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:

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 7.57.09 AM

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:

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 7.56.44 AM

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…

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 7.58.07 AM

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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