Human nature, cynicism, and NZEI capitulation

As predicted in an earlier posting, there were strong majorities from schools in support of clusters, with teachers more strongly in favour than principals. I am impressed, given the farcically biased presentation and that such a vote should never have been placed before members, that three out of ten principals were against.  In effect, though, the result means the majority of teachers and their leaders have learnt nothing from the Tomorrow’s Schools experience and, indeed, have voted to support and extend that philosophy. But this time, all the neoliberal instruments of control are in place to bear down.

There is a non-accountable education review office; teachers excluded from policy formation; teachers excluded from the teachers council; national standards; a curriculum based on measurable objectives; a curriculum developed on a continuous basis in review and ministry offices; a curriculum based on there being one way of doing things; systemic bullying and fear-based control; professional development as an extension of the bureaucracies; academia controlled by contracts; a vast and intrusive centralised propaganda machine; and now schools aggregated for ease of control.

The NZEI made none of the dismantling or weakening of these instruments a bottom line. The only bottom line was capitulation at any price.

The neoliberal drive to control education is just another expression of the inherent drive in human nature to control others. Teachers are excluded from true power because their agenda is described as self-serving thereby allowing the self-serving agenda of others to dominate. That agenda of others can only be understood by an analysis deeply rooted in cynicism. Capitulation to the agenda of others, as has occurred in the NZEI vote, is a capitulation to the cost of children. While principals and teachers can protect themselves with unquestioning compliance, children will have no-where to hide, especially the more vulnerable.

The education of children is problematic and value-laden. For the integrity of the education system, the various groups within it need to be free, willing, and able to argue and even, at times, obstruct the ideas and actions of other groups. There never has been and never will be a set of aims and related processes that have met, or will meet, the needs of all children within a system, or be agreed to by all those within a system.

Power should be shared throughout the education system, and various checks and balances be in place to stop it becoming too concentrated. It is only in this way that children will gain some protection from the vagaries of educational and political ideas and the human drive to control and dominate. The powerlessness of the young, the fact of them being young, makes school-children tempting targets for those who want to turn schools into battlegrounds for competing visions of what society ought to be.

Teachers are unsettled by the possibility of curriculum and administrative ideas being able to be passed quickly down the hierarchical chain without those ideas requiring teacher involvement at all stages of their development. The best ideas for education come from teachers and those close to teachers. The part of the education system that is important to teachers is the part close to them. The part further away has the capacity to do much harm, but little capacity to do much good. The nature of the education system should be to protect teachers from hastily conceived ideas – no matter their potential benefits. Good ideas are only good if the process for their development has been good. The last thing teachers want is the kind of efficiency that has someone in the hierarchy having an idea, and then using the chain of command to force it on them without due process.

The last three paragraphs were part of an article in the first issue of my magazine in 1990, Developmental Network Magazine.

Back then NZEI detested me for reminding them there is another way other than giving into government demand on the grounds the government was  going to bring it in anyway. What a passport to betrayal.

So here we go again.

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11 Responses to Human nature, cynicism, and NZEI capitulation

  1. Uncompromising stuff Kelvin, kind of sums up what we talked about yesterday.

  2. Reg Vaughan says:

    The first two paragraphs are quoted from Henry A Giroux who currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest.
    At a time when memory is being erased and the political relevance of education is dismissed in the language of measurement and quantification, it is all the more important to remember the legacy and work of Paulo Freire.
    Institutions of public and higher education are increasingly under siege by a host of neoliberal and conservative forces. it is imperative for educators to acknowledge Freire’s understanding of the empowering and democratic potential of education. Critical pedagogy currently offers the very best, perhaps the only, chance for young people to develop and assert a sense of their rights and responsibilities to participate in governing, and not simply being governed by prevailing ideological and material forces.
    It is probable that many classroom teachers and educator-administrators of today have never heard of Paolo Freire and are a product of the biggest con-job ever foisted on the New Zealand public by any government—Tomorrow’s Schools. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining why those who have the power to bring about change in education continue to be compliant and capitulate when the going gets difficult.
    Jesus wept.
    Reg Vaughan
    Chalkface Teacher 1965—2008

  3. Kelvin says:

    Thank-you Reg for your powerful reminder.

  4. John Carrodus says:

    Great stuff Reg.Good to see you’re very much alive,alert and kicking.your second paragraph sums it all up well Kelvin.Add to it the fact that schools will now become electronic jungles with a three ring circus attached. Between EDUCANZ, ERO, MOE, STA, NZEI, PPTA, BOT, the flying teacher service and the COS Rent a Principal, paramilitary appraisers and PL providers……there will not be much room left for teaching the kids or involving the local community. Just watch the buck being pushed from desk to desk when the chips start flying. God what a mess it will be. What a waste.

  5. Colin Tarr FNZEI (Past NZEI Te Riu Roa National President) says:

    Kia ora koutou

    The TBNS BOT had the following minute on their books (Sept 2014):-

    That Titahi Bay North School defer any decision on participating in any IES type model until it is clear that funding would go directly to the children through increases in special education provision, support staff increases and lower class sizes to help ensure higher levels of individual attention and feedback.

    This was in line with what NZEI was saying schools should do at that time. Trustees wholeheartedly agreed with this, then.

    At their meeting last night (23 September 2015) the Trustees said:-

    That the Titahi Bay North School BoT remains unconvinced that the Community of Schools (CoS) or emerging Community of Learning (CoL) models would add much (or any) value to enhancing curriculum, learning, teaching and achievement at our school, indeed they may well deflect teachers and principals from working and focussing on what can be achieved in their schools and, given this, will continue to defer any decision on participating in any IES type model until it is clear that funding would go directly to the children through increases in special education provision, support staff increases and lowering class sizes to help ensure higher levels of individual attention and feedback can be provided.

  6. Kelvin says:

    That’s what we wanted: genuine negotiation not craven capitulation. I would have wanted a roll back of some of the neoliberal instruments but what Colin has laid out is spot on for a board of trustees. Well done Colin and the board.

  7. Colin Tarr FNZEI (Past NZEI Te Riu Roa National President) says:

    Po marie Kelvin
    Nga mihi nui Pa

    Same here. Like you I want a roll back of new right instruments…. but that’s a work in progress (and always will be I guess) in all jurisdictions….

    I tried to give the principals PUM I attended an overview of partial concession strategies (none of which appeared to have been used by NZEI on this occasion). Maybe there was but none, appeared to, came back to the members to say yes or no to… What we got was not any partial concession package – it was, as you indicate, pretty much major (you say .. craven) capitulation.

    I’m a guest at the NZEI AM next week so (if I get the chance) I’ll ask about this.

    Anyway one ‘cuts it’ the CoL ‘alternative’ is nothing more than a little rearrangement of the CoS (Titanic) deck chairs for primary schools……

    My ‘partial concession’ homily wasn’t successful at the principal PUM I attended. The vote (at that PUM) was 9 for 1 opposed. Guess who was the 1!

    The teachers at our school (and other teachers I speak with) are pretty well ‘across’ the CoS / CoL models and know how daft both of them are in terms of workability in primary school contexts. Good luck to secondary if they can make them work for their teaching and learning…

    I managed to get the MoE to give us an indication of resourcing that might be available to the 10 schools (1 state secondary, 1 Catholic secondary, 1 SDAS, 1 Catholic Yr 1 – 6, 1 special school, 1 full primary rumaki and auraki options, 1 intermediate, 3 Yr 1- 6 primary) in our area if we went into a CoS.

    $19250 would be shared out to these schools and $198000 would go into the pay packets of 19 teachers (1 principal, at the experienced principal rate 6+ years as a principal, 3 across school teachers, and 15 in school teachers).

    I could not – personally, professionally, ethically or morally – go into a scheme where there was an indicative $217250 on offer to a group of 10 very different and diverse schools (with many different needs) and have $198000 of it being paid out to 19 teachers (by way of extra salary) amongst the 131.10 teachers working in the 10 schools on the basis that these 19 teachers were going to make at least $200k worth of difference across the 10 schools in a year – or at least $400k difference in two years – or at last 600k worth of difference by 2018.

    Our sector is saying ‘give it a go’. Lets track and see the ‘difference’ there might be in such a “community of schools” as at close of play on 16/12/2018.

    I contend it will not work. But we seem to be open to giving ‘it’ 3 years and let’s see if anyone can make ‘it’ work to add real and sustained value to primary schools.

    At TBNS – we get ‘it’ in our little corner of the world – and ‘it’ (CoS, CoL et al) ain’t coming through our school gate any time soon. But then we may miss out on the PLD support we absolutely need to make a lasting difference to our work here…. If that happens we’ll squawk loudly….

    But all of this, as Kelvin continually writes about, are just components of a much bigger picture than just one school, centre or context…..

    Papa Kelvin get’s it. He writes incisively. He has the wherewithal, networks, contacts, intellectual grunt and research capability to interrogate, analyse, critique and publicise the issues of the day and time (at the time, just in time, when ‘the time’ requires a response). Networkonnet postings have prompted me to ‘do something’ on the many occasions I’ve received, read and reflected on them…

    NZEI, NZPF, NZEALS (and EDUCANZ – if they are the voice for teachers they say they are) need to be “at the time, just in time, when ‘the time’ requires a response” voice for their members. Talking our language like Pa Kelvin does – not the belt way rhetoric that comes out by way of NZEI or NZPF or EDUCANZ ‘media release’.

    I first met Kelvin Smythe 30 years ago. I still think of him as a 45ish year old senior inspector of schools in the Hamilton office of the Dept of Education (connected with the then Hamilton Education Board). He was one of the cleverest and most supportive senior inspectors of schools for primary I ever had the pleasure of working with. He was simply fantastic on social studies. I did some great SS teaching off the back of Kelvin’s resources and ideas. He did great things in PLD sessions with teachers who went on to do amazing things with their classes in terms of social studies. His resources, ideas and PLD facilitation did great things at 3 schools I was principal of in Auckland and the Waikato.

    But we need to remember our ‘Pa’ is 77 years old. Long may he continue to interrogate, analyse, critique and publicise the issues of the day and time (at the time)…..

    We all need to be doing that as well. That said our working days, as teachers and principals are very full on…..

    We need to ask the Institutes, Federations, Associations, Societies in education that we belong to (and pay subs into) – to represent their members views (individually and collectively) and require that they do what they can to make good things so and bad things go away.

    We need to require the likes of NZEI, NZPF, EDUCANZ, NZEALS etc to advocate on behalf of their members, individually and collectively “at the time, just in time, when ‘the time’ requires a response” voice for their members.

    In my early career as a teacher (and NZEI official) I had the privilege of sitting and talking with an elderly C E Beeby on two occasions. I talked with him about his famous quote about policy makers having to win the hearts and minds of the infant mistresses to make any policy measure/initiative stick. Beeb told me a lovely story or two about this which has stuck with me these past 35 years working in education….

    Oh to have a Director General that could do what Beeb espoused and did in the 1930s/1940s

    Remember the Fraser / Beeby 1939 statement…..

    “The Government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that all persons, whatever their ability, rich or poor, whether they live in town or country, have a right as citizens to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers. So far is this from being a mere pious platitude that the full acceptance of the principle will involve the reorientation of the education system.”

    Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui

  8. Kelvin says:

    Thank-you for the wonderful overview of this perilous situation, and the wisdom and tactical adroitness – also the kind words. What you have written has sparked an idea for a posting.

  9. Melulater says:

    I don’t often agree with Mr Tarr, but the figures he has provided above confirm my thoughts on the IES/JI debacle. The money is handed to too few and not to where it is needed the most – the kids. This isn’t a career path way for teachers. It is more work for a select few who are silly enough to fall for it. The JI is merely the IES pig with lipstick on, and any renegotiation done in the coming year will make it a pig in lipstick with eyeshadow and blusher.
    I’m extremely disappointed by the leadership of NEZI & NZPF for not taking a decisive stand and not rallying the membership behind them. I’m extremely disappointed with the membership for being apathetic, willfully uninformed and weak when they have the numbers to make the difference. The lack of concrete by both leadership and membership is hand-in-hand and self-perpetuating. Neither is willing to take the hard stand without direction from the other and neither is willing to be the one to make it.
    So infuriating!
    Can’t you see that the GERM policies of this government will destroy your profession? That these GERM policies do not marry with informed pedagogy? That these GERM policies are by design?
    I have decided this vote was the third and final nail in a decision I made five weeks ago not to reapply for my position or be a classroom teacher in 2016. I need to advocate against the GERM from a position where I am not compromising my job or beliefs. I can not participate in a system that is supporting the GERM any longer.

  10. Kelvin says:

    I’ll be away for a week Melulater, perhaps you might like to give me a ring after that. Your tentative decision is probably a rational one, which means it might be out of kilter with the times.

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