Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I have a dream that one day I'll gain this freedom I already have

Someone with an unusual sense of humour gave me a (used) copy of "I've been thinking" by Richard Prebble for Christmas. Just to spite them, I've read it. In many places it's a hilarious read, as the author relates horror stories of what decades of benign neglect had done for NZ's public sector - much of it, like the six-month wait for a phone connection, was a lot less funny at the time, mind you.

But for those who lived through the fourth Labour govt, there is an awful sense of familiarity in the way the author intersperses shrewd insight and examples of decisive leadership with an over-enthusiasm for currently-popular business theories. I do think we got off very lightly when Lange pulled the plug on these guys in his second term.

The stuff on education is interesting, as the book gives an insight into where ACT's (ie, National's) current education policy is coming from. Prebble approvingly quotes an article by Rodney Hide about visiting his old school, in which three things stood out for me:

1. Rodney is outraged that teachers consider themselves better qualified than him to educate children, writing:
"So here's a guy in walker (sic) shorts who's never left a classroom telling me that I'm not astute enough to look after my own son's education, or to know what he wants or what he needs."


In fact the guy wasn't telling him that at all - he would, after all, be welcome to home school his son and I doubt any of those present would have cast doubt on his ability to do so. What they were actually telling him was that if he wanted to send his son to their school and benefit from their expertise, he would necessarily have to accept that they had expertise to apply, and let them apply it. This is not difficult to grasp, nor unreasonable, and one can only feel a great sympathy for Rodney's doctor, car mechanic, lawyer etc if he subjects their expertise to the same level of contempt.


2. He recommends to the school that it should teach
"The virtues of western civilisation, the Ten Commandments, how to do sums, how to read and how to write."


This is just bizarre. The last three are already taught at every school so can be ignored; the first is so vague as to be useless without some more precise definition of exactly what these virtues are and a test of whether the rest of the nation's parents would agree with the definition; and the second - what the fuck? Of the Ten Commandments, the top three, ie the highest priorities and most important commands, are that you must put no god above Yahweh; that you must create no images or likenesses, nor worship them; and that you must not take Yahweh's name in vain.

In other words, a future leader of the ACT Party recommends that one of the main tasks of public schools in a secular country is to tell the children which god they must worship and some ground rules they must apply to that worship. This is at such a level of batshit crazy that nothing ACT/National offer as education policy should suprise us.

3. This whole weird ACT belief that parents have no choice where to send their kids to school may have started here. Hide writes:
"It was at this moment that my desire to have the power to choose my own son's school rose from something that would be decent and right to a desperate need."

This one is even more bizarre than the desire to see schools teaching the Ten Commandments - Hide already has the same ability to choose his son's school that he does to choose an electrician or a plumber, so his desperation for a freedom that he already has just makes him look nuts.

I presume that what lies behind it is the erroneous right-wing view that school zoning is a means of preventing parents from choosing schools. It's actually the reverse - zoning is a means of preventing schools from choosing parents. In fact, the right-wing view is so obviously, plainly and unmistakably wrong it always makes me look for ulterior motives. Presumably there isn't one, but if National makes Rodney's dream come true, by abolishing zoning and issuing parents with vouchers to spend at the school of their choice, what would actually happen is the schools would do the choosing and those parents with kids who are not very bright, have expensive special needs or are just plain likely to cause trouble would be scratching to find a school in bad enough shape to be willing to take their kids. I guess that does tie in with ACT's vision for NZ - social Darwinism - so no ulterior motive is necessary.

38 comments:

Redbaiter said...

Yes of course Milt. Its natural that you would want your own offspring to grow up just as politically crosswired as you and every other leftist.

Yahweh forbid that they would ever be given a real education.

For that would enable them to see what an abject load of superstitious crap leftism/ socialism/ progressivism really is.

As for being taught to read write and do maths, it is not so. Anybody in touch with reality and not living in the delusional world of the left knows well enough the agonising truth of that matter.

Such things are seen as unimportant by Wellington Central Control Committee, and definitely far less important than training school children to be good little collectivists fully indoctrinated with the socially destructive tenets of cultural Marxism.

I repeat, anyone not a leftist can see the destruction of our education system at the hands of the left.

If you'd had a real education yourself Milt, rather than being immersed for so long in the cultural poison that exists at most universities these days, you might see it too.

Anonymous said...

Just as you might see that the Kenyan Obama's birth certificate is a FORGERY! Right Russ? Dribble dribble.

PM of NZ said...

"the first is so vague as to be useless without some more precise definition of exactly what these virtues are ..."

Milt, a bit like those ever so elusive TOW principles enshrined in our legislation?

Anonymous said...

We get young lads coming into the engineering shop I run, as labourers/trade assistants. Most of them can't even make sense of what the numbers on a vernier or ruler mean. It's unbelievable. As long as there is some girl hanging around so the get their ends wet regularly and can cobble enough to buy a bag or dope once a week they're cool.

Most can't manage to turn up for more than three days in a row and are eventually let go.

Anonymous said...

@Anon.
http://www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz/treaty/principles.asp
Have you ever done some reading on the principles?

Andrei said...

Oh my - the intellectual heirs of Pol Pot don't want our kids to value their cultural heritage or past so as to remake them into the "new humanity".

Thus can they be fed pap like New Zealand was a veritable Garden of Eden where the happy natives lived in peace and harmony with each other and nature until the barbarian Europeans came and messed it all up.

Or that gender is not important and whatever genitals you happen to have bear no relationship with your actual gender is which is whatever takes your fancy.

White men are the source of all evil in the world - the narrative of the nutty left who will make sure that no facts be taught to children that might undermine that story.

Deborah said...

Great post, Psycho Milt. I think that one of the wet dreams that Actoids have is that schools would be required to take any child who turns up on their doorstep, voucher clutched in sweaty little hand. The problem is that many schools are already overcrowded, even with zones in place. No matter what, there is a physical limit on the number of kids a school can take. I'm sure the zoning rules can be amended, but there are some serious constraints they need to accommodate, like the simple physical limits of each school.

Judge Holden said...

Great post Milt.

"The intellectual heirs of Pol Pot don't want our kids to value their cultural heritage or past so as to remake them into the "new humanity"."

Shit you're weird Andre. What's the basis for your theory that everyone who's not a ultra conservative religious nut job is some sort of Stalinist?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

"In fact the guy wasn't telling him that at all"

The sentences that preceded your quote from Rodney's article about a return to his old high cchool were:

"I met the headmaster and half a dozen teachers. Its fair to say they weren't falling over themselves to support ACT policies. A lead critic put it most succincntly stating that parents shouldn't choose their children's education - teachers should."

Psycho Milt said...

Lindsay: first, I don't trust Hide sufficiently to assume that's a quote. Second, it basically means that a school with hundreds or upwards of a thousand pupils can't educate them according to the particular enthusiasms of the parents - it has to educate them according to a curriculum established by people qualified to do so. If there are private schools out there offering bespoke education according to the views of the individual parent, they must have tiny class sizes.

Deborah: thanks. I hadn't considered the possibility that ACT anticipate requiring schools to accept anyone with a voucher who turns up - the expense of dealing with the results of that boggles the mind. If any ACT members are reading this they may be able to shed some light on it?

Redbaiter: your opinion on the quality of my education is presumably of value to you, but is of no value to me.

PM of NZ: yeah, pretty much. I've done no end of pointing out to my kids that not everything the school hands out is a stone tablet with blather on it about not creating graven images (usually just after the Life Education Trust bus has been round), but that's a given no matter what school your kids go to.

Redbaiter said...

What about the guy with the vernier?

Too much truth?

Blair said...

Why would the school pick and choose the pupils? They want the money, and one student's money is as good as another's. You don't see this happening with tertiary institutions, where students already have a similar setup (albeit only a a subsidy). So why would it happen with primary and secondary schools?

Far more likely that a school would split into a "top end" school and a "remedial" one to make their figures look good. Which would surely benefit the children anyway?

Psycho Milt said...

What about the guy with the vernier?

Too much truth?


Well, truth no doubt. But if there was ever anyone running an engineering workshop who thought the schools were doing a great job turning out excellent quality applicants for apprenticeships, I've never heard of him. In any case, the main complaint of the comment relates to work ethic, which is more to do with parents than schools.

Why would the school pick and choose the pupils?

Er, what? Why would an organisation pick and choose among applicants to get the best ones? Seriously?

You don't see this happening with tertiary institutions, where students already have a similar setup (albeit only a a subsidy).

We're starting to. The govt's capping the numbers it will pay for, which is translating into universities restricting entry. My employer would love to get into a position where it has more applicants than places, so it can pick and choose among the applicants.

Simon Arnold said...

I suspect Rodney was being sarcastic about the fact that teachers were paid so much they could afford shorts from Karen Walker.

On a different note "zoning is a means of preventing schools from choosing parents" is of course rubbish. Zoning is a system that prevents good (popular) schools from growing and poor (unpopular) schools contracting.

The entitlement to enroll at a local school is simply a necessary policy to support this objective. Go read Min of Ed web pages on Enrolment schemes - information for parents.

Anonymous said...

"...people qualified to do so."

When you abdicate control of your children to academics as above all is, eventually, going to go belly up. You might be happy with education in 2011 PM but lots are not. I suspect not all are misguided and recognizing there are gems in the state school system does not mean we should tolerate the rubbish.

My 26 year old twin boys agree with anon @ 4.41. Both work in potentially risky jobs and hate working with people you can't rely on.

Psycho Milt said...

On a different note "zoning is a means of preventing schools from choosing parents" is of course rubbish. Zoning is a system that prevents good (popular) schools from growing and poor (unpopular) schools contracting.

If that actually were the purpose of zoning, I could understand it, given that the difference between good (popular) schools and poor (unpopular) schools is essentially the intake decile. Abolishing zoning would allow the popular (ie high-decile) schools to siphon off the more able kids from low-decile neighbourhoods, while pushing their high-decile thickos and troublemakers out for the unpopular (ie, low-decile) schools to pick up. Lots more kids having to travel outside their neighbourhoods to go to school, and the low-decile schools performing even worse than they do now, but the cause of social Darwinism would be significantly advanced so I guess from the ACT fans' pov it's all good. However, zoning is actually about ensuring your kid has a school nearby they can go to, no matter how much of a liability they'll be to it, so I don't think that's really a factor.

When you abdicate control of your children to academics as above all is, eventually, going to go belly up.

Well, maybe, but the alternative of handing it over to people with no training or expertise just hasn't been taken into consideration by the govt for some reason.

Simon Arnold said...

PM you were apparently too lazy to take the hint and go and look at the Min Ed web site so I'll post the relevant extract here:

"Why then do some schools have enrolment schemes?

"An enrolment scheme is a means of limiting the roll to prevent overcrowding at a school, and enables the Ministry of Education to make best use of the current accommodation at schools in the surrounding area. "

There are a range of ways the govt could deal with schools being too popular. Stopping other kids attending those school and forcing them to take a second rate option is just one.

There are other ways, just as there are other ways to ensure students have a right to attend a state school of their choice.

However they would mean that something would have to be done about unpopular schools other than decree them to be popular just like Kim Jong Un.

I guess therein lies the rub.

Judge Holden said...

"just like Kim Jong Un."

Yes, Simon, that's exactly what NZ's education policy is like. Tell me, is everyone who disagrees with you a Stalinist, or are some Nazis?

Simon Arnold said...

JH in terms of policies that decree popularity rather than deal with the root causes Hitler would have been an equally good example, but perhaps less topical.

I am however unclear as to your position. Are you saying you think it is for the greater good to stop expressions of dissatisfaction with unpopular schools by administrative fiat?

Psycho Milt said...

I'm familiar with the Min of Ed's page on zoning, thanks. As it says, the purpose of zoning is to prevent overcrowding at over-subscribed schools (by a more fair means than the over-subscribed schools cherry-picking the applicants and forcing local kids to look further afield for a school that will take them, although that goes unsaid). It is no more about preventing growth than an electrician is preventing growth if he tells you he has too much work on to do your job. The primary school my kids went to doubled in size while they were there, necessitating the building of new classrooms and a bigger admin block, ie it grew to meet parent demand. Likewise, there are schools that have been closed due to falling rolls. In other words, your fantasy of some kind of Stalinist plot to control who goes to school where is just that, a fantasy. The only control being applied is to require schools to accept kids from the local neighbourhood, which is an entirely reasonable requirement.

barry said...

Milt - with 40% of applicants for a forklift license not being able to read well enough to answer the questons - then I have some serious questions about .."the last three being already taught".
As for the ten commandments - just think about it -they are actually the rules of life. Yes, they need re-wording a bit - but if people actually followed them then they would get into a lot less trouble.
You know - things like dont steal, respect others, leave your neighbours wife alone, etc.

Simon Arnold said...

PM OK so you have now read the Min Ed policy and have moved your position from "zoning is a means of preventing schools from choosing parents" to "the purpose of zoning is to prevent overcrowding at over-subscribed schools".

Can we now get you straightened out on "The only control being applied is to require schools to accept kids from the local neighbourhood, which is an entirely reasonable requirement"?

Did you not notice the other aspect of an enrollment scheme, namely the establishment of a zone and a process for excluding those outside that zone from attending?

An enrollment scheme not only controls who has the right to attend, it controls who can't.

Even more subtly it controls where you can practice your right to go to a school. Sure you are guaranteed a place at your local school, but you have no right to take your entitlement anywhere else.

Is that "entirely reasonable"?

I ask you the question I asked JH:

Are you saying you think it is for the greater good to stop expressions of dissatisfaction with unpopular schools by administrative fiat?

Judge Holden said...

"Are you saying you think it is for the greater good to stop expressions of dissatisfaction with unpopular schools by administrative fiat?"

Perhaps you can point me in the direction of this fiat, Simon. That could be tricky given that it exists only as a figment of your febrile imagination.

Simon Arnold said...

Now pay attention JH I'll take you through this slowly.

If you want to give citizens a right to attend a state school you can do that quite simply - you give them that entitlement and you let them use it where ever they wish.

Are you with me this far? No need to say to anyone you can't go this school or that school.

The consequence of this policy might be that some schools will be more popular than others. Those consequences would need to be addressed, and to be true to the policy intent in a way that preserved the right to attend any school of choice.

Instead the policy in force says if your local school is an unpopular one you have no right of choice. You no longer have the right to express your dissatisfaction with the local school by changing.

As I said this is all pretty straightforward and easy to follow. So what are you trying to say here?

The enrollment scheme policy is an "administrative fiat".

Are you arguing that it doesn't have the effect of removing choice from those whose local school is unpopular?

Or are you acknowledging it does, but that this is for the greater good?

Judge Holden said...

Sorry, the banning of expressions of dissatisfaction by administrative fiat, akin to North Korean and Hitlerite repression is where exactly Simon?

Anonymous said...

Sheesh milt, are you really that twisted and fucked up in the head that you think parents have a choice where to send their kids to skool in nz and zoning helps overcrowding? we are fucked for sure if there are more than one of you.

Simon Arnold said...

JH "the banning of expressions of dissatisfaction by administrative fiat, akin to North Korean and Hitlerite repression" is something you made up.

Declaring that unpopular schools are popular like Kim Jong Un is what I said.

I should add however that disenfranchising people who live close to unpopular schools should not be done without good reason, otherwise you are on the slippery slope.

I'm simply asking what's your good reason - what's the greater good?

Psycho Milt said...

PM OK so you have now read the Min Ed policy and have moved your position from "zoning is a means of preventing schools from choosing parents" to "the purpose of zoning is to prevent overcrowding at over-subscribed schools".

Like I said, I'm familiar with the Min of Ed's page on this. You just seem to be incapable of understanding it, presumably because you're starting from the assumption that NZ is just like North Korea. There's no contradiction between the two quotes above. Yes, zoning is about dealing with the problem of overcrowding, and more to the point it's about dealing with it in such a way as to prevent the schools choosing the parents, rather than vice versa.

Did you not notice the other aspect of an enrollment scheme, namely the establishment of a zone and a process for excluding those outside that zone from attending?

An enrollment scheme not only controls who has the right to attend, it controls who can't.


It doesn't control who "can't" attend, it controls who doesn't have an automatic right to attend - there's a significant difference.

If you want to give citizens a right to attend a state school you can do that quite simply - you give them that entitlement and you let them use it where ever they wish.

Which is what we have done. You can choose whichever state school you want to send your kid to, just like you can choose whichever plumber you want - which doesn't mean the school you choose will necessarily be in a position to take your kid, just like the plumber you choose may not be in a position to do that job for you right now.

Instead the policy in force says if your local school is an unpopular one you have no right of choice. You no longer have the right to express your dissatisfaction with the local school by changing.

The policy says nothing more than that you are guaranteed a place at your local school. It says nothing beyond that and couldn't really be expected to. If what you're looking for is some kind of ironclad govt guarantee that the school of your choice will accept your kids regardless of circumstance, you're going to remain disappointed. The public system that guarantees you exactly what you want regardless of circumstance is yet to exist, for fairly obvious reasons.

Barry: I was at school 40 years ago and 40% functional illiteracy sounds about right. My old man was at school in a working class neighbourhood in England in the 30s and reckoned very few of the kids left school functionally literate. This supposed golden age of excellent schooling that ensured everyone understood what they were reading is like all the other golden ages - fiction. As to the Ten Commandments - if we're at the point of needing a teacher to get up and tell the class theft and murder are wrong, the education system is by a very long way the least of our worries.

Psycho Milt said...

Sheesh milt, are you really that twisted and fucked up in the head that you think parents have a choice where to send their kids to skool in nz and zoning helps overcrowding?

Well, yeah - maybe I'm just not smart or sensible enough to look on NZ as just like North Korea the way people as perceptive as yourself do.

Simon Arnold said...

PM so we are starting to get to the nub of it. The issue is one of the limitation on the ability of the government to give everything one wants.

Given the need to ration, the question remains why do it the way we do? Are there better ways to manage things in the education sector? Would it be better to have different winners and losers?

Perhaps we'd do better to follow the primary health care model:

"In New Zealand, you can choose the doctor or medical centre that you visit.

[snip]

"A GP may ‘close their books’ if they can’t safely take on any more patients. If this happens, the GP should refer you to their PHO for help with finding a GP. The PHO may put you on a waiting list and arrange for you to get care in the meantime."

Much less protection for a bad doctor there, much wider presumption of choice for the individual, no presumption in favour of a state run provider.

The point is that the current enrollment scheme has the unintended consequence of disenfranchising people that live near to poor schools. That in turn protects those schools.

I'm surprised that people die in a ditch over polices that are suboptimal, rather than trying to think about how we could do better.

It is after all eliminating the bottom of the long tail in terms of performance that should be a key target of education policy.

Psycho Milt said...

Eliminating the long tail of underperformance in education will be about economic and social policy, it really has very little to do with schools. Given unlimited resources, we probably could come up with means of educating those kids, but a far more sensible approach would be to address the issues that make them impossible to educate the regular way.

The situation you describe with doctors isn't fundamentally different from the one with schools, except in the following way: you're guaranteed access to a nearby school, but not to a nearby doctor. If your town has two good doctors and one bad one, and you find the two good doctors' books are full, your choice is actually more limited than it would be for schools - ie, you don't have the choice of applying to one of the good doctors and possibly being selected by ballot.

By all means come up with ways to improve the existing policy, but the view that parents have no choice of school under the current policy is just plain wrong, and ACT/National's interest in abolishing zoning and implementing vouchers is actually a much worse policy, not an improvement.

If you want to improve on the current situation, you need to come up with something that takes the following into account:

1. Kids are currently guaranteed entry to their local school and a policy that ends that is not an improvement but a deterioration.

2. What makes schools popular or unpopular has a lot more to do with intake decile than the quality of the staff and this isn't susceptible to change via education policy. In other words, going to the expense of catering for large-scale movement of kids between schools is likely only to move the problem.

3. Schools will game whatever system you put in to make themselves look better, just like they game the existing one, so anything that provides further opportunity for gaming is not an improvement but a deterioration.

4. Any policy that allows the schools rather than the parents to do the choosing is an improvement for the schools, not the parents.

It may be possible to improve the current situation in ways that do actually constitute improvements, but so far I haven't seen a likely candidate, hence the defence of the status quo.

Redbaiter said...

Milt no one is saying NZ is like Nth Korea.

What they are saying is that if the education system here remains under the control of a cadre of delusional leftist ideologues, it is highly likely the country will end up that way.

That the country is already heading in that direction is a truth beyond challenging.

Judge Holden said...

"...disenfranchising people who live close to unpopular schools should not be done without good reason, otherwise you are on the slippery slope."

Yep, next step is being carted off to a gulag in the middle of the night.

Who's disenfranchised how? People can apply to go to any state school they choose and have guaranteed access to their local one. If they can't get into one outside of their neighbourhood and they don't like their local school they have many, many options. How is that on the slippery slope to Stalinism again? You've obviously spent too much time listening to Rodbeater.

Simon Arnold said...

JH then why not just adopt the primary health model?

Free to go where you please (public or private) and carry your entitlement with you - clearly that's so little different to the status quo as you see it there would be no risk in such a change.

Judge Holden said...

Your analogy is false. Schools aren't PHOs, and are nothing like them.

Can you explain the slippery slope to Stalinism thing?

Redbaiter said...

To a clueless fuckwit like you Spondre I doubt he or anyone could.

Simon Arnold said...

JH so schools are different from primary health - why so, and more particularly why are they different in a way that precludes the same enrollment systems?

Anonymous said...

This is easy. My nearest college is Taita. Taita is a rough area. The college had a principal who lifted it from the doldrums. I suspect he was not left leaning. If he was there still my step daughters would be there as well. He's not so they are not. Its all about performance and teaching needs to treated as a key role without political agenda. I think the "system" doesn't want smart people - just tax payers and consumers.