah blah my arse, its all about standing on authority for you guys. The pre-loaded arrogance of sneering “do as you are told” Tory stupidity never lessens with the passing of time. The idea that to govern requires the consent of the governed is all to hard for the apologists of the boss class like Tim Ellis, whose class riddled beief in hierarchy demands obsequious obedience from those considered lesser than he.

    I’m not sure what part of this you and your idotic minister don’t get. Teachers and principals represent a corps of highly trained and skilled professionals. They are the irreplaceacle people who are the only people who understand how the educational system works. They have a corporate institutional knowledge that is critical to the running of the education in this country. Engaged parents listen to and trust their childrens teachers. Anne Tolley NEEDS these people to be on side with her and woking with her.

    Tolley doesn’t get it. You don’t get it. The minister needs them far, far more than they need her.

    • Rob 7.1

      This annoys me, so what you are saying is that it does not matter what mandate or majority a Govt gets elected under as it is ultimatly up to the will of the public service to agree to the change. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

      I am not overtly political one way or the other, what I do believe is that transparency is good. Bringing structures , systems, bodies etc into a measurable and visible context is very healthy, and also its nothing more than exists in the commercial world for which many of us belong to.

      This is one of the things I voted for. Although my kids go to a very good school , I would still like to see the organisation measured against a benchmark of other schools, beyond current ERO reporting. The reason is that best practice will be more visible, just as worst practice, somethimes teachers dont look too far from out of the own domain.

      Give the consumers of the service better insight into the performance of the oprganisations that they are paying for.

    • grumpy 7.2

      You mean “trust us – we know what we’re doing”? When the ERO report proves that a significant number of teachers – and their principals don’t.

      • mickysavage 7.2.1

        It does not.

        It is like the debate about Legal Aid. Quote a figure, any figure, take it out of context and then use it to bludgeon professionals into submission so they will comply with the Nat’s ill informed prejudice ridden understanding.

        • grumpy

          So you think the Legal Aid system is fine too?

        • gitmo

          Are you saying Margaret Bazley got it wrong ?

          • mickysavage

            Sure did.

            There is nothing wrong with legal aid. There is a lot wrong with the Court system but this is because of demoralised staff and inadequate judicial resources.

            Bazley was on the audit committee of the LSA for 6 years and only resigned when she was appointed to carry out the review. The audit committee was meant to monitor fraud. How come if it was so evident and so pervasive she never picked up on it during her 12 years?

            • gitmo

              So no-ones on the legal aid gravy train and the solution is to throw more public money at the problem ……….. brilliant, let’s just add it to the $250 million a week the lawyers will be ecstatic.

          • lprent

            In some of her claims with Manakau district court lawyers – then yes. I suspect she did get it wrong.

            If you’re looking at the overall state of legal aid, then there are problems. Not least of which is that there hasn’t been a change in the hourly rate for a very long time.

            Legal aid isn’t getting to where it was targeted. I suspect that setting up a public defender system will be more effective.

            • grumpy

              Thank goodness for your response lprent.

              Reading posts from mickeysavage, I was starting to think The Standard was only here to stick up for dodgy teachers and lawyers.

              Your view that a Public defender system should be set up is the logical way forward.

  8. jcuknz 8

    If the teachers cannot convince the government of the right of their case then they have to do as they are told …. it is what is known as democracy. The fact that they do well with 80% of their charges is great, but in a modern world with limited dull labouring jobs we cannot afford to have a 20% fail rate. The country needs everybody to be functionally literate as a minimum standard. It strikes me a case of an authoritarian class not liking it being challenged. They are the experts and everybody else doesn’t know what they are talking about … a very narrow minded and dangerous attitude.

    • Jcuknz.

      The 20% is a statistic. Unless everyone gets exactly the same result there will always be a bottom 20%. Beating up on teachers because there is a 20% is bizarre.

      You have just shown why this post is so valid. If you are right and most of the population are demanding compliance then all that it is is an indignant and ill informed majority demanding that the professionals alter the way they do their job to comply with the majority’s misunderstanding of the state of the teaching system.

      • TightyRighty 8.1.1

        silly me, i thought the great NCEA was supposed to catch the kids falling between the cracks.

        it’s not twenty percent of kids failing, it’s twenty percent of kids failing to be able to read and write. there is no other way to look at that stat.

        • mickysavage

          What statistic? Show the source. It looks like you are taking something that Tolley said at face value and that is really dangerous.

          How about this for a statistic from the ERO report? 86% of overall quality of teaching of writing to year one and two considered to be adequate to high. If 20% are illiterate (disputed) then it is not because of teaching.

          And NCEA is for years 11, 12 and 13, way after the time kids are meant to learn to read and write. This is a really really strange thing to say.

          Your anger is palpable but your understanding is, well, weird.

          • TightyRighty

            Adequate to high, given some standard deviations, it can then be assumed that roughly half of that 86% percent, 43%, is then only adequate. so if 43% of the overall quality of teaching is only adequate, but we are not quite sure of that because it’s in the adequate to high category, we need national standards so we can better assess it with some hard data, not peoples opinions.

            • Galeandra

              Your logic and appropriate use of statistics is adequate?
              The what about the semantics we’re involved with?
              Explain ‘adequate’.

              And as someone who’s just had the pleasure of wading through over a thousand student scripts in an assesment activity, let me tell you that the words used to describe an asessment outcome make a hell of a lot of difference. Your ‘hard data’ is seldom hard science.

              As for your easy dismissal of teacher viewpoints, you might like to consider the impact of nurture.
              I’ve heard too many coments about 5 & 6 year old new entrants not sucfficiently socuialised to know how to sit on the mat or to listen for 5 minutes storytime, or unable to handle a pen or crayon, or identify their own name. What will testing prove about the teaching process here?

              • grumpy

                Are you asking for further breakdown of the reporting structure.

                If results were broken down into socio-economic strata, race etc. then policy makers could further target those groups. I think, though that Civil Libertarians may not be too keen.

              • TightyRighty

                that you have some work to do? no one is saying parents don’t have responsibilities too, but it seems to me at least that there are a lot of lazy teachers hiding in their profession. the last thing they want is to be found out, and national standards might just do that. remember, those who can do, those who can’t teach.

              • gitmo


                You appear to be a complete cock.

                Galeandra makes a very valid point regarding the parents being the largest influence on a child’s education and learning and you come back with …

                “remember, those who can do, those who can’t teach”

                FFS grow a brain you retard.

              • TightyRighty

                gitmo, my last sentence is usually a red rag to a bull over here, and this proves no exception. the rest of my comment throws up what i really think about parental influence, and how i hope national standards can pinpoint the areas that the education system is failing our young so that something can be done to address the issue. if standards mean that one less child is leaving school every year better able to read and write, then i consider it worth it. as to being a cock, well, your right today.

              • TightyRighty

                where is the edit function these days?

                i meant to say if one more child…..

                one less, and everything the unions say will be true, can’t have that.

              • felix

                TR I doubt you’re aware of the amount of supreme irony in your writing.

                “red rag to a bull over here”?

                Well, to any rational, at least partially educated adults I suspect, but what would they know that you don’t? As you have so little faith in our nation’s educators I assume you’re a big fan of homeschooling – after all, you know best, eh?

                If so I pity your children. Judging by your level of written communication there is no way you’d pass any sort of basic English test.

        • Captain Rehab

          NCEA was set in motion by the last National government.

  9. TightyRighty 9

    Why give the teachers a trial period? a large proportion of teachers, if the ero report is anything to go by, will blow it during the trial. then of course the failing teachers and their parasitic unions will blame the standards and anne tolley. better just to implement and start sacking the hopeless teachers when their failings become apparent. then we can start repairing the mess that has created a culture of allowing one in five school leavers to enter the real world unprepared for a mcdonalds menu.

    • grumpy 9.1

      Tighty, A bit over the top but basically correct. Over the years we have become to tolerant of poor teachers, their Union has been over influential and our kids are sufferring. It is now time for an overhaul of the teaching profession – it cannot go on like this!

      Love the bit about the MacDonald’s menu.

    • sam 9.2

      Right, yes, let’s all pretend every child in the country starts school at the same ability level and progresses at an even and uniform rate across the 13 years. Damn all those useless teachers hiding in their unions! Damn them to hell!!!111

  10. Jim McDonald 10

    Heard Emeritus Professor Ivan Snook’s brilliant email to Morning Report being read out a few minutes ago. Can anyone locate that?

    • grumpy 10.1

      Are these the “academics” responsible for churning out these teachers that are failing our children? What do you expect them to say – “it’s all our fault?”

      • Captain Rehab 10.1.1

        Yes, it’s all a great big liberal elite conspiracy designed to turn out kids into PC robots. Damn ivory tower social engineers.

      • Ivan 10.1.2

        If you want to receive a full “paper” on which the short email was based please e-mail me and I will send it.

        Ivan Snook

    • Ivan 10.2

      If you want to receive a copy of the paper on which the email was based, please email me and I will send it.

      Ivan Snook

  11. grumpy 11

    Not just the Herald but also every other major daily paper.

  12. r0b 12

    I asked this upthread, no reply yet, so I’ll ask it again here. To anyone who thinks that teachers should just shut up and do as they’re told, a hypothetical question:

    Suppose teachers had proof, 100% unarguable cold hard proof, that implementing this policy would be damaging to children’s education. Should they go ahead and implement it anyway?

    • gitmo 12.1

      Obviously not ?

      Now go ahead and make your point.

    • TightyRighty 12.2

      If by some miracle the teachers had this proof you speak of, and without referring to britain (broken anyway) or any other country, and by some other miracle the minister and ministry of education didn’t then they could share it and i am sure consensus would be reached that standards should not be implemented.

      Given they don’t, and are never likely to have it, and they have been talking enough recently without really saying anything except that they don’t want standards, it’s probably time to be quiet and get on with the job of implementing them.

    • r0b 12.3

      Obviously not

      OK, good. So if teachers had this 100% ironclad proof they would be justified in refusing to implement damaging policy.

      Now, who should decide whether the teachers have such proof or not. Who would be qualified to make such a decision? Anne Tolley?

      • TightyRighty 12.3.1

        if the teachers had this 100% ironclad proof, i would have thought it would be evident enough that consensus would be reached between all concerned parties that doing this is a bad idea. then we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now about it. but there is no such proof, so the decision you talk of doesn’t need to be made. but hypothetically if such proof existed, then as anne tolley as nationals representitive on this would need to make the right decision not to implement. hypothetically of course, as no such proof exists.

      • r0b 12.3.2

        My question was TR, who would be qualified to decide whether or not teachers have this proof? Still hypothetically of course.

        • gitmo

          Rob the only people qualified to make these calls would be the appropriate academics and persons in the MOE they would then have to present their data and thinking to the Minister and more importantly the parents of kids in schools.

          Now stop wanking about and make your point.

          • r0b

            the appropriate academics and persons in the MOE

            OK, good. So here is what the appropriate academics say:

            A system of new national educational standards to assess primary school students is doomed to fail, academics across New Zealand say.

            There was plenty more in the links from the original post if you ever cared to read them.

            So there’s my point, In the opinion of the correct people (appropriate academics) National Standards are “doomed to fail”. By your own words teachers are justified in refusing to implement such stupid, damaging policy.

            • jcuknz

              When you have two opposing views at all levels, lets say teachers through to academics, somebody has to make a descision and we elect the government to do that. Then we get on with it and sack the government next time we have the opportunity. We suffered and are suffering from nine years of the other mob now it the current mob we have to cope with …. and spoilt child type striking isn’t a satisfactory answer. That should be reserved for the important aspects of employment..

              • Pascal's bookie

                I’ve not seen much academic support for this govt’s approach jcuk.

                No one is disputing that governments can make policy.

                No one is disputing that governments can make policy.

                No one is disputing that governments can make policy.

                No one is disputing that governments can make policy.


                Now. Citizens can object to policy and to process matters. They can do so in a number of ways. They are under no obligation to be ‘nice’ or ‘polite’. This does not make them like ‘spoiled children’. It does not negate democracy, it is an integral part of democracy.

        • TightyRighty

          when you talk about a 100% ironclad proof, i would think any educated person would be qualified. surely the ministry boffins would be able to recommend on it. hypothetically of course, as no such proof exists

          • r0b

            See above at 10:19am

            • TightyRighty

              where is the ironclad proof rob? because three academics right a letter against it? i notice one is from auckland, so it’s really only two academics as the auckland one will have witi’d off the others. so really, was the big windup worth it to link to a lame article written by two in the bastion of left-wing ideology, schools of education, at two left wing universities? which is then plagirised by a third from another left-wing university. hardly iron clad proof rob.

              • gitmo


                I cite the typed piece above from TR as ironclad proof that we do indeed need these new education standards.

            • r0b

              There’s no such thing as ironclad proof TR, as anyone who has witnessed any one of dozens of science based debates (smoking causes cancer, human activity causes climate change) is well aware. There is only “as good as it gets”. Evidence like the Cambridge study is as good as it gets:

              Tests blamed for blighting children’s lives

              Landmark study of primary schools calls for teachers to be freed of targets

              Children’s lives are being impoverished by the government’s insistence that schools focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of creative teaching, the biggest review of the primary school curriculum in 40 years finds today.

              This is as close as we ever get to “100% cast iron evidence”. It is part of the body of evidence that the “appropriate academics” have evaluated, and reached the conclusion that Tolley’s national standards are “doomed to fail”. Even you righties agree that in such circumstances the teacher unions are well justified in refusing to implement stupid policy that damages children’s education.

              • TightyRighty

                but you said you had 100% iron clad evidence, so you don’t if it as close as possible. liar

              • r0b

                I said no such thing TR, I asked what would be the case if hypothetically such evidence existed.

                What we do have is as close as the real world ever gets to 100% evidence. Call it 99% evidence if you will.

                Since you have nothing of any value left to say, I’m off to do more productive things. But call me a liar again on this blog and I’ll ban you for a month. Cheerio.

              • TightyRighty

                fair enough too. i had a brain fart. i apologise. your not a liar. misguided as to what ironclad proof is, but not a liar. again, apologies.

              • r0b

                Apology accepted.

  13. BLiP 13

    More proof, as if any was needed, that the MSM is colluding with National Ltd®. This editorial matches the one in the DimPost the same day. Now, why can’t the media coordinate support for addressing climate change but can for attacking unions?

  14. randal 14

    it all boils down to keeping the waters roiled.
    the upper classes make sure that these sorts of debates dont take place in their schools.
    they know whats at stake.
    in the meantime the masses keep going round and round till they disappear up some fundamental vortex created by blithering ideologues.

  15. lili2003 15

    The National Standards are being introduced to combat the percieved 20% failure rate of New Zealand children.
    How do they know that 20% fail? Well at the beginning of every year teachers test the children’s reading, maths, spelling and listening. You probably remember doing those PAT tests in the form of little red booklets yourself. They have not changed much since the 70s. Recognising that these PAT tests alone are not adquate assessments of children’s weaknesses and abilities, a whole raft of additional tests have been introduced. These include Asttle, Vernon, Schonell, Star and a whole collection of others.

    I was shocked to discover that intermediate children are already tested for 11 hours at the beginning of the school year, and another 11 hours at the end. (When I finished university I only had 3 hours worth of exams, and these kids are only 10!)

    Some of this data is pooled and analyzed nationally, like the asttle tests. But from this data teachers can tell which children are being left behind and which children are excelling.
    Teachers already know, and a National Test will only confirm what they know.

    The real question perhaps should be, how is another test going to raise achievement? “Teaching” is what actually raises achievement and perhaps the money and time and effort so far put towards national standards, could have better been put towards making teachers more effective. Reducing class size could help. Having more teacher aides to give one on one time to struggling children could help. More parental involvement in the school could help.

    37% of beginning teachers leave within three years of starting. I think, because they want to be their best and help all children, but the lack of support and time and funding is soul destroying.

  16. tsmithfield 16

    So if testing is sooo damaging to children, then why bother to ever test children for anything? We should never keep score in childrens sports games either in case those who lose get emotionally damaged by the experience.

    Coping with failure is something that people need to learn, as well. People might enter the world of adults with wonderful self-esteems, but if they’ve never learnt to cope with failure, they will probably fall to pieces at the first knock they get.

    • felix 16.1

      If having a bath is sooo good for your health, why not stay in the bath all the time?

      You know it makes sense.

      • mickysavage 16.1.1

        There is a huge amount of testing that already occurs. No one is saying there is no testing and it is disingenuous to phrase the debate in this way.

        The specific proposal that Tolly has is not supported by any of the professionals who actually know the area. Her stiff arm tactics are appalling, instead of talking to them and trying to work through their concerns she is trying to stiff arm them.

        Good post and pretty appalling really.

  17. lili2003 17

    The results *are* already given to the parents.
    Obviously there will be slight variation between schools but generally, the results of these tests are sent home at the beginning of the year, the middle and the end. Parent teacher interviews usually happen twice a year to give opportunity for parents to discuss the results and to answer any areas of concern. Good communication between the home and school is considered essential in lifting the achievement of the child, and parents are encouraged to ask questions and be as much a part of the school community as possible.
    From test results parents can see for example, that at the beginning of the year the reading age of their child was 9yrs and 10months and at the end of the year it is 10years and 5 months. (Probe reading, asttle reading and star vernon testing will provide a reading age) Through asttle maths, PAT maths and numeracy gloss testing parents can see at which level their child sits and where they are expected to be and asttle provides a national average to compare their child against as well.
    So parents already know where their children are in comparison to the New Zealand averages, and that’s excellent and as it should be.
    The opposistion to national standards is mostly concerning the publication of league tables which essentially rank every child in a school, and then every school in the country. This is great if you’re a child with great marks, but extremely damaging if year after year your report card says “failed to achieve standard” and then it’s published!

    Also, sitting the test isn’t going to lift the standard. I could test you now and then in a year, but your grades won’t go up unless “teaching” happens in between.
    The 20% of kids who are considered to be failing in New Zealand are 1) Esol kids .53% of children in Auckland schools no longer speak English as their first language- if they can’t read the test, how can they pass it? 2) Children with extreme and severe physical and mental learning disabilities. These children were once excluded from main stream education and their test results never entered into the national averages. 3) Children who are suffering from the effects of poverty. The parents of these children change schools every month or so depending on where they can get work or find somewhere to live. If you don’t have stability you cant achieve 4) Victims of child abuse, neglect etc – traumatised children can’t learn.
    A test for these kids isn’t going to lift achievement, but quality teaching, teacher aides, smaller classes, more one on one time just might have an effect. Unfortunately it’s a lot cheaper to throw a test at them than put money into teacher resources and education.

    • Draco T Bastard 17.1

      I could test you now and then in a year, but your grades won’t go up unless “teaching’ happens in between.

      Actually, that would be unless learning happens in between. Of course, the teachers are there to assist with the learning. Tests don’t prove that any learning happened in between – they only prove that somebody remembered what they were told.

    • r0b 17.2

      Thanks for your excellent contributions here lili2003.

  18. tsmithfield 18

    lili2003: “Also, sitting the test isn’t going to lift the standard. I could test you now and then in a year, but your grades won’t go up unless “teaching’ happens in between”

    No shit!

    • grumpy 18.1

      Does that mean that if the grades go down, then “more teaching” will be required?
      As tsmithfield says – No shit?

  19. Tim Ellis 19

    Makes you wonder why we have boards of trustees governing schools, education ministries forming policy, or ERO reporting on schools, if unions should just be able to dictate what schools should and shouldn’t do. Better yet, let’s just get rid of those pesky parliamentary elections and let the PSA, the PPTA, the NZEI and the CTU run the government. After all, they know what’s best for us, don’t they?

    • felix 19.1

      Heaven forbid teachers and principals might (gasp) think they know more about education than parents do.

      I mean, they have kids, right? They’ve had sexual intercourse, right? So they must know more than any so called “teacher”, right?

      What sort of world will we have if giving birth / impregnating someone doesn’t allow you to dictate to professionals how to do their job?

      Also, Anne Tolley.

    • lprent 19.2

      So that is the national line today?

      Teachers and principals are the people objecting. Their respective representative bodies are merely expressing that view.

      Somehow the governments idiot (Anne Tolley) with no actual experience at being a principal (or teacher) seems to think that she knows better that the people who actually do the job. She also seems to be ignoring the views of the person who wrote the policy.

      I haven’t heard a peep from boards of trustees or the ERO on the subject. I have seen a form web page from national MP’s claiming parents and trustees support. Of course it did have something about [insert region here] in it. So it looks more like spin than reality.

      The education ministry? Ummm who is the minister – if anyone objects, the idiot would probably fire them.

      You’re defending this idiot?

      • Tim Ellis 19.2.1

        Yes I am defending this “idiot” LP. It’s called government. Ministers arent required to have direct experience in their portfolios of responsibility. You may recall who Labour had as a Minister of Justice in the last government. That’s right, a non lawyer. Or how about the attorney general? The top law officer, and another non-lawyer. Or how about the Minister of Health? Was he a doctor or a nurse? I don’t think so.

        So your whole argument is pretty baseless and is just more Labour Good, National Bad.

        • mickysavage

          But Tim Cullen was competent, extraordinarily so. He understood his area of responsibility better than most lawyers.

          Tolly in contrast relies on picture books to communicate. She clearly has no understanding of education but is insisting on making fundamental changes to the area.

          The concern of those who do understand is that she is causing serious damage to the education system.

      • “Somehow the governments idiot (Anne Tolley) with no actual experience at being a principal (or teacher) seems to think that she knows better that the people who actually do the job.”

        Like Michael Cullen who in his many years worked as a pilot, train driver, attorney, and economist…

        …oh no, he was a historian who turned into a career politician. And The Standard complains about “negative framing”.

        • lprent

          Looks like you missed the point eric. She hasn’t attempted to find out the situation on the coalface. She is standing off in parliament saying what it should be without bothering to find out why so many people think it won’t work. She doesn’t have the experience or background to be able to have a chance of making that work. It is the action of a stupid and foolish autocrat. I’m unsurprised she is getting rebellion. I suspect she will be lucky to survive the reshuffle.

          Perhaps if she did what Michael Cullen did and went and talked to people widely across his various portfolios, took expert advice and learned from it, and listened to the people and organizations who had to implement it – then she wouldn’t be in such a precarious position.

  20. Anne 20

    Thanks felix – a brilliant nutshell.

    The sad part is that the Anne Tolleys of this world (both genders) are too arrogant and stupid to comprehend – and that is the polite way of putting it


  21. jcuknz 21

    I would be prepared to believe that the teachers know what they are doing if the results of what they are doing was satisfactory .. but sadly it is not. I do not believe that the examples of non-achievers quoted amount to even 20% or the 20%. The country elected the government to run the show so the teachers should shut up and get on with the job they are paid to do. Slagging the Minister merely shows a lack of intelligence typical of the blog writers and serves no good purpose.

    • felix 21.1

      Please show your working for “20% of 20%”

      Is it just an early morning stab in the dark or do you have some facts we should be aware of?

      Also, last week I arranged my shirts from largest to smallest. I found that the smallest 20% were smaller than all of the others. Any thoughts on that?

  22. jcuknz 22

    finger problem ‘of’ not ‘or’ …. 20% of the 20%

  23. Swampy 23

    The government has gone through a democratic process, and teachers are government employees, and they have to implement this policy. The people who are tasked with implementing it at the Ministry are quietly going about doing their job like they are supposed to do as good public servants. That’s exactly what the teachers should be doing. They are not being paid public money to campaign against the government of the day. Ian Rennie has it about right when he has sought to address this. It has turned purely political like bulk funding was and that risks polarising the issue the way the bulk funding debate did.

  24. Swampy 24

    You may call it union bashing and it probably is, however the fact is that the union has chosen to bring it into the realm of national political campaigning against the government which they are enlisting the support of public employees to do using funds paid for by the public purse.

    Now all other things being equal I would fully expect there to be an outcry if some group in the education sector started to campaign on behalf of the National Party.

    It is quite legitimate for a government to engage in political neutralisation in matters such as these.

    • lprent 24.1

      So you’d support midnight raids and marches to death camps for teachers? Is that what you mean with that convenient phrase “political neutralisation”. That is as facetious as your comment in redefining the relationship between employees and the state employers.

      Except for a few core areas where there is specific legislation to cover vital services (eg police) and core policy areas (ministerial policy staff), the rest of the public service is just a normal employer/employee relationship.

      Looks like you fail civics 101

  25. prism 25

    Dec17Jim McDonald/Dec30thIvan Snook. Interesting report of Prof. Ivan Snook about the essential effect of social inequality applying to inequality of educational attainment.

    Link below – if I have done it right. He has invited interested people to email him in relation to an email to Morning Report on 17/12. Don’t know if it is the one I’ve tried to hyperlink.
    Ivan Snook

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