The Education Council along with the Education Review Office are the principal means by which teachers and schools are being ground down. They are the means by which resilience is being taken out of schools, leaving them exposed to the worst excesses of authoritarian government. They are insidious. Also insidious is the way the media, mainly without knowing it, are being used for anti-teacher propaganda. Government education media releases with a little visual and compositional titillation are being presented to the public as straightforward and uncontroversial, when they are really belittling of teachers and ideologically determined. The reasons for the media accepting government education media releases as educationally benign are complicated, including a degree of media complicity in the matter, but the situation has now fallen into such a predetermined pattern that it can only be broken by teacher organisations campaigning openly on the issue. One thing is clear, the media use education press releases in a way they do from no other government department.
I know many principals will have returned to schools lifted by conference messages but, as good as most of the messages were, in our present context, they add up to just hot air. The teacher organisations, relative to other years, are in a good place but, relative to demands, fall despairingly short. However, it is only the teacher organisations that have the independence and status to stand up to the authoritarian challenges that face schools.
At base, the teacher organisations don’t yet get it. The battle lines should be drawn not at the high ideology of IES and PaCT but at seminal beginnings, that is at Point Dot where the bifurcation in children’s learning starts: one fork growing from an observable and measurable learning objective; the other from a judgement-based aim. From this bifurcation and the emphasis placed on one fork or other is determined the nature of an education system (or any other part to which the Point Dot formula might be applied). If an education system is unbalanced towards the measurable objective, control shifts towards the hierarchy and learning is progressively determined by those with little or no experience in genuine learning. The Point Dot idea can be applied to a teacher’s development, a school’s development, to an academic’s writing or research, or to an historical development of an education system.
When a teacher, principal, leader gets the Point Dot idea, that teacher, principal, leader gets everything, and if they don’t, they get nothing. Our teacher organisations need to base their campaigns on the seminal Point Dot idea.
On Saturday, TV3 carried an oh so characteristic media item, but, ironically, not so characteristic of it (see below). The Education Council had issued the findings of a report that had teachers admitting they were deficient in computer skills. This, as we all know, is the strategy of death by a thousand cuts; a strategy developed by the Education Review Office which a few weeks ago, for instance, issued a report about schools being deficient in the transition between school and pre-school education.
It is all part of downgrading the status of public schools and upgrading of the status of the bureaucracy. This is what happens when democracy and true partnership are removed from an education system – and is nearly always the result of schools and the bureaucracy talking past each other from different conceptions of learning (refer to Point Dot idea).
In an authoritarian education system, schools have things done to them not with them.
Schools and their leadership are continually kept off balance.
Also kept off balance is our education system. Instead of teachers and the bureaucracy working out priorities together, priorities are worked out and released by the bureaucracy through a phenomenally deceptive and elaborate system of propaganda. Any priority worked out by the bureaucracy always has increased bureaucratic control inherent in it; is based on learning by measurable objectives; is claimed to be something schools want; provides the appearance of the government doing things; and is used to head off other priorities that would be more expensive or at odds with the government’s education ideology.
Computers are important in education but, like anything important in the value-laden field of education, to what extent is not settled and never will be for as long as an education system remains democratic.
But something is particularly afoot in this relentless attack on teachers through a naïve media. We teachers know that, can’t the media get any sense of it?
It may help to them to see public schools as a company being prepared for a take-over – a programme take-over by multi-nationals, a multi-national like Pearson. (There are, however, various kinds of takeovers, and various kinds of ways of the government divesting itself of public school education.)
This preparation began with national standards and was relentlessly advanced by following one fork from the bifurcation of Point Dot: that is observable, measurable objectives, reduced to skills and behaviours which can be standardised. That is the fork of control as against the other, the fork of relative freedom.
Learning is becoming a set of materials, a prepackaged, standardised programme designed by people who are not part of the teaching learning process. Education knowledge is becoming that which is accessed from a computer; knowledge that is homogenised, stripped of the particular, the local, the awkward.
You should know that John Hattie has linked with Pearson and all will be linked with TPP.
The crucial issue here is that the conception and planning of the curriculum is becoming increasingly separate from the execution of the curriculum. The planner, because of the accumulation of knowledge about the technology, and choice of reducible knowledge, actually dictates what both the child and teacher will do. (Downloaded programmes; official tests, for instance, writing e-asTTle; and what the education review office signals as important are all part of this separation.)
On Saturday evening, 4 July, TV3 took the propaganda handout from the anti-democratic Education Council and presented its findings as a given, in doing so inflicted another small media injury on school education. Perhaps it is a sign of the TV3 owners swinging in behind the National government – who knows at this stage? Fourteen per cent of teachers declared themselves fully up with the digital play, whatever that means. And out were trotted the inevitable trial schools and the children working on 3D and so on. A teacher declares the children don’t want to go to breaks – as though that never happened in the usual course of events. Another teacher had been to a digital course and felt he was a better teacher for it. Oh, how lovely it all was, cheerful and enthusiastic boys and girls bubbling along about their teaching with computers – and all so pig ignorant of the real message they were delivering.
We need to ask what and who are behind the making of such statements. They do not belong to the individuals who are saying them. They are acting on knowledges they take as truth. They are not intending to lie or mislead. They are messengers of a mythology. Given the infinite number of education issues that could be discussed, why, when computers appear before us, are the same old statements brought forward and repeated as non-problematic truths? And are we discussing technology issues or learning ones?
Given that the government capitulation to overseas education ideas is near complete; and when matters far beyond education are being dealt with by the government by introducing foreign capital – a tremendous sense of urgency should be gripping the teacher organisations, but they need first a tremendous sense of education understanding – an understanding that does not lie in overseas speakers, but in our own cultural history, in particular, understanding the bifurcation that always occurs from Point Dot. And for goodness sake, get cracking on putting the anti-democratic Education Council and learning-prescriptive Education Review office in their places, and explain to the media how they, the media, are being manipulated.
(Yes – dammit – it wouldn’t do the teacher organisations any harm to study a perspective of our cultural history as expressed in Primary School Diaries Part Five: Magazine Years. I didn’t write this as an aging person’s folly, something to do between now and then, I wrote it, believe it or not because I thought it was relevant.)