A sparrow falling
By Kelvin Smythe
A sparrow falling - Click here.
A sparrow falling
At a time when school education is facing severe cuts, the ministry of education has contracted a person or company to censor literacy and ESOL on-line discussion criticising ministry policies, especially policies concerning national standards and Pasifika education. And at the heart of the controversy is the cutting of support for 22 Samoan bilingual units, 3 Tongan, and 2 Cook Island.
This posting is to encourage teachers concerned about the attack on Pasifika education and the growing education authoritarianism of education administration to enrol in the list serve on literacy and ESOL at:
These list serves used to be run independently of the ministry of education as English on Line by UNITEC under a contract to the ministry of education. They discussed a wide range of topics in an open and professional way. Since they have been taken over by the ministry they now censor the posts to the list serve community especially those referring to national standards, the cuts to Pasifika reading materials or, to be direct, any matter that could in the slightest way be considered critical of ministry of education policies. To test that censorship, to get a feel of the authoritarianism referred to, and to participate in one of the darkest times in New Zealand’s education history – teachers are encouraged to try a range of posts to the primary, secondary, and ESOL list serve.
Go on try it now: have your say, even if it isn’t said.
At the root of this struggle against education intolerance is the obsession with national standards. From this obsession came the decision to stop the production of reading material crucial to bilingual and cultural education and the alteration of the Pasifika Plan to a narrow perception of literacy and numeracy, thus denying children the right to be involved in numeracy and literacy in a context comfortable to them. An involvement strongly supported by research and, even more importantly, experience.
As I said in an earlier posting, I have visited some of the bilingual units in Auckland and because I put children’s welfare ahead of adult sensitivities, please believe when I say these are the best bilingual units I have ever visited. They are brilliant – even for this somewhat jaded classroom observer – eye-watering brilliant.
‘The ministry’, one principal told me, ‘used to come to meetings supported by documentation now it doesn’t: it has given up on rationality, leaving it with only lies and evasions.
‘The ministry smugly talks about evidence-based teaching elsewhere but, in this case, because it doesn’t suit them, refuses to acknowledge it. It's all about cost cutting, but they won't admit it.'
‘They just don’t care that these children do better if they can learn in their own language. It’s in the too hard basket. It’s easier to just ignore it and put everyone in the mainstream and then moan about the ‘tail’ of brown people.’
‘It’s really disgraceful what the policy has done to kill opportunities for these children.’
This pakeha minister of education, this product of the middle-class barbeque circuit, this person with a blinkered and obsessive personality, can’t seem to recognise that for parents of Pasifika children to have to justify their children experiencing their own language and culture in their life at school, on any other grounds than it being their right, is insulting. There is little enough support for schools as it is to provide Pasifika children with experiences in their language and culture. That this minister can summarily sweep away what there is, is a disgrace. It is a narrow provincialism of a New Zealand I thought we had left behind. It is an outrage.
The minister like all weak ministers is strong on institutional bullying. And, like all bullies, goes for minority groups who are at a disadvantage in responding. Tolley’s attack is on the 22 Samoan bilingual units, 3 Tongan, and 2 Cook Island.
If bilingualism doesn’t work for Samoan students, why would it work for Maori ones? Logic says that it wouldn’t. So why isn’t Tolley removing the legislative and resource basis for Maori bilingualism and te reo education? Because she’s a bully that’s why.
I challenge Tolley to remove the legislative and resource basis for Maori bilingualism and te reo education. Go on minister – you have the power: use the education review office by bringing out a report saying Maori bilingualism should be left high and dry; use the ministry to harass Maori bilingualism and te reo education; get the government puppet the School Trustee Association to say something disparaging about Maori bilingualism and te reo education; use your influence over the media – go on, show us how brave you are, go on, go on – but you won’t, because you are weak, and because you are weak and because you happen to have institutional power at your disposal, you are a bully, and because you are a bully, by definition, you take on the least powerful, in this case handful of bilingual classes. Oh well done minister, what a hero to the Dominion, Whale Oil. Kiwiblog, and the like. Education is in good hands here.
And where are the leadership voices of the Maori bilingualism and te reo education? Speak up – don’t let fear take its toll in the fall of silence.
We have a minister who has the obsessive energy of the kind that cannot widen its view but can widen its scope – and that is what this minister has done here – widen its destructive scope to those beautiful Samoan children and their dedicated teachers I saw working in such lilting harmony.
So go on teachers and try out the list serves; try them out as a small protest against a large issue: the ferocious attack on enlightened education.
When UNITEC managed the list serve it was very successful, allowing free and open discussion about literacy and ESOL, but when the ministry took control back it split the service into four: literacy primary; literacy secondary. Teachers have to enrol into the list serve (nice Orwellian touch don’t you think?) by a person called an administrator. It is not clear whether this person is from a university or organisation (it is my guess that it is a person who was once in the review office or the ministry or both – but another nice Orwellian touch) who has won the contract to manage the list service. This person is acting on the understanding that nothing should appear contrary to ministry policy and, as a result, he/she is blocking, rejecting, editing, or taking down postings put up by teachers.
If education is a moral act, which of course it is, then present National Party education policy is immoral. This is the time to act: this is the time for teacher organisations to look to system change to entrench the valuing of variety; this is the time for education historians to say their piece, to provide their perspective – the people promoting such immorality are almost impenetrable to historical experience, but we the victims aren’t, and we need to hear from you; this is the time for the few quantitative academics who haven’t sold out to this immorality to do so; and this is the time for us all to speak out in any way we can.
I’m thinking of the person sitting at the computer earning a living stopping the free speech of teachers as they discuss matters that concern them in the interests of children. We can suppose that this person was trained as a teacher – what aspirations did this person have as a teacher? We can imagine this person teaching children – what aspirations did this person have for children? Now this person is sitting in a darkened room with a computer and, Orwellian-like, recording the names of people linking to a discussion on literacy and cultural development – and this person is censoring what they are saying.
It is the corruption of those in education that will be the most destructive legacy of the education immorality that is amongst us. It is related to the much larger problem of the violence in men and women. It is the issue of the cruelty of compartmentalisation of action from morality. It is the deluded bureaucratisation of evil. It is a further example of the modern-day drive for the superstition of certainty that encourages people to attach themselves to powerful bureaucracies who claim to know, who claim to be the light and the way.
I know that this seems a long way from our Samoan, Tongan, and Cook Island bilingual units, but it isn’t. It is a sparrow falling.