I’m just looking on the National Party website. It goes against my better judgement, but from time to time I have to dip my toes in the cesspool of neoliberal ideology so that they may be lightly covered in the algal bloom of right-wing pond scum (that is a metaphor for me wanting to know what’s going on).
This time I wanted to see what they actually stand for. What rocks their boat?
These things stand out. Those classic neoliberal / Ayn Rand ideas of “low government,” “individual freedom and choice” and “personal responsibility.” Very important libertarian ideologies. It, people, is all down to the individual!! Yes there are other things in there about sovereignty, nationhood, family values, and competitive enterprise but they aren’t relevant to my rant this evensong.
Today was the day for the meeting of the South Canterbury branch of the NZEI. The meeting was called to discuss the new teaching and principal positions announced by the government to coincide with the January lull of no political news and New Zealanders apathy is at its highest.
If you missed it the government announced it had magically discovered a missing $350 million they were able to use to create some new teaching positions: executive principals, change principals, expert teachers and lead teachers.
There is very little details about these positions other than what was in the press release. On the surface it looks great. More money, more positions, more awesomeness.
At our meeting there were a range of points made. Who will appoint these teachers and principals? Will a school have a choice as to whether they take on board the assistance being offered by people in these positions? What if the culture of the school (something that has developed over many, many years) is at odds with the culture and the philosophy of the teacher / principal being offered?
Those were just a few questions; there were many others. The general mood in the hall was one of: Why? Why do we need this? What is the point? Couldn’t they actually spend those hundreds of millions on something education professionals actually want? Who will award the positions? How will the be awarded? What is the criteria?
What is clear from the recent, sometimes accidental pronouncements from our beloved minister, student achievement rules them all.
National standards will decide everything. This government has banked its entire educational reputation on national standards. School are now ranked using them. The next step will be for them to start using national standards in other, more magical and insane ways.
Want to work out which schools are failing? Look at their national standards data. Want to find out which teachers are the most amazing? Look at their national standards data? Want to find out which students will be farmed off to charter schools to artificially boost their performance and make them look amazing in a yearly press release? Look at their national standards data.
What occurred to me during the meeting was this: this policy is about control. Top down, centralised control of the entire system of education delivery to our young people.
$350 million for extra teachers cannot be taken out of context from all of the other things that have been happening in education.
National standards, expert teachers, change principals, charter schools and the destruction of the Teachers’ Council all point to the utter authoritarianism by which National want to control what your kids learn and how they think (more on that another time – I promise).
National want to have complete control. If your school doesn’t toe the line then they will parachute in a “change principal” to change you. If your kids aren’t toeing the line by improving their national standard scores then they will send in the expert teachers to sort you out. If your board of trustees disagrees with the direction the government is heading in and protests, they will be replaced by a far more accommodating sole-charge commissioner who will… oh.. hang on… they already do that.
For a party that prides itself on individual responsibility, self-reliance and self-determination, the National Party sure love their authoritarian control mechanisms.