Primary School Diaries series
The second two were Curriculum 3 and 4
The final booklet was the Magazine Years.
These booklets are available now: All booklets $20.00
Two or more of the same booklet: $17.50
Ivan Snook of the first Stories and Satires (1) booklet said: ‘Smythe’s analyses of educational change – in turns sardonic, droll, fierce, peevish and passionate, but always insightful – have delighted his supporters and outraged his opponents: those who constantly undermine educational values whether they be politicians. ideologues, newspaper editors, or academics.’
John O’Neill in reviewing the second Stories and Satires (2) booklet said: ‘Smythe takes no pleasure in revealing that these tinpot emperors parade naked (intellectually and morally), but he continues to do so for one fundamentally important reason. The future of Smythe’s young grandchildren, indeed, that of all our grandchildren, lies in teachers being unreasonable. In this sense, Smythe’s diaries truly are ‘maxims for revolutionists’. As Bernard Shaw’s fictional character put it, reasonable people simply accommodate themselves to the world as it is, therefore all progress depends on people being unreasonable.’
Joce Jesson in reviewing the first Curriculum (3) booklet said: ‘What all these booklets actually tell us about are the stories of teachers’ work: of just how creative teachers grabbed the possibilities afforded by the curriculum of the day and made them the focus of real learning. Smythe unashamedly draws his enthusiasm from New Zealand’s history, from the work of Elwyn Richardson, and shows that the essence of great teaching is in allowing teachers to create situations in which children are motivated by their own enthusiasms to explore, investigate, and learn matters of significance for the future.
I said of this first Curriculum (4) booklet: ‘I challenge readers to read about the teacher who with the children built a spaceship in her classroom; about Serendipity and its learning stations; about Elwyn Richardson in glorious bursts; about the school that turned the numeracy programme upside down in the name of the holistic and is achieving wonders; about the wonderful drama programme – and much more in between – and by the end, not have a terrific grasp of the holistic. Read it from end to end and I’ll go ‘he’ if at the end you don’t say: I get it.’
Professor Ivan Snook comments on Primary School Diaries 5: Every primary principal should read, and encourage their teachers to read, the latest of Kelvin Smythe’s Primary School Diaries, edited by Allan Alach. It begins by exposing the cunning publicity surrounding Tomorrows Schools, (‘It’s time you knew what is going on at your local school’). Thereafter, through the eyes of an active participant in every debate since the late 1980s, the reader gains an insight into the constant attacks on our education system from ideologues bent on using the schools for their own political and economic ends. As he puts it ‘The endgame is education dominated by global corporations delivering computer-based teaching programmes to classrooms along with an associated range of services to cluster schools.’ The presentation is interspersed with glimpses of what once was and what still might be: holistic education, focused on the child and allowing scope for the teacher’s professional judgement. As he puts it: ‘The holistic, of which developmental is the classroom expression, is a set of timeless principles fit for purpose as the basis for education in democratic societies.’ This he sees as the alternative to the current managerialist model of schooling, of which the IES is the latest manifestation. Kelvin recognises that his booklet may have little effect on the current juggernaut but has decided to put it out ‘in the hope that one day things might change, and someone might stumble across the booklet and find it relevant.’
For the second Curriculum (4) booklet to work, the first one, Curriculum (3), needs to be read first.
The second Curriculum (4): a 98-page booklet, this time in colour, has the following articles:
- A vivid description of the holistic
- Curriculum-driven school leadership
- A John Dewey-style problem solving programme in action
- The essence of how to take writing
- A practical, down-to-earth way to take science
- Further detail on taking a drama programme
- A visual arts programme in colour: Touching the clouds
- The New Zealand way to take reading
- The way to help children with dyslexia
- The philosophical basis for maintaining child-centred education (allowing variety), also ways to stop things going soft
- Further detail on setting up a holistic, problem solving mathematics programme
- Problem solving explored in lively style: Albert and the discovery thieves
- Encounter: just about the last time after doing it for 45 years, I visited a student teacher on practicum – a bitter-sweet moment.
All the booklets are about the holistic either explaining it, showing it at work, or defending it; they are also about being able to imagine a better world, creating a culture of questioning, promoting social change, and above all, providing hope, a precondition for the individual and social struggle so direly needed.