[1988, kitchen table, scratching away with a pen, and for some reason I get on to collaboration.]
[This is just a post-note to Parts 1 and 2. I cannot remember what occasioned it. I don’t know whether it was some particular government policy or just deep distrust of Lange’s education policies in general but there I was in 1988 and this is what I wrote. I will make no further contemporary comment.]
In third world countries, locally-based and collaborative structures can be educationally, socially, and politically potent. In technocratic, affluent, individualistic societies, however, collaboration, in the way it comes out in practice, seems to lead to schools becoming subject to an extension of hierarchical lines of control. It can lead to positivist thinking being imposed on teachers and children in suffocating proximity. Collaboration is undermined when some of those involved, mainly the government and its agencies but also principals, government-organised parent groups, even teacher organisations, have strong sanctions of one sort or another over one group in particular, namely classroom teachers.
As I prepare to travel around New Zealand campaigning for the holistic and democratic as against the positivist and hierarchical – where does this leave my message?
If you can’t have effective collaborative local structures in a non-collaborative education system, it must logically extend to not being able to have a collaborative education system in a non-collaborative society. In thinking back on that though, I can accept that realities take time to work through. The strongly right-wing Ronald Algie in being appointed minister of education when National took power in 1949 proceeded to make extensive visits to schools and to consult parents, resulting, famously, in him endorsing the progressive education reforms of Clarence Beeby and Peter Fraser.
In the following decades the primary school progressive philosophy still held but had to function in a generally unsympathetic environment. During that period it was seriously misrepresented by a hostile media, calling the philosophy ‘playway’; and condescended to by the analytics and positivists (mainly as quantitative academics) busily establishing themselves in universities from where they declared their evidenced-based certainties. What served to protect schools was their relative education success at low cost; what will destroy them are neoliberal arguments about where power should reside.
The neoliberal education arguments are not really about education but about the movement of power to the centre to progress laissez faire capitalist beliefs, with education a particular focus as a way to take control of the future and stifle education as a source of alternative ideas. In response, I intend to talk and write about a holistic education system, democratic values, and the importance of genuine power sharing and social equity. We can, as referred to, only get the kind of education system we want if there is the social context to match so I will talk and write about that. And the kind of education system we should want is a holistic one built on variety, collaboration, and stretching children imaginatively and creatively. It is of great wonderment that a simple curriculum structure puts politicians, bureaucrats, and academics in a funk, that idea being that education, and its various major component, should be organised by a main aim, a holistic, humanistic, dynamic main aim that by nature leads to everything else falling into place, indeed, often turning what might have been objectives into criteria. It is in this way the integrating holistic works – on the other hand, politicians, bureaucrats, and academics are fixated on complex arrays of objectives that can be measured and, in practice, often work against each other to intended subversive and control ends.
It is about control: the holistic gives power to schools and teachers to work things through to children’s advantage; objectives with their fragmentation and measurement give power to politicians, bureaucrats, and academics to work things through to their own.
Considering the harshness of the current power structures and the self-serving arguments they are based on, I don’t expect the holistic and the democratic message to succeed in my time, but time, in the end wins, nothing is forever, events turn and crises come, and change is forced upon us, change which can be for the better or the worse, who knows, so the idea is to get the message out there, it might be the time for all who have fought for a kinder, fairer society and an education system to match, our moment might come. It is that which pushes me on.