I had a dream

I had been working late into the night against the deadline for the third ERO review of Opua School; desperate to get out the postings to protect the school from the revenge visit set up by the second review.

It worked, completed by the Herald article.

That night I had a dream. I am not a dream person: I cannot remember them, nor do I much value them, but this one seemed too pointed to forget or dismiss.

The further context for my dream was my age and various other intimations of mortality; it being 25 years since I had left the formal education system as a senior inspector of schools; left to advocate for the holistic curriculum and to prophesy where Tomorrow’s Schools would end up. Around the country I travelled with my little message, aided by a magazine I produced for 10 years and a website for the others.

What do you make of the dream? (Please advise.)

I found myself being committed to a boxing match but to whom. A name was drawn from someone’s extended hand. I had drawn the champion. My dream was subtle here – he was not fierce and gigantic, but tall and lithe. The next few moments I spent feverishly trying to get myself appropriately kitted out; part of this involved looking for some head protection, but that came to nothing. Then I looked to my right and saw a group, clearly on my side, but to what effect, they were a writhing Hogarthian melee.

My opponent moved towards me.

Then, as I shaped up, I noticed something.

He hasn’t got a nasal strip!

I might be in with a chance here, I thought.

That same day I received an e-mail from Ivan Snook, at the end he had written ‘What a massive contribution you have made for so many years and are still keeping “the rumour of education” alive.’

I was moved. But, after my dream, should I consider it a career epitaph or an encouragement to continue? What a marvellous expression ‘the rumour of education’ – exactly how I had thought about my last 25 years, and what an apposite description of the fragility of education.

This could be a time to bow out (I know to only a smattering of applause largely extinguished by sighs of relief).

A little victory over the review office; a kind word from Ivan; and the dream. Yes – it could be the time.

And then came the appalling decision by the NZEI executive to support the government cluster policy and the disgracefully unbalanced ballot process.

I knew immediately it was the beginning of a new neoliberal education cycle, once again with NZEI and NZPF complicit.

When I began my campaign against Tomorrow’s School, one of the groups that most resented me was the NZEI executive; a resentment which was to continue well into the 21st century. As for principals and the NZPF executive, in general, they were utterly flummoxed: ‘What on earth is he going on about?’

I didn’t mind too much, it was no more than I expected, even sympathised with: To myself I explained  my role as keeping the cinders of the holistic alive which, in a way, is very like Ivan’s ‘rumour of education’.

As my Primary School Diaries record, especially the last one (Magazine Years), in 1991, I was to describe what was to eventuate to a T.

I could see it as if on a TV screen. Anyone could, as long as they started with the curriculum, the holistic curriculum, and then calculated how it would fare under the neoliberal education philosophy as it was slowly revealed.

And so the cycle begins.

I don’t need any research to know that the ballot has been set up to ensure the majority of principals and teachers will have supported the NZEI argument, though many will have been disgruntled with having been put into such an invidious voting position; also that principals will have been less supportive than teachers, dear trusting teachers.

The cycle will begin with NZEI and the ministry combining to deliver heavy propaganda about the success of the clusters.

But where will the clusters be in five years?

I can tell you something for nothing: clusters will eventually be dominated by the curriculum and organisation packages purchased from local and international providers.

With all the neoliberal instruments of power bearing down on these clusters, there is only one ending possible and it is a very ugly one.

What NZEI should have done is to have been insistent on those neoliberal instruments of power being dismantled before their approval for the clusters could be contemplated: that would include a restructuring of the external review agency; including the external review agency being separate and independent of the ministry; abolition of national standards as we know them; proper representation in policy formation; and proper representation on the teacher body.

As for me: I will keep bouncing back thinking I’m in with a chance here; and doing my best, puny as it might be in the circumstances, to keep alive the rumour of education.

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14 Responses to I had a dream

  1. John Carrodus says:

    Live your dream Kelvin, go the whole round, break the nose and go for the knockout! The Hogarths are with you, we need an official Bolshy! Keep on swinging that feather claymore Kelvin Grandelf. The Darth Vaders of education hate your ink, the lifeblood of democracy. Long may your keyboard run hot! This new chapter of education is shaping up nicely. Money, corruption, violence, large multipolitic business, dreams and new beginnings..pity no sex? Oh hang on…that will come later as our youthful Rock Economy slides into geriatric Crock Economy status.

  2. Kelvin says:

    John: I hope the teachers enjoyed your off-beat humour when you were principal. All the best my friend.

  3. Stephen says:

    Kelvin, keep up the good fight my friend. We need you and here’s why….

    About 15 years ago I visited a new school that been set up down the road by an ultra orthodox religious group. The students sat at desks and worked through a series of structured work books. This was the curriculum. They worked at their own pace and held a little flag up when they needed help from the teacher. The curriculum, books, support material etc. came from the U.S.

    Recently after visiting one of the new “modern / innovative learning environment ” schools I was immediately struck by the incredible similarity to what I had seen 15 years ago. Lists of exemplars, objectives, outcomes etc hanging on a wall or on a computer and the kids working through them at their own pace ticking them off as they completed tasks demonstrating “learning”. Somehow the fact that these prescriptive lists were on a fancy wall or on a chrome book was seen as some wonderful achievement. That student progress through the “list of learning” is publicly displayed and on view to parents and students is nothing more than a manifestation of the appalling American “Data Wall” concept. These new environments are an educational wasteland. The buildings that house them are a cheap answer to new school demand and the teaching within them a response to the building structure, national standards and an idiotic faith in IT rather than any sound pedagogy. The curriculums are the most highly defined of any I have seen and stifling of any creativity. Really the dealers in this stuff need to be taken behind the bike sheds and have the crap kicked out of them.

    • Melulater says:

      I see data walls and exemplars on many classroom walls and it leaves me cold. My walls are for student work to be displayed, inspiration for our topic and practical learning tools (eg. what is a verb, Maori days are the week, social behaviour reminders). Goals and achievement are personal and should not be publicly displayed in my opinion.

  4. Kelvin says:

    Stephen: that is so good it should be put to music.

  5. Jennifer Andrew says:

    …..and I’ll suggest something for nothing Kelvin. The clusters will huddle over THE national standards assessment framework, sharing recipes for their high spots, giving advice to remedy the low points, writing up cookbooks guaranteed to fill those gaps and fatten the scores.
    The curriculum will be the assessment framework.

    Keep on writing for so many want to keep on reading you.

  6. Stephen Daedalus says:

    Hi Kelvin, great piece go writing. I have escaped to a refreshing 4 days of PD all based on our great science curriculum. Great ideas, great chats, great sharing, great hands on, amazing science in our NZC and what a way to drive our literacy and numeracy. Not a mention of those NS zzzz. No BS about management, lots about switching kids on to science. I recommend the Sir Paul Callaghan Academy…. all free except you if need a reliever….. my escape … darn it finishes tomorrow!!!!

  7. Alice says:

    I don’t know how you keep going, Kelvin. As a teacher on the wrong side of sixty, I came away from an NZEI meeting on the joint initiative this week thinking, “You teachers deserve everything you get,” and resigning myself to it not being my problem anymore. I can just zombie it out for the rest of my years and hope I don’t get too fired up again when I see it’s my grandchildren who are suffering.
    In spite of being told in no uncertain terms what we needed to vote for, the climate amongst those of us who spoke out suggested that there was going to be a proud revolt at this meeting, but no, the vote went 3:1 in favour of the ‘Community of Learning’ – basically a ‘we’ll just roll over while you go ahead and pee on us’ message to the Minister.
    With national standards now being five years old I realise that a good number of my colleagues know nothing different, and maybe with the attitude most of them have that they are highly unlikely to stay in the job more than a few years, they just don’t care, but in that room the 30 – 50 year age group was well represented. But wait! They were same faces I saw at the NZEI meeting that voted to just give national standards a trial and then the Ministry will listen to us when they go wrong.

    • Brigid says:

      Take some heart from the meeting I was at, where the vote was fairly close for and against the Communities of Learning offer from the MOE. I’ve also heard of another meetings where the result was overwhelmingly NO. I feel less betrayed by the Ministry and Minister who I fully expect to want to ‘pee all over us’ than by the primary school boards, principals, and teachers, that have signed up for Communities of Schools clusters. It is because of these primary schools that the Ministry is in such a strong position and many primary teachers feel they must vote YES to prevent the Communities of Schools expert teacher roles being developed via individual contracts outside of the PTCC.

      • Alice says:

        Absolutely agree about the betrayal by our own people, Brigid. That’s why I think primary teachers deserve all they get. It was shameful the way the NZEI field officer swayed the vote, but I thought we were a more intelligent group than that. Glad the other votes were more positive, but I fear it’s not going to be enough. There a lots of teachers considering leaving NZEI over this.

    • Melulater says:

      At the meeting I was at this week more voted against than for. Personally I voted against. I did so despite listening to Louise Green in person explain why the Exec was asking for us to accept it. I understood her reasoning. But I could not, in good conscious, vote for such a GERM heavy concept after actively spending seven years advocating and activating against such concepts.
      It does concern me that we have many teachers now that know only the GERM infected education system we now have. Like Ivan said to Kelvin, we need to keep the “rumour of education” alive until we can resurrect it.

  8. Kelvin says:

    My readers in their comments are inspired. Teachers, in a world that doesn’t love them, have retained the hope that the NZEI still does. But the NZEI betrayed that trust and, even worse, another generation of children, especially from certain groupings. I hope the faces of those children haunt the rest of the teaching lives of those executive members. They have handed them over to bullshit artists, the self-servingly ambitious, and the profoundly ignorant. The government at the beginning of Tomorrow’s Schools set up an unstated but obvious deal with the principals, and would-be principals: forget what you know of another way of teaching, forget that past, and act on what we assert and you will be rewarded and lauded. Pure Orwell. And so we are where we are today, in decline, and set to continue to be so. Give your children to the Toby Curtis’s and Hatties of this world, don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine. You have made adult deals on adult concerns, and betrayed children. Twenty-five years of a failed prescription and you voted for twenty-five more. Oh champion.

  9. Margaret Box says:

    Hi Kelvin,

    Please don’t chuck in the towel! Keep the “rumour of education” alive so that it might actually become more than that one day when everything finally comes full circle!
    I pop into a small country school near where I live quite regularly, and see exciting things happening in the junior room where the teacher has set up ‘action stations’ during literacy time.
    The children choose from a variety of activities designed to allow them socialise, discuss, natter, problem solve, share …. while the teacher and/or teacher’s aid spend time with them, being part of the learning and experiences!
    Well now, I think we’ve been there before. Remember “Developmental” – the hour spent everyday when the children played? No written objectives, no data gathering, no learning intentions, outcomes, no box ticking, just plain old being there and enjoying the moment with the children.
    There’s hope still!

  10. Kelvin says:

    Oh happy days. And the spirit of developmental imbued the day. All best Margaret.

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