This posting is a journey that started with language.
[This is written very late at night so the prose is likely to be a bit up and down.]
Have you noticed the term ‘collaboration’ and the corrupt and intensive way it has been used by the government and supporters of the its cluster restructuring policy?
This language corruption put me on guard.
The process by which restructuring policy was introduced was not collaborative; the teacher organisations were only given the opportunity to change the detail. And no matter the changes to detail, the declared philosophy of the policy and its purposes remained managerialist. There is provided a perceived problem: children from low decile schools (that is children from poorer areas) are not achieving to the deemed level – there is a gap. The way to close that gap is not to lift the poverty of people, or provide extra funding to schools to create an atmosphere as some compensation for the home deprivation, or provide funding for increased individual attention to children, or do away with the destructive labelling of children – no it is to improve the skills of teachers. In other words, teachers are the problem, and improving them is the solution – the silver bullet. And for that silver bullet, an elaborate restructuring is proposed.
There were no policies put forward to free teachers to allow the organic co-operation of the old system to begin, then grow. There were no declarations that the system was going to be based on trust. The ideas for improving teacher skills did not come from co-operation – they came from the centre accompanied by repulsive technocratic propaganda.
And with all that, no parliamentary scrutiny.
The context deplorable; the future even worse.
The restructuring is of a piece with that context and that future to come. That future will include the restructured local ministry offices, the structures to be set up over clusters, the Teachers’ Council restructuring, the control by appraisal, the new standards to be set for schools, the targets to be set for schools, the use of PaCT for national standards, the school funding by achievement, the use of non-educationists to control schools, the forced amalgamations (especially intermediates with secondary), the key role of private companies and multi-nationals, the handing over of ‘failing’ schools to charter groups, and the payment of teachers on contract.
To drop a government policy of pure managerialism into the current context of extreme managerialism and declare that policy a breakthrough to collaboration, is a language corruption; to know what is coming in the future and declare that policy a breakthrough to collaboration is the inevitable betrayal that comes from language corruption.
The managerialist restructuring will not work, cannot work, not only because it won’t solve the problem it is setting out to solve but because the problem it is setting out to solve isn’t the problem.
Given the context, the future, and the nature of the proposed structure, only someone from outside education, or someone ideologically driven, or someone who wants to be fooled – would think the managerialist structure proposed will do anything significant to improve children’s learning.
Principals and teachers have recoiled in dismay at what has been proposed. Then they have asked themselves what would help most? And the answer – more funding to help children individually. It is really as simple as that.
I need to move on, it is late at night.
Phil Harding brought me up with a stop when he wrote of the IES (Monday, 9 June) that ‘we have said all along that the devil lies in the detail …’ Translated that means he wasn’t concerned about the context, or the future, or the concept – his concerns were just detail.
Then the words of surrender: ‘It is a brave educator who rejects out of hand the notion of [now wait for it] working more collaboratively …’
This morning I heard him on national radio – he did all right – but I sensed something tricky going on – he simply refused to go to the clincher argument, the one not amenable to change by detail. And that clincher argument was that principals and teachers believed the money should go to children for meeting special needs and for more individualised attention for all children. (I turned off in despair before he had finished, so he might have said something at the end – but for me the damage was done.)
And then I thought of various PPTA executive members who took issue with my declaration that principals and teachers were very tight against the policy. Who had they been speaking to?
Tuesday’s conference would decide all.
Did you see the coverage on TV, read about it in the newspaper? I have a different story: read on and be alarmed.
(The information about the workings of NZPF and their behaviour at the conference did not come from any of the major contributors or ‘big’ names in education. I made a decision not to approach them.)
Most of the NZPF executive were there, and though they will no doubt disagree, they tried the same splintering tactics they employed at that greatest of farces, the moot. The meeting found it hard to get into rhythm – being disrupted by NZPF declarations ‘of the need to stay in the tent’.
Yes, yes, worrying, but we need to stay in the tent – stay in the tent – stay in the tent – stay in the tent.
Then a variation – yes, yes, worrying, but we mustn’t be isolated and picked off as were resistors of national standards – mustn’t get isolated – mustn’t get isolated – mustn’t get isolated.
In other words, capitulate to the government no matter what – might is right. Never take a stand, just give way.
Then a women member (from Auckland, I wasn’t given her name) called out: ‘Let’s have a straw vote’, there was huge agitation from NZPF members.
Phil Harding spluttered that he was utterly opposed to a vote: members should return home and consult. This was strongly supported by the NZPF exec members. In a group one exec member said you don’t call in the plumbers before the architect has finished (in other word principals were plumbers and the government was the architect).
Then Pat Newman and Frances Nelson took control and spoke strongly and cogently. We don’t need to go home to discuss things; we have discussed things and we will discuss things further if that is what is needed, but we are here to represent out members in the best way we can, and a straw vote is one of those ways. We want a straw vote and we demand a straw vote. The membership of the meeting was joyous and determined. The agitation from NZPF was palpable.
And the vote was overwhelming: New Zealand primary teachers and principals had spoken.
I know who voted against or didn’t vote but I’m not getting into that.
There is a lot more I know, for instance those exec members very close to Hekia – too close, in my view, to be able to properly represent their members. What these people need to recognise is that governments do what they do, but those representing their members aren’t properly doing what they do by just going along with what governments do. There is a time to take a moral and ethical stand. That’s what those representing members do – or should do. Isn’t that in the school values of their schools?
It is my view, on the basis of what I have learnt, the NZPF is going to stall on the matter of a vote, all the while restricting their objections to the government’s restructuring on workability grounds. Then, after the government has made some cosmetic changes (probably in collusion with the executive), to declare themselves satisfied and in favour of the policy.
There could be terrible times ahead.