The Linguistics of the GERM

We live in the age of PR. Everyone uses it. People head into journalism school, come out all idealistic about changing the world with their investigative journalism, then work in the New Zealand media and realise their job involves very little pay and very little time.

Instead of hard-core investigative journalism like we used to have in the old days (pre-1980s neoliberal reform) where various people and institutions were held accountable for their actions or inactions, now journalism appears to consist of cutting and pasting press releases delivered to media institutions by the PR people working for said people and institutions.

With cutting and pasting being far less exciting than sitting in a Hillman Hunter on a stakeout, I’m sure the average New Zealand journalist can hardly wait until the day they can leave their media organisation and work in the private sector constructing lies spin for someone. Mind you, many can actually end up working in the public sector for various government departments and politicians.

So we come to the linguistics of the GERM. People more eloquent than I referred to George Orwell’s idea from 1984 that a lie repeated often enough will become a truth. This is what has happened with our education reformists. They have made various pronouncements about the failing education system in New Zealand. Depending on which mass media outlet of liars you believe, one fifth of our students leave school with barely enough literacy and numeracy to hold down a prison cell.

I suggest in a previous posting that the 20% figure could have come from NCEA statistics supplied by the ministry. After trawling google the other day, I now believe it’s a figure they’ve plucked out of their arses thin air because it’s a nice, tidy number that people’s overworked brains can calculate. 20%. One fifth. One in five…

Where’s my proof? This rubbish journalism from some UK hacks:

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What… so 20% of UK kids are failing? How can EXACTLY the same ratio of kids be failing in two different countries on opposite sides of the globe?

Here’s another. From the slightly more upmarket (that’s a quote from their own upmarketing department) Daily Mail:

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Again with the 20%! What an amazing coincidence! From 2008 too… the same year that the National Party of New Zealand started trumpeting about the one in five.

And here’s something from New Zealand…

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All these articles featuring the mythical 20% are not coincidental. They are about as coincidental as two married people waking up in the same bed each morning.

This is the type of linguistic gymnastics – linguastics, if you will – the GERMists give you. Nice neat statistics that are easy to digest. Parents can then be sucked into the dogma and begin to agree that education is in crisis, teachers are failing our kids and SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE BEFORE IT TURNS TO SHIT!

Just think about it. These people are alleging that our education system (that’s NZ, Aust, UK, US and Canada) are so horrendously bad that at some point one fifth, 20% aren’t able to read, write and do maths effectively enough to hold down a job/fill out a form/stay out of prison. As well as this, the 20% made it through their entire schooling (primary AND secondary according to the New Zealand spin) without a single teacher or principal noticing????

If our education system really was that bad then don’t you think teachers, as the professional body they are, would have noticed and would be highlighting it themselves? Wouldn’t we be jumping up and down saying something? No we wouldn’t because, as the GERMists say, we’re all about protecting our jobs. Nothing else.

Teachers haven’t noticed because this concept doesn’t exist. The 20% is a lie. It is a fabrication that has been repeated so often, by so many different people and media outlets, that it is now believed as a truth. But it is a mistruth. A lie. It’s does not exist in reality.

Just like every other reason the GERMists are offering us:

Failing teachers. Intransigent teachers unwilling to move to the future of 21st education being offered by the GERMists. Untrained educators being able to do the job of teacher far better than a teacher could. Religious charities with no previous history of running schools or curriculum being allowed to set up a school, implement a curriculum and teach kids. Private or public companies being quite capable of taking public money to run a school and not be concerned about the bottom line and making profits of our kids.

It’s all lies. Don’t believe any argument you hear in favour of education reform.

Somehow, and unfortunately so, I feel that I may be preaching to the converted a little. So please do spread the word. There are people out there that want to take over your education system because it offers them and their mates fat, healthy dividends and bonuses.

Enough moaning. Next week – solutions.

Mr B

PS: Here’s some items I found that contradict (disprove) the lies of the GERMists.

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Parents don’t trust coalition on education, poll shows

UK parents seem not to trust the government to educate their children.

Who do they trust then? Oh, it’s teachers. There’s a surprise, he said sarcasticly.

If you’re interested, just 6% trusted Michael Gove the Education Secretary. I wonder what the figures would be here in NZ?

And lastly… “Just 2% of respondents said politicians should be able to prescribe what teachers teach”

So there. Shut up and let us do ourjob.

Ideal Ideologues? Not Likely

Here’s a link to a blog about the ideologues who have taken over the education debate in the United States. It has no names but you if you know anything about the debate over there you can probably replace the X’s with the correct name. You might even want to try to replace them with a local, New Zealand ideologue and see if the meaning remains. I did and it’s scary.

Mr. B

Would You Take the Test?

Here’s another link to a piece about Rhode Island students getting professionals to take the high school diploma test – more than half of them failed…

Go on… I Dare You… No, I Double Dare You

I was having a wee twitter conversation with Allan Alach the other night. I raised a few questions and challenged others to offer up some of their own. Mainly we were all concerned with why. Why are they doing this to us? No. It cannot be!

Before you think of me going all Charlton Heston on you (the Planet of the Apes ground hitting Charlton, not the NRA gun waving nutter he turned into), we raised some very interesting questions with each other.

In my blog I wondered if any politicians would be able to pass an asTTle reading test set at Level 5 of the curriculum. Allan replied:

As he pointed out later on in the conversation:

And also:

That got me thinking. I know! Thinking on a school night this far into the term. But thinking I have been. Standards and achievement based on age don’t exist in the adult world so why should they be imposed on our young kids? Why should you be labelled ‘well below’ because you haven’t met the standard at age 10, yet you go on to great things once you’re out of our education system which, as Sir Ken Robinson points out, was developed and has remained pretty much unchanged since the Victorian age. Just like everything else in our society – iPads, for instance.

So here’s the challenge to all the GERMists trying to stick their greedy snouts in the trough:

I dare you all to be assessed for the NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy unit standards. Not level 2, but level 1. If that’s a little bit too scary for you, I can set you up with a little e-asTTle reading assessment and another for maths. It’s only going to be an hour and twenty minutes and it will test whether you are at Level 5 of the curriculum.

Don’t be scared, frightened creatures. I know you are busy people, what with your businesses, Auckland houses and expressions of interest in Mighty River Power, but it is really just a few minutes of your time.

The challenge is there. It is very real.

Go on… I dare you. No, I double dare you.

Mr. B

PS: don’t be put off by a recent challenge in the Providence, Rhode Island, where a majority of professionals and politicians (30/50 or 60%) “would have scored ‘substantially below proficient,’ meaning they did not get a high enough score to receive a diploma.” I’m sure you guys will be fine.