Here at My Thinks we work hard to get behind the stories to ask the big questions. Questions like, “What’s really happening?”
Who better to ask than former Police Minister, current Associate Education Minister and all-round expert in all things education, John Banks.
My Thinks caught up with Mr. Banks and his palatial state house in Wellington.
MT: Good morning Mr Banks. Thanks so much for agreeing to talk to us.
JB: No problem. How can I help?
MT: The Education Amendment Bill has just passed its second reading. How hopeful are you that it will deliver improved educational outcomes for New Zealand children?
JB: Yes. Very possibly.
MT: I suppose the first question we really should as you is; have you ever worked as a teacher?
JB: Oh good gracious no.
MT: Have you ever worked in a school?
MT: Have you ever served on a school board?
JB: Um… no.
MT: Well have you ever worked closely with children? Or maybe you’ve spent some time researching best practice or improving educational outcomes for children in the lowest socio-economic areas of New Zealand.
JB: (pause) …what… sorry I tuned out after ‘children.’ No look Mr Thinks. I don’t need to have worked with children to be Associate Minister of Education. The important thing for me is a strong sense of “back in my day” coupled with an acute understanding of the needs of my wallet.
MT: Um… ok. So the Education Amendment Bill has passed its second reading. Are you pleased with the progress of the bill?
JB: Oh absolutely. It’s a fantastic piece of legislation that really has children at its heart. It really is quite hard to believe that it was developed on the back of a napkin over drinks at a regional conference at Alan Gibbs’ mansion back in 2001.
MT: So what do you hope to achieve with charter schools?
JB: Everything, Mr Thinks. Everything.
MT: What sort of things?
JB: Oh, you know, lots of stuff. Like achievement and… and that.
MT: Can you be a bit more specific?
JB: Um… yes… probably…
(long, awkward pause)
MT: …it seems like you don’t really know anything about your policy or what it’s going to do for kiwi kids.
JB: That’s not a question, it’s a statement. Let me just get out my PR cards.
(retrieves cards from pocket. Cards marked with Catherine Isaac’s PR firm in top left corner)
JB (cont’d): Oh look… it says something here about achievement. Yes, that’s it. Partnership schools are going to be so important to lift the achievement of the various ethnical groupings in New Zealand.
MT: What else do you have there?
JB: Here’s another good one. Partnership schools are like a box of chocolates. You open the lid and look inside and some of the chocolates are wrapped in coloured foil, but most of them are completely naked.
MT: It doesn’t sound like that metaphor is very appropriate.
JB: Well let’s try this one then. Partnership schools will protect our most vulnerable by handing them over to a multi-national educational corporation who will educate using the most computery of teachers.
MT: I’m not sure I’m following you. Are charter schools going to be successful or not?
JB: My cards are telling me to say yes… so… probably yes. Definitely probably.
MT: Well, Mr Banks. Thanks very much for your time today.
JB: Nice one. Cup of tea?