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.