It was 15 September, 1960, Algie, the minister of education in the eight years before the Labour victory in 1957, and Skoglund, the present education minister but a month before Labour was to be swept from government, were shown by Minhinnick (NZ Herald) lifting a paving slab with creepy crawlies revealed in a vicious cartoon labelled The Beeby Education Path [commonly called Beebyism] and Playway, the derogatory label for what we call developmental education and the holistic. Once again, as is the Labour habit, a secondary school teacher (not even a trained one) had been made minister of education.
I had just won my first permanent position at Glenbrae School but I can still feel the disgust and deep sadness that swept over me. I had already recognised the beauty and power of developmental and the holistic and thought to myself this is going to be a tough one.
There followed for me, wars of words with many people starting with Noel Holmes of the Auckland Star who headlined my suggestion he stick to his known areas of expertise, Eden Park toilets; and others like Frank Haden, also in the Star whose words I represented in my Developmental Network Magazine as ‘Mrs Jones, teacher of y. 1 Room 3 children might look innocent enough in her cardy and floral-print dress, but within her rages the fervour of a latter-day Che Guevera. And Mrs Jones can be considered a microcosm of teachers as a whole … many are the parents who, in talking to Mrs Jones about the welfare of children, have noticed a gleam suddenly appearing behind her bifocals. Such a gleam betokens a fantasy of herself charging out of the Waitakeres, ammunition belt slung across her chest, waving a Kalashnikov in the air …
And there was a particularly bitter exchange between Warwick Roger of the Metro and me when I wrote to the accompanying cricketing graphic (he was a great cricketing lover, so I thought it might be a tender spot). The harsh and intemperate criticism of primary schools over the years I have always recognised as containing a strong element of misogyny within it, primary being mainly women.
In my early years as a letter writer there was a small hiccup when my mother, who I implicitly obeyed on the empirical basis that she was nearly always right, suggested that I concentrate a little less on letters to newspapers and more on doing other things. I responded with a cunning plan and wrote my next letter under another name (KG Wilmot from Life with Dexter, the radio programme). But to no avail: ‘I see you have written another letter,’ she said.
Once a tone, always a tone, I ruefully pondered.
And in a way, here I am, 56 years later, still more or less writing the equivalent of letters to the editor.
I have a long memory: the cartoon above is utu.
Hekia Parata has, like a long line in politics and media, destroyed our past to put the boot into the present to control the future. May she go to Foreign Affairs or an overseas diplomatic post – in other words to a position that gives her the minimum of discretionary power.