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.