Is your principal a strangelover?
Is strangeloving most principals? Of course not.
Is it a significant number? No.
An influential number – yes – and I’m sorry to say, providing a model for principals coming through the ranks.
Has your local NZPF branch made the cluster proposals an immediate focus of attention? Probably not. Why?
I have listened to the moral reasoning of some principals over the decades and have, I believe, a clear view of their main strangeloving recourses in their making of moral and ethical decisions?
The main recourse has overwhelmingly been to see the benign in whatever governments have come up with on the way to seeing the good even the beautiful? That is strangeloving.
These principals learn to look unremittingly on the bright side of government decisions and learn to love them. That is strangeloving.
These principals see government education decisions on the basis of their surface intentions; accepting the good faith of governments through thick and thin. What governments say they see is what you say you see. That is strangeloving.
See no evil, see only good. That is strangeloving.
If there is no moral problem recognised there is no moral problem to be solved. That is strangeloving, indeed, the very purpose of it.
To have strangeloved through six years of National government education policy represents something exceptional, a degree of naivety so profound as to suggest transcendental delusion or should that be performance? whatever, a reader of history wouldn’t be surprised.
For these principals, as education has become more hierarchical and the curriculum a caricature, they have come to appreciate being part of that particular chain of hierarchical control: a curriculum simplistic enough for them to understand and be carved up into small pieces for control; and school education being able to be tied up neatly in an organisational bow.
As for the education review office, the bearers of the sharp end of government control – no problem, give them what they want in advance, even more so – then these principals, in all sincerity, can say they have no problems with the review office.
Now we are about to see strangeloving in relation to clusters: learning to love clusters?
Strangeloving clusters will be a particular challenge for these principals but as mentioned above they are something special and will get there.
I think it is generally agreed by dispassionate observers that clusters under the new system will become the new unit of the primary education system and a strengthened bureaucratic extension of the ministry and education review office.
There will be softly-softly early on to help the strangelovers come to terms with the policy on the way to loving it and then expressing their profound support for it, but the structure to emerge from that will be a government-appointed principal (from secondary schools if possible) who will take control of key areas, including, of course, the freedom of school principals and boards of trustees to make public statements. This will be of particular significance as each cluster faces its turn to be Christchurched and worse.
The expert and lead teacher system will become a crucial source of bureaucratic patronage and the main line for career advancement.
Much will be made of schools helping other schools, and there will be some of that, (model clusters in Orwellian style will be held up for Stalinist-style idealisation), but the main effect will be to narrow education for control and standardisation.
Peter Hughes, 1984’s O’Brien will be portrayed as the good guy – really one of us – someone principals’ can trust, can do a deal with.
New Zealand’s holistic and child-centred education, the idea of education for the whole child, the idea of education for creativity and imagination, the idea of competing ideas that come from variety in education – don’t make us laugh.
The curriculum promoted by the clusters will be the government one; that is national standards.
I can hear those principals now, an epiphany of all that is good about clusters floating serenely above the unrecognised arguments of the naysayers.
Well – is your principal a strangelover?