Horizons, whirlpools, Sartrean secrets, John Hattie and other symptoms of the continuing education tragedy

[The education tragedy referred to in the title is not national standards but the hierarchical and measurement-based philosophy that has dominated New Zealand education since the ‘90s, of which national standards are just one further expression.]

The main argument in this posting is that John Hattie in his writing and public speaking reveals to conceal – and what he is concealing is that he is not revealing; and what he is not revealing is his willingness (consciously or unconsciously) to expose to rigorous examination his bedrock education feelings, positions, ideas, beliefs, and values. The revealing to conceal, it is argued, results in general confusion allowing Hattie to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds, and deflect attention from his real pedagogical and philosophical purposes and their shaky research foundations.

These bedrock feelings, positions, ideas, beliefs, and values derive from the characteristics of the school of research of which Hattie is a significant member – the ‘school effectiveness and improvement’ school; a label which is really a euphemism for ‘blame the school’. Martin Thrupp in his landmark book – Schools making a difference. Let’s be realistic – details how ‘effectiveness and improvement’ research is often shaped to fit in with the views of conservative politicians, and used worldwide to justify and provide the ideological basis for various forms of testing regimes, curriculum-narrowing education reforms, and centralised imposed control.

This posting argues that Hattie’s devotion to the ‘effectiveness’ school of research means it functions in his consciousness like a secret – his Sartrean secret: something he consciously and unconsciously avoids examining rigorously; something he is driven to put beyond reason; something he conceals. He is very willing to talk about the surface features of ‘effectiveness and improvement’ research, but when there are any serious challenges to it, he shies away from it, puts it in the too-hard, not-now, or not-relevant baskets.

It is important to understand how all this interacts with Hattie’s extroverted personality, his overwhelming desire to be at the centre of things. The ‘effectiveness’ school of research is about hierarchical control which has many manifestations from national standards, to performance pay, to one way to take reading, to one way to organise schools, to one way to run an education system. If any of these manifestations in full or part become uncomfortable for Hattie’s image of himself, his sense of status, he has shown himself quite willing to back off, even bail out, as he knows there is more than one way to skin a cat and, anyway, the momentum is all to centralised imposed control.

In a recent posting alert I wrote that ‘The absurd situation has been reached when ideas recently expressed in a withdrawn parliamentary paper, are all given credibility in a recent paper (‘Horizons and Whirlpools’) by a chief adviser to the minister, John Hattie.’

This might look as if I was lining up Hattie against national standards, but I wasn’t, I was just lining up some of his ideas against national standards – if I wanted to … from the same paper I could be lining up some of his ideas and, most importantly his conclusions, in favour of national standards. I used the word ‘credibility’ advisedly in the posting alert because Hattie has the ability to write with apparent sincerity on both sides of an argument: this posting claims that Hattie’s ability to do this is a rhetorical and psychological behaviour (possibly done unconsciously) that works to conceal, deceive, and confuse, and to his pedagogical and status advantage. Hattie gives credibility to ideas against national standards, for reasons that work to his advantage; he just doesn’t let those ideas interfere with his conclusions.

This posting addresses the question of how an academic of such intelligence and status can be so superficial, can be, just when it matters, so unimaginative, have such fantastic blind spots, promote opposing ideas with such credibility, and come up with conclusions that seem so at odds with substantial parts of the import of his message.

An answer, I believe, lies in the literary and philosophical history of another celebrity in his chosen field, Jean-Paul Sartre.

For the analysis of Jean-Paul Sartre I am relying on Clive James in his monumental book of essays Cultural Amnesia.

The key idea in James’s analysis is that Sartre ‘as an essayist and critic, was almost exclusively concerned in concealing the truth instead of revealing it.’ And he writes how this worked to Sartre’s advantage. Three reasons are advanced for Sartre’s drive for concealment: His life-long claim to have played an active role in the resistance and thus to ‘battle honours that properly belonged to people who ran risks he never ran, and who died in his stead’; his vision that Soviet communism, with all its faults, was superior to the capitalist West – even when he broke with communism he continued to hold to the idea that communist social intentions were benevolent; and because telling the truth was what ordinary people did,‘ his urge to be extraordinary was … more of a motive force than merely to see the world as it was.’

This posting will use ‘Horizons and Whirlpools’ as a way to demonstrate the way Hattie (largely unconsciously I suspect) uses his writing and advocacy to conceal the truth instead of revealing it, and how this works to Hattie’s advantage.

The reasons for Hattie concealing the truth differ in many ways from Sartre’s reasons, but some similarities can be established. Hattie can appear to be the teachers’ friend as though he has been through the mill, but his record is mainly one of working with authorities to impose, if necessary, a centralised measurement-based philosophy; he can break with that shared philosophy at times, often with apparent violence, but it is either a feint or a tactical withdrawal; and he has an overwhelming urge to be extraordinary.

Hattie’s main drive for concealment rather than revelation is driven by the pedagogical and status advantage to be gained in downplaying socio-economic influences on learning.

Quantitative academics like Hattie claim, through what I consider, dodgy research (laissez-faire attitude towards the Hawthorne effect and sustainability), that they have the answers; answers which, with their measurement and control basis, their sense of certainty, are enthusiastically embraced by politicians and education bureaucracies.

The downplaying of socio-economic influences on learning (mainly by ignoring evidence to the contrary, or by being highly selective in the evidence referred to) is at the centre of the matrix requiring other things to be concealed. These other things include the way Hattie and others like him promulgate a pedagogy that is attractive to conservative governments and bureaucracies; a pedagogy (for instance, national standards) that is custom-designed for centralised control; a pedagogy that makes hierarchical ‘accountability’ easier; a pedagogy that makes the authorities dominating power holders and teachers supplicants; a pedagogy based on highly selective evidence and flawed research design; a pedagogy based on formulae and measurement (for instance, national standards and ‘performance’ pay); a pedagogy that reduces in importance the affective in learning (because, amongst other things, it is difficult to measure); a pedagogy that favours direct teaching and a narrow curriculum; a pedagogy that favours an industrial, instrumental-type education; and a pedagogy that ends up reducing teacher initiative and status.

Hattie and others like him, as stated above, demonstrate a breathtaking selectivity in the research they choose to support their conclusions. They will choose overseas research from a small group of like-minded researchers; or, within New Zealand, their own research, or the research of others like them, usually tied to government professional development contracts. Their ability to ignore research that doesn’t suit them is most strikingly demonstrated in relation to groundbreaking research project on socio-economic influences on learning. This research project was undertaken by Roy Nash and Richard Harker.

I go to Ivan Snook’s paper (‘Social Class and Educational Achievement: Beyond Ideology’) for a summation:

‘Based on his research in New Zealand (and consistent with many overseas studies) Richard Harker has claimed that “ anywhere between 70-80% of the schools variance is due to student ‘mix’ which means that only between 20% to 30% is attributable to schools themselves” ’

It should be noted that the 20% to 30% left is not solely the domain of teachers in classrooms as it also includes environmental school factors.

Given the size of this Nash and Harker research project and the status of the researchers, it requires extraordinary measures by other New Zealand academics to conceal and confuse the implications.

To understand where Hattie is coming from, there are two particularly revealing sources: his ‘Inaugural Address’ on his professorial appointment to Auckland University, and Tolley and Hattie in synch in the Sunday Star-Times, January 4, 2009.  In the reading of ‘Horizons and Whirlpools’, the crucial idea to keep in mind is that Hattie supports national standards, and has always supported national standards. He produced the research on reporting to parents which underpins national standards; he discussed national standards with Key and English before the election (Key, though, has overstated Hattie’s role in originating national standards because National was always going to bring them in); he is an official adviser to the minister on national standards; he and his colleagues are substantial career beneficiaries of national standards’ contracts; and his pedagogy is based on national standards or something very like them.

Around the time of the writing of the article, Hattie may well have become concerned at indications of his growing unpopularity amongst teachers, and concern about how his message was being received.  In the New Zealand Principal, November, 2009, an educator from Hattie’s Visible Learning Laboratory wrote an article with the same central metaphor as the current article. It was called, ‘National Standards – The Road Well Travelled’. The message was that if we didn’t follow Visible Learning’s lead it would be a road that has not only taken us to national standards but would also take us to national testing. Be it on our head she warned. Charming! A number of the Visible Learning courses were cancelled, others poorly attended. I was also aware of the way Hattie was running around the country meeting with teachers, trying to shore up his eroding support. In the negotiations around the signing of the petition by the four academics, I was approached to lay off him a bit (not by Hattie and not necessarily with his knowledge). I agreed, but I warned that his signature would be a seven-day wonder because his signing was more about improving his tarnished reputation with teachers than committing to their cause. In a full page article about Hattie in the New Zealand Herald, February 6, 2010, I was described as his ‘sworn enemy in all educational matters’. I think this was a conclusion Andrew Laxon came to, not exactly how I would describe my position, but near enough I suppose. At base it is a philosophical issue not a personal one, but, as is always the case in such debates, the personalities of the protagonists become enmeshed in their arguments. This, then, was the context within which ‘Horizons and Whirlpools’ was written and, I think, explains some of its exaggerated characteristics.

Hattie is the most powerful academic in New Zealand – having reached that eminence; it is futile and immature of him to complain about the resulting critical attention. Hattie, before the election had discussions with John Key and Bill English about national standards, and was passed on to Anne Tolley as  project after it. In the Sunday Star-Times, January 4, 2009 already referred to, in a front-page article, Tolley says ‘Hattie is close to defining what makes an excellent teacher.’ Then goes on to say that she wants ‘Hattie to be involved in cross-sector discussions to be held this year, and how to solve the teacher crisis.’ Hattie’s name is continually in the media and coming up in question time in parliament. Whenever there is a lull in the publicity surrounding him, in one way or another, whether he is seeking further fame or having it thrust upon him, he can be found there again at the centre of things. He has become the go-to academic for the media where he is variously described as a supporter of the government’s national standards or as an opponent of them. The reach of Hattie’s activities from pedagogical ones, to his book, to his leading of the immensely powerful PBRF committee, to his commercial activities with MultiServe, is beyond the scope of this posting, but it is extensive and penetrating, and should be under continuous watch.

The further point I want to explore here is the way Hattie and his quantitative colleagues shy off from engagement in debate, sealing themselves off in a hieratic world of self-referring publications, research, conferences, and promotional campaigns. A scalpel-sharp dissection by Thrupp takes apart a recent quantitative publication in the Best Education Synthesis ministry series. Thrupp’s paper was called, ‘Not so scholarly but certainly on message: The Leadership BES and its significant silence’. This paper is so well titled (Thrupp is something of a genius in this) that little more needs to be said. Perhaps one quote: ‘Indeed, it is remarkable to have such a major review of educational leadership which omits or hardly mentions the work of so many key leadership authors’. The key point, though, is that there will be no serious defence of this criticism by its authors because quantitative academics don’t do serious defence.

The second example is a major and devastating critique by Snook, Harker, John Clark, Anne Marie O’Neill, and John O’Neill published in the prestigious New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies: ‘Invisible Learnings? A Commentary on John Hattie’s “Visible Learning”’. All the criticisms to be expected of quantitative research and writing, and quantitative practices and behaviour, are brilliantly detailed in this 27-page article. Hattie’s response was strange, off point, and sulky. Why am I being picked on seemed to be his main message? Quantitative academics, however, have the ear of politicians, the education authorities, and the establishment – the philosophical momentum is with them, so they are well placed to ignore such academic criticism. They do, however, feel a bit vulnerable if teachers turn against them; after all, the politicians are relying on these academics to bring a good number of teachers with them.

An important culminating point in all this, is the huge degree of confusion on where Hattie stands on national standards, and on his motives, pedagogy, and philosophy. This posting argues that this confusion is a result of Hattie’s style of presenting his arguments, and works to his advantage.

With that out of the way, we can proceed.

Now to ‘Horizons and Whirlpools’.

Hattie begins with an extensive lauding of New Zealand teachers and the education system, then warns that it is ‘definitely not a step forward to adopt policies that are known to be flawed when implemented elsewhere.’ He refers to national standards being a ‘catch cry’ and the limited success they have had in many countries. Hattie sums up by saying .a one-size-fits-all national standards is likely to head down the same paths of failure’. So ‘which way to move forward’, he asks?

There follows a curious history of the development standards and national standards. He then takes a page of convoluted argument to reach the conclusion that … national standards need a moderation process. National standards? Whoa! Hold on! How did national standards get into the narrative so completely and abruptly? In a few paragraphs he has moved from national standards being a ‘catch cry’, having had ‘limited success’, and leading to ‘paths of failure’, to discussing the mechanics of national standards as though they are a given.

Without a moderation process Hattie warns ‘there will be a thousand flowers … and the interpretation of standards across schools will differ.’ There it is, national standards orthodoxy.

The rabbit has been pulled out of the hat.

The magician’s build up and patter is first-rate. New Zealand schools, in their degree of success, are an exception; which way forward he asks? He seems to be cautioning about going down the  failed path of national standards; but hold on, no, it is the national standards’ path of one-size-fits-all we mustn’t go down … out of the hat the rabbit … and the way to do this is through national moderation. Through national moderation – he must be joking. So the way to avoid the national path of one-size-fits-all … wait for it … is through a nationally organised system of moderation.

But just before I head off on this Mad Hattie guided tour: Whoa! Hold on again! In his opening paragraph which, by convention, should express the main message, Hattie says, ‘We sit in the best company in the world – we have one of the most effective education systems in the world. We have a cohort of professional teachers who have significantly contributed to this success … The New Zealand school success story did not happen by default, and unless nurtured and esteemed, it will quickly slip.’

It is an argument of this posting that Hattie does not mean this, he is, in slippery style, just using the first paragraph convention to set up an expectation that lingers in the mind even though the rest of the lengthy 14-page article systematically, though convolutedly (consistent with the reveal to conceal thesis), sets about undermining it. If he meant what he said in the opening paragraph, the honest and proper academic thing to do would have been to analyse the reasons for this success so as to build forward.

Why have New Zealand teachers and the education system been such a success for so many decades? Why, if teachers have been so successful, aren’t they being listened to more carefully and respectfully? What are the values in the system which have led to this exceptional success? And what are the justifications for national standards? What are the problems national standards are supposed to be addressing? Are there other less fraught ways to address these problems?

Hattie’s justification, it seems, is that because schools have been allowed to develop their own standards this has resulted in school system of a thousand flowers which, according to him, is a bad thing. We need national standards and its national moderation, says Hattie, to bring things together. So we have the apparently contradictory argument being advanced that the way to avoid one-size-fits-all is to move from a system of many flowers to one of greater uniformity through moderated national standards.  This variety of flowers, his concern about this untidiness, is Hattie’s main justification for national standards. (There are, admittedly, occasional references to schools being organised to share best-practice ideas. A policy to do this – EHSAS – was introduced by the previous government, but has been jettisoned by the government he’s an adviser for.)

Hattie’s use of the thousand flowers reference as an argument to stamp out individuality and variety in the New Zealand school system is most appropriate because Mao Zedong made a similar reference in declaring that he ‘wanted a hundred flowers to bloom … a hundred schools of thought contend’ and when people took him at his word, they brought themselves to the attention of the authorities and were executed.

The reference to a thousand flowers is a metaphor aphoristic in nature – and like all aphorisms (which is why aphorisms are formed) it confuses as well as clarifies – in that sense it is fitting for the main argument of this posting. For Hattie, the aphorism is saying that variety in education is not only inefficient but also undesirable. In nature, though, a variety of flowers blooming is a good thing; they are an admirable and beautiful; their flowering is natural. As well, the reference clearly links back to Mao Zedong, which means Hattie has blundered into its value-laden totalitarian connotations. Hattie uses the reference more than once so it is important to him and to his argument and, conversely, to my argument about him.

Hattie now brings his central metaphor of pathways into play. It is important we understand what he is saying here, because it is striking and early example of reveal to conceal. And what he is concealing adds up to a devastating critique of national standards. (In sloppy fashion, Hattie uses path and road interchangeably. I will stay with label in the heading, path or pathway.)

In the second paragraph Hattie writes that ‘many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have walked this path, and the path has ended in limited evidence of any improvement in students’ educational achievement  …’ Hattie calls this the path of limited success (and serious failure as he describes elsewhere in the article) as the path well travelled. He recommends, of course, that we take the path less travelled – evidence that we are on that path will be that national standards enhance ‘the quality of teaching and learning across the curriculum’; and that league tables are avoided.

To be teased out beneath his attempt at concealment is the reality that national standards have failed wherever they have been tried: USA, UK, and Australia – Canada should, of course, be included but out of sensitivity to a fellow ‘Independent’ Advisory Group member, Avis Glaze, has been omitted. Hattie has tried to slip this national standards’ failure past us with his apparent willingness to reveal; his flattery of our achievements; fancy metaphors of horizons, pathways, and flowers; and, above all, his dazzling assurances that he has the answers.

By the end of the article, however, even Hattie has recognised that he has failed to get us on to the path less travelled, his prose has fallen apart, and his argument has descended into farce, contradiction, and futility.

Before we take Hattie on as a guide, would he care to explain why we are going on the journey in the first place? No, he wouldn’t. Why we are heading towards national standards at all? What is the pedagogical purpose? Aside from his thousand flowers reference he never ventures there: and neither would you if your mission was concealment.

Then, in his undisciplined way he fires off some bullet points.

The ‘most “invidious” game’, he says, ‘is to blame the students.’

Comment: Remember this is the academic who in his opening paragraph said we had ‘one of the most effective education systems in the world’ with ‘teachers who have significantly contributed to this success’. Hattie’s bedrock recourse is to blame the teachers.

‘They come from poor homes so I cannot be responsible’ … ‘There is no tail of underachievement, there is a tail of poverty,’ he has us saying.

Comment: I have never heard a teacher say that he or she ‘cannot be responsible’ for children because ‘they come from poor homes’.

Hattie has worded the sentiment in the most aggressively derogatory way possible.

This is Hattie at work playing down socio-economic influences on learning in a way calculated  to appeal to governments and bureaucrats. Poverty has such a self-evident effect on learning that denying it accrues the mystique of the big lie. But that aside, here is Hattie, the poster boy for evidence-based learning denying the huge weight of evidence against his self-serving and career-enhancing myth. As it happens, New Zealand stands out well in succeeding in education despite increasing poverty (a recent article by Snook confirms this), but that does not mean poverty does not have a significant effect on learning in New Zealand. In New Zealand the learning tail (between 14-15 %) is much shorter than the poverty tail giving the lie to the idea that teachers use poverty as an excuse, but it cannot be dismissed as anything but a huge influence on learning (70-80% as found by Nash and Harker).


‘I have Maori/Pasifika/ESL (or many other groups) and they underachieve.’

Comment: Snook again: ‘Educational policy should not proceed apart from social policy. It is clear that educational advantage and social advantage are closely linked …’ (see reference to his paper above). Snook adds ‘From [the] research we might derive a tentative suggestion that schools which want to improve achievement of their students should concentrate on the relationships within them rather than the cognitive dimensions themselves.’ Also, that class and ethnic characteristics should not be ignored, indeed, schools should dedicate ‘their energy to trying to compensate for the initial social disadvantage by replicating in and around the school services which middle class children already get in and around their homes.’

‘He’s AHAD/Aspergers/Dyslexic (and so on), so I cannot be held responsible.’

Comment: Oh very clever. Responsible for what? Hattie has a solution to dyslexia does he?

‘I cannot be asked to set targets, as if the kids don’t reach them it is because they would not put in the effort, do the homework.’

Comment: I have never heard this idea, or anything like it, articulated by teachers. I suspect that the source of such a formulation is rage against teachers for rejecting his narrow, measure-based pedagogy and research design.

Hattie is in favour of national standards. That can be discerned from what he has striven to conceal so far. He posed as very doubtful about national standards early on in the article, referring to them as ‘a catch cry’, but as we have already noted, he quickly and smoothly slipped into a narrative that takes the implementation of national standards for granted. Cleverly, though, he has left the impression that he is something of a national standards’ sceptic.

Sometimes the faults of national standards are so graphically described that, if quoted out of context, would make Hattie appear as an avowed opponent of national standards. This ties in with the apparent purpose of the article’s introductory paragraphs which is to create an ambience of being a national standards’ sceptic when, in fact, national standards are a full-blown expression of his pedagogy.

I am not going to use Hattie’s labels of ‘hazards’ and ‘risks’ characteristic of the path well travelled because they are euphemisms implying such hazards and risks are avoidable when they are not; they are not hazards and risks but faults, faults that are inevitable – to avoid these faults, national standards would have to be changed, changed to such an extent they would, like Alexander’s recommended changes (see below), mean they were no longer national standards. If we accept Hattie’s labels of hazards and risks we are lured into accepting his argument of them being resolvable, if we reject them, we are making our own argument of the inherent nature of such faults.

The tone and structure of the article conveys the absolute expectation that Hattie has the answer to avoiding the faults of national standards that have everywhere characterised their implementation. What irresponsibility it would be to warn about an education policy, to know about and detail the considerable faults, then to advocate for such a policy without providing convincing answers to how these faults might be overcome. If he doesn’t provide convincing answers to the faults he describes, he would then be revealed as an advocate for national standards at any cost; and his detailed and colourful description of the faults would be a stark example of how Hattie reveals to conceal – the revealing of the faults of national standards serving to conceal his support for them.

And it is of this that I accuse John Hattie.

I don’t intend to go into the detail of Hattie’s description of the faults of national standards, but it is crucial to the argument of this posting that they are listed so we can weigh up whether Hattie comes up with convincing arguments.

‘Limited evidence of any improvement in students’ educational achievement.’

‘Difficulties in removing the national standards policy when it is shown that it has no or a negative effect on student achievement.’

‘His [Bush’s] solution … to have one set of national standards and one national test.’

‘The consequential effects of such a one-size-fits-all NS and testing policy.’

‘Overly prescriptive summative testing, narrowing the curricula, banning social promotion, removing principals.’

‘Moderation processes … are essential to implementing standards … why are they not part of the introduction and not a discovery to be tacked on later.’

‘Innovation can be stifled.’

‘Teachers spending more classroom time preparing students for high stakes tests and less time on those subjects that are not tested.’

‘The test is the goal.’

‘There is more teacher talking and explaining, more homework from textbooks, greater use of worksheets, and over training in completing multiple choice items as part of the daily life in schools.’

‘If literacy and numeracy are the priority, then prioritizing these subjects should occur.’

‘[A  researcher] surveyed 15,000 districts in the United States and found that more than 70% had cut back on time spent on social studies, science, art, music … particularly in lower socio-economic schools.’

‘They also cut back … on more student-centred activities (e.g., small group work, discussions, learning centres, and portfolios).’

‘This path includes presenting data in ‘interesting’ ways such as using fancy graphs, changing of standards …, and a higher baying of criticism at the culprits who are causing this lack of success (i.e., schools).’

‘Soon after, value added and now contextual value-added using hierarchical linear modelling was used … [but] schools had difficulty interpreting these models.’

‘Then the emphasis in the UK shifted to progress … but evaluating progress is not simple.’

‘Not acknowledging or effectively addressing the current enormous inequalities in the provision and success of schooling in New Zealand.’

‘Mistaking measuring schools for fixing them.’

‘Assuming a theory of action to shame and name will motivate improvement.’

‘Undermining rather than expanding safety nets for struggling students.’

‘Creating debates about student outcomes rather than teacher quality.’

‘Punishing those who need help as opposed to identifying and resourcing those most in need of help.’

‘Basing judgements about schools on test scores.’

Against this wide-ranging and significant array of faults to be faced on the road well travelled, what has Hattie to offer? Is what he has to say wide-ranging and significant in return? Is what he has to say realistic? Is what he has to say contradictory? Is what he has to say superficial and unimaginative in accordance with his suggested reveal to conceal behaviour? Does what he has to say demonstrate the intellectual rigour to be expected of an eminent professor?

To demonstrate whether national standards are working to meet their intentions he says we should ‘develop dashboard indicators which would show, at a glance, student progress in that area’. He then goes on to say that we ‘also should pay attention to their progress through the levels in all the subjects in the curriculum; pay attention to the progress of those students already at or above the national standards …’

Let’s tease out what Hattie is trying to establish, examine whether it is in anyway an answer to the faults suggested?

‘Develop dashboard indicators which would show, at a glance, student progress in that area.’

‘Dashboard indicators’ what are they? Clearly they are meant to be one of Hattie’s best shots, because they are the first fired.

Are they postings on ministry web sites displaying national standards’ results? Will they be in real time like stock market results? What faults are these dashboard indicators meant to correct?

Before we examine that, what to make of an associated suggestion? We ‘should pay attention to (children’s) progress through the levels in all the subjects in the curriculum; pay attention to the progress of those students already at or above the national standards.’ Is Hattie referring to individual children or children as groups? If individual children, why would we need the massive upheaval of national standards, the bureaucratic moderation procedures, the distortions and all the other faults of national standards, to establish something as simple as the progress of individual children? If groups, we return to all the faults of national standards exemplified in the path well travelled.

What does ‘pay attention to’ mean? Does it mean that all the curriculum areas should be subjected to national standards moderation? The use of ‘pay attention to’ is typical, I suggest, of the loose language which Hattie uses to reveal to conceal. If Hattie, professor of education at Auckland University, adviser to the government, and holder of many positions in academia, is really advocating that all curriculum areas from physical education, to the arts, to social studies, to science, to technology, and so on, should be part of national standards, then this is a huge development; something that goes well beyond national standards in any other country; something that makes the present attempts at national standards puny by comparison. This is not something that is slipped into the narrative unannounced; this is banners and headlines stuff.

Hattie, of course, doesn’t mean it, he is just saying it; he is just saying it because having revealed a great range of risks contingent on national standards he needs to reveal a range of ‘answers’ to conceal he doesn’t have any. This is goes to the heart of the main argument of this posting.

But there’s more. There is the suggestion that these other curriculum areas brought into national standards should only refer to children ‘at or above the national standards’, but then perhaps not, because he goes on to say that ‘dashboard indicators’ could be formed ‘aimed at (enhancing) teaching and learning for all [his italics] across the curriculum.’

Hattie’s seems to be suggesting (then again perhaps not) that a way to reduce the risks of national standards is to have more national standards. Extending the scope of national standards to the whole curriculum, may reduce a little the ‘prioritising’ of literacy and numeracy because they are subject to national standards but it would exacerbate greatly the fault he describes of ‘overly prescriptive summative testing, narrowing the curricula …’; of innovation being ‘stifled’; of the ‘test being the goal’.

But then, as I’ve suggested, Hattie is not really being serious.

And I also remind readers that Hattie has not examined why we need national standards, or outlined the problems they are supposed to address. We are having, it seems, our education system put into disorder on academic and political whim and self-serving prejudice. He and his colleagues talk much about evidence-based teaching and learning – what I ask, about evidence-based system’s change?

To spend any more time on Hattie’s first suggestion for avoiding faults in the path well travelled is to give it a dignity it doesn’t deserve.

Hattie’s next play to put New Zealand national standards on the path less travelled is that we listen to parents and teachers. Illogic and sleight of hand are apparent. He refers to parents in the feedback from the official government consultation as wanting learning to be fun, enjoyable, robust, attentive to the basics, for the whole child and for establishing a lifelong relationship with learning. Three long paragraphs later he has reduced this to emphasising assessment tool results being shared with parents.

At the introduction to a paragraph he expounds on the need for teacher voice to be heard, by the middle of the paragraph he slights teacher organisations by describing them as unsatisfactory vehicles for conveying teacher voice, by the end of the paragraph he is referring to the need for teacher voice to be heard through ‘involvement in ensuring that the policies are optimally implemented and evaluated through well established professional organisation and structure.’ In other words, ‘established professional organisation and structure(s)’ separate from the ones set by and for teachers, but contiguous, no doubt, with ones set up by government appointment (for instance, like the recent Education Workforce Advisory Group), or by universities (supported by the government). Hattie, whether he realises it or not is set on weakening teacher organisations and extending university power through the selection of like-minded graduates of their institutions to form associations and to work on special projects. This is how performance pay is administered in many parts of the USA and this is how Hattie works. On the surface he is advocating teacher voice, but he really means teacher voice controlled by universities and the government.

So reducing the effectiveness of teacher voice is his next suggestion for putting us on the path less travelled (and avoiding the faults of the path well travelled). I acknowledge that it is a matter of opinion whether teacher organisations are valid conveyors of teacher voice; however, my reading of New Zealand education history is that their partnership involvement has been important for primary education’s extraordinary success. Hattie, as I have indicated, for his own reasons, acknowledges this success, but does not deign to explore why.

Hattie then employs the tactic he used at the beginning of the article of expressing deep concerns about national standards, but only to conceal his underlying support for them, and even more, his bedrock support for the philosophy of which national standards are just one expression. Hattie, though, does seem to draw a bottom line on one manifestation of national standards, that of league tables, but his behaviour elsewhere puts the integrity of that line severely in doubt.

This is the Sartrean embrace: ideas and criticisms are embraced for apparent revelation, but in reality to distort, with the purpose of concealing. Sartre did this by describing the activities of the resistance in such a way as to imply his participation in them; by acknowledging, finally, some criticisms of Soviet communism but as a smokescreen for retaining his support for certain other parts; and by a constructing a reputation for telling it as it is, when it was really a telling for being at the centre of things.

We now move to the heart of the main argument of this posting with Hattie embracing a searingly critical report by Robin Alexander in his monumental investigation into UK national standards. (I worked from the condensed: ‘Introducing the Cambridge Primary Review’.) But it is an embrace based on Hattie’s particular interpretation of the report. See if you can pick up the sleight of hand: a sleight of hand that serves to distort the report in such a way as to undermine its conclusions.

Hattie writes:

‘The recent major independent review of the United Kingdom’s national standards policy concluded that the standards agenda is viewed less favourably; not because of opposition to high standards or accountability – far from it – but because of the way the apparatus of targets, testing, performance tables, national strategies and inspection is believed to distort children’s primary teaching for questionable returns. The report noted the questionable evidence on which some key educational policies have been based, the narrow focus of policies which treat literacy and numeracy as proxies for the whole of primary education, the disenfranchising of local voice, the rise of unelected and unaccountable groups taking key decisions behind closed doors, the “empty rituals” of consultation, the authoritarian mindset, and the use of myth and derision to underwrite exaggerated accounts of progress and discredit alternative views. In New Zealand, an independent review announced now, may help prevent such consequences …’

Following these fundamental criticisms of national standards by Alexander, does Hattie address them directly? No (except for league tables which I will return to shortly), he discusses such things as the moderation processes, reporting to parents, promoting the role of the review office, and independent reviews. Once again Hattie has embraced criticisms of national standards, creating an ambience of concern but not addressed fundamental matters, thereby deflecting and trivialising the seriousness of these criticisms, then returns in his own way to his bedrock support for national standards or measures like them.

Did you pick up the sleight of hand early on in his interpretation of Alexander?

Hattie says that ‘The recent major independent review of the United Kingdom’s national standards policy concluded that the standards agenda is viewed less favourably; not because of opposition to high standards or accountability – far from it – but because of the way the apparatus of targets, testing …’ and so on. What a tricky thing to do! And this an academic, a professor no less. Hattie has replaced ‘national standards’ with ‘high standards’. The issue professor is ‘national standards’ not ‘high standards’. Who could be against the apple pie of high standards? Hattie has intentionally and cleverly (for his purposes) confused national standards with high standards; thereby serving to weaken Alexander’s damning criticisms of national standards.

This posting argues that national standards, by definition, have certain and inevitable characteristics, and those characteristics result in certain and inevitable faults. And those faults are the same for New Zealand as they are for the UK – as Hattie’s increasingly desperate defence of New Zealand national standards demonstrates.

Hattie approvingly reports Alexander saying national standards are fine, they have just fallen into disfavour ‘because of ‘the apparatus of targets, testing, performance tables, national strategies and inspection (which) is believed to distort children’s primary teaching for questionable returns.’ 


Comment: National standards are targets. If Hattie is against them, why does he spend so much time discussing how they should set?



Comment: National standards are undertaken through testing. What on earth is he going on about? Hattie uses many paragraphs in the article discussing how testing should occur and the nature of the testing. (He does refer to OTJ, but they are only a fig leaf to be blown away by the inherent weight of formal testing.)

Performance tables

Comment: His stance on these will be commented on shortly.


National strategies and inspection

Comment: How can you have national standards without national strategies? As for inspection, in the pages following he advocates a central and increased role for the inspection and surveillance by that discredited organisation the education review office.

Hattie approvingly reports Alexander saying: ‘The report noted the questionable evidence on which some key educational policies have been based, the narrow focus of policies which treat literacy and numeracy as proxies for the whole of primary education …

Comment: Except for a crackpot suggestion to bring the whole of the curriculum into national standards and pious pleas for other parts of the curriculum not to be neglected, Hattie comes up with no answers to the narrowing of the curriculum. He spends much time bemoaning the narrowing of the curriculum that has occurred with national standards, but provides no system’s solution. He doesn’t seem to understand that the curriculum is narrowed in two ways: by the overwhelming attention being paid to literacy and numeracy because they are the ones being tested, moderated, and publicised; and by literacy and numeracy themselves being narrowed because the focus is on the measurable parts of learning. An inevitable characteristic of national standards is literacy and numeracy being ‘proxies for the whole of education’, but Hattie in his typically superficial and unimaginative style is unable or unwilling to recognise this. It is a characteristic of quantitative academics that they underrate system and structural pressures in education, calling, instead, on teachers, and those within the system, to resist those pressures through acts of will. When these acts of will are not forthcoming (because their futility is recognised) or are crushed, then teachers are landed with the blame. (Often the quantitatives will come in with their Hawthorne-laden research and their lack of attention to sustainability to demonstrate that such acts of will can work, and that teachers only need to follow the ministrations of the quantitatives.) Hattie’s answers for solving the massive problems demonstrated wherever national standards have been used never rises much above Californian-style self-help claptrap.

Hattie approvingly reports Alexander criticising: ‘The disenfranchising of the local voice, the rise of unelected and unaccountable groups taking key decisions behind closed doors, the “empty rituals” of consultation …

Comment: The stupendous cheek of Hattie of apparently agreeing with this characteristic of national standards, and suggesting he has the answer for New Zealand avoiding it, poses the question of why Hattie feels he can get away with such outrageous behaviour?  The answer I suggest is because he thinks he can because he has. He can because he refuses to engage seriously with those of his academic colleagues who have shown a willingness to subject his writing to proper academic scrutiny. He proceeds as though he is above such debate.

National standards are by definition a national system so disenfranchising the local voice is overwhelmingly likely. The reference to ‘the rise of unelected and unaccountable groups taking key decisions behind closed doors’ points to an issue of huge importance. Hattie a few pages before slyly bad mouthed teacher organisations, and suggested other forms of teacher representation. This other form would be similar to the recent Education Workforce Advisory Group: A Vision for the Teaching Profession. This group functioned entirely without accountability to teachers and is the augury for the future. It is the classic way to disenfranchise both the local voice and the teacher voice. The other way is to form subject associations funded by the authorities and dominated by the universities (which is typical of the American way to disenfranchise teachers). Then we have to remember that Hattie is a member of the Minister’s Advisory Group on National Standards which in Orwellian fashion has ‘independent’ attached to it. This ‘independent’ group has a right-wing economics professor as chair; Hattie, acknowledged as being an originating influence for national standards; a Canadian who has led national standards implementation in Ontario; a phonics-enraptured reading academic; and a mathematics lecturer. This group makes decisions about national standards behind closed doors and, of course, completely disenfranchises teachers. Then there was the national standards’ legislation, put through in haste, at night, containing a massive lie in its introductory section, and done without any consultation at all. What has Hattie had to say about that? A telling silence. Then there was the consultation after the fact: the ministry consultation with the community. Even though the ministry loaded the consultation in favour of national standards, the results of the consultation came out against, so the ministry held back for months on releasing them, then campaigned on a skewed interpretation of those results. What has Hattie had to say about that? A telling silence. These are all characteristics of the path well travelled; characteristics that Hattie has said we can avoid but haven’t; characteristics that Hattie implied he had the answers to but doesn’t.

Hattie approvingly reports Alexander criticising: The authoritarian mindset and the use of myth and derision’

Comment: I don’t believe Hattie has an inherent authoritarian mindset but I do believe his pedagogy depends for its implementation on centralised imposition so is amenable to going along with such a mindset, making little bleats to the contrary from time-to-time which is, of course, consistent with the main argument of this posting – reveal to conceal. The criticism of schools being a thousand flowers is, in itself, a way of revealing to conceal. He really wants one centrally and closely organised system; he talks of breaking down isolation and sharing but he really means uniformity of development through some form of organisational control. Then, of course, there is the use of myth and derision of teachers by the minister. What has Hattie to say about that? A little, but mainly a telling silence.

Hattie at the conclusion of the paragraph adds his own two cents worth: ‘In New Zealand, an independent review announced now, may help to prevent such consequences …

Comment: This notable suggestion reaches fabulous heights for two powerfully absurd reasons. First, it’s a review which means the national standards’ horse will already have bolted and Hattie admits in the article that in the instance of league tables, once in, they are almost impossible to remove, how much more difficult to remove national standards and its various manifestations given the political capital invested in them. Hattie knows this and is revealing to conceal. Second, a few pages on, he acknowledges that to be independent, a group would need to be appointed away from the ministry. The likelihood of this happening is nil, and Hattie knows it.

We now come to the matter of league tables. After detailing Alexander’s listing of the national standards’ faults, Hattie says:

‘We will know the national standards policy has failed, if it leads to league tables of schools (which is one of the greatest barriers to success of national standards). We know New Zealand has among the lowest school variance in the world, which means that if you take two students of the same ability, it almost doesn’t matter which school they go to.’

And a little further on:

‘The presence of league tables will be the greatest cause of teachers teaching to tests, thus perverting the nature of teaching – and league tables are very hard to remove.’

That seems to be a clear and forthright position. Has Hattie at last done the unthinkable and revealed a position to reveal a position not to conceal one? Has a he drawn a line that he will hold to?

Hattie does provide some alternatives one of which is completely useless (involving the review office). The other has a modicum of merit: this has schools required to show ‘current levels and progress compared to when national standards began’. But this stills begs the question: how can a baseline and moderation occur based on curriculum levels which weren’t designed for national standards and a variety of assessment tools which also weren’t designed for national standards? Mind you, assessment tools designed for national standards won’t work either because national standards don’t work (if the needs of children are paramount). Anyway, the media can still get these ‘results’ and use them comparatively. But what does any of this really matter? The minister has just announced that league tables are inevitable, so what will Hattie’s response be to that? I suspect some criticism, but it will not be a participation breaker, not a bottom line, though he has presented league tables as such. Remember what he wrote: ‘We will know the national standards has failed, if it leads to league tables of schools.’ That is direct, uncompromising, and unconditional. If league tables appear in schools, he says, New Zealand national standards will have failed, and with that failure will come the narrowing, the distorting, the scapegoating, and the authoritarianism. Hattie was quite clear on the matter.

Why then do I have a report in front of me from a highly reliable source (however, if it is wrong I will quickly and widely apologise) that Hattie has ‘unearthed notions of “safe” league tables.’? If this is true what manner of person are we dealing with here? (Well, this posting is exploring this.) I hope my source is wrong, but it comes after months of reports to the same effect.

Now we come to Hattie’s conclusion.

You will remember all the dire consequences revealed in Alexander’s monumental investigation – the dire consequences that occurred along the national standards’ path well travelled. One of the most serious being the narrowing of the curriculum and curriculum areas. You will remember Hattie’s attempts to appropriate these to his pedagogical advantage, and then his inconsequential suggestions for avoiding those fundamental consequences. How then does he begin his conclusions?

Blithely and superficially:

‘Any change to government policies, priorities and regulations always creates opportunities. Given that the language in these national standards pronouncements is lofty, aspirational, and missing much detail, what a wonderful opportunity there is to exploit the whirlpool of innovation.’

Any change to government policies, priorities and regulations also creates opportunities for governments, education bureaucracies, and academics aligned with these changes to gain extra powers. And that surely is what has happened in the implementation of national standards elsewhere and in New Zealand. Hattie is once again let down by his figure of speech, a whirlpool is a destructive phenomenon; innovation in education is not best suited by whirlpool environments, rather by calm, collegial, and reflective ones. A more appropriate figure of speech to encompass what has happened is blitzkrieg. Teachers have been taken by storm with national standards, from their origins starting with Hattie and Key, to the legislative settings, to the present day. How glib of Hattie not to give consideration to this. Hattie, after all, was one of four academics who signed a letter to the government recommending a trial of national standards which was totally rejected by the government. Why hasn’t Hattie followed through on that, or was it just another example of reveal to conceal? Hattie now, instead of providing answers to the faults characteristic of the path well travelled, has changed the agenda to so-called opportunities provided by national standards. In other words, another way to sell national standards.

He says:

‘We have a recent curriculum which we are required to implement, and thus national standards should be subservient to that mandate.’

Hattie knows about the almost overwhelming system’s pressure that national standards exert on the wider curriculum, and that this is a throwaway solution.

Now we come to the crunch. Alexander’s fundamental criticism’s are, it appears, very much on Hattie’s mind. In coming to judgement of how conscious Hattie is of his self-serving behaviours, what follows is highly illustrative.

Hattie interprets Alexander as saying that ‘implemented poorly, national standards can have perverse effects; implemented well, they can make a difference.’ This is a reprehensible and significant misinterpretation of Alexander by Hattie. Alexander in his report, rules out national standards as having anything positive to contribute; his report could be described, instead, as an escape from national standards. 

If every instance of a product has the same set of faults they are more than risks – they are faults arising from shared structural characteristics. (I acknowledge that faults by definition can be corrected, but the stronger word signals the difficulty of the task. As well, the universality of their appearance signals the structural basis of their origins.) Hattie, by referring to risks and claiming it is possible for national standards to proceed on a path less travelled, has concealed with sleight of hand the hugely damaging admission of the failure of national standards wherever they’ve have been tried and the very real possibility that such a journey is not possible.

With his stalking horse in place, Hattie proceeds to list Alexander’s litany of problems characteristic of national standards, including strong criticism of SATS (standards-based tests), the need ‘for accountability to be uncoupled from assessment for learning’, and the need for high standards to be sought in all curriculum areas (this is not an argument by Alexander for national standards to be extended to all curriculum areas, as Hattie hints at, but the reverse).

As stated in the previous paragraph, I strongly dispute Hattie’s interpretation of Alexander, and the message impression left in readers’ minds. Once again Hattie tries to use the difference between standards and national standards and, in a new departure tries to harness ‘assessment for learning’ to the hack of national standards. I challenge Hattie to submit to another academic his interpretation of what Alexander says about national standards.

Alexander, in effect, recommends doing away with national standards though retaining ‘summative pupil assessment at the end of the primary phase [Alexander clearly does not mean this to be national standards], but uncouple assessment for accountability from assessment for learning.’ He also recommends replacing the ‘current English and maths SATS with a system which assesses and reports on children’s achievements in all areas of learning with the minimum disruption [this is clearly not intended as a moderated national standards’ system, but a school-based one]. A further recommendation is that the ‘performance of individual schools and the system as a whole’ (be done) through sample testing.’ Of one thing we can be certain; Alexander had in mind little that was similar to New Zealand’s national standards. Hattie’s misrepresentation of Alexander is reprehensible.

There follows a hopelessly naïve list of national standards’ faults to be avoided. This has all been covered above. Whistling a happy tune is no counter to a system’s structural distortions.

Then comes another fantastic contradiction: having quoted Alexander criticising SATS (and in the actual report doing away with them) as a major source of national standards’ ills, Hattie, on the next page, with breathtaking cheek, uses SATS and the comments of the architect of them, as a model for introducing our national standards. It seems that Hattie, having made some semblance of criticising SATS, feels that has given him the cover to use SATS as a model.

In this second to last paragraph he describes approvingly Michael Barber’s suggestions for the successful bureaucratic implementation of national standards. Hattie obviously feels he has done sufficient revealing to conceal and goes for it. To hell with  concerns about the narrowing the curriculum, the stifling of teacher initiative, and other such boring detail the critics keep coming up with. He obviously feels freed from uttering the naïve pieties he has developed to conceal his true feelings, from worrying about contradicting what he had written just two paragraphs before – yes, for a moment he can go for it, the sheer exhilaration of it all.

Hattie writes:

‘Michael Barber was the architect of the United Kingdom SATS and testing program to enhance literacy and numeracy. He was very successful as he attended diligently to the process of implementation: understanding the degree of challenge, the quality of the planning for implementation and performance management; the capacity to drive progress in implementation; and the timetable for delivery. We have glimpses in NZ of each right now, and thus there is an opportunity for schools to contribute and even control these implementation processes. He advised “gentle pressure, relentlessly applied” and regarded success as primarily related to clear and realisable targets; sharp accountability; good real-time data; best practice transfer; transparency; management against implementation; capacity to intervene when necessary to reward success; and incentives to reward success. We can apply these implementation processes both to the Minister and the Ministry, as well as individual schools. Success towards the Far Horizon may accrue as long as goals are agreed and in harmony, and the implementation is on the path we wish to travel.’

It must be remembered that this is Hattie’s second to last paragraph in a densely packed 14-page article, so we must assume that he is now driving home what is really important to him. The final two paragraphs are academically disgraceful. What happened to his criticism of targets and the like?

Hattie has just finished trying to appropriate Alexander’s anti-SATS, anti-national standards, anti-coupling of national standards and accountability, anti-narrowing of the curriculum characteristic of implementing national standards – appropriating them to support his version of national standards. And now this. In a sense, however, given the main aim argument of this posting it was to be expected, even predicted, but I’m still taken aback by its breathtaking cheek and its transcendental unreality.

Then, take the final sentence of the paragraph just quoted: ‘Success towards the Far Horizon may accrue as long as the goals are agreed and in harmony, and the implementation is on the path we wish to travel.’ I know it seems picky but when figures of speech don’t work or are wayward, it is often a sign that there is something suspect about the message. The references to horizons are a straining for effect to give grandeur to a message light years from characterising such a quality. I know he has taken the metaphor from Michael Fullan which is to do with whether schools are undertaking teaching and learning to meet the aims of national standards (near horizon), or national standards to enhance teaching and learning (far horizon). This is gobbledegook because Hattie doesn’t come close to recommending structural changes to achieve the latter and he knows it, but uses all this horizons’ stuff try to conceal his failure to do so.

And what is it with this talk of harmony? The whole point of the opposition to national standards is that they are not a path most academics, most teachers and schools have wanted to travel. So who are the ‘we’ he is referring to? And to talk about ‘goals agreed and in harmony’ indicates an academic able to suspend reality when it suits him, to function, it seems in a kind of twilight zone.

The message from Hattie’s approving quoting of Barber’s views is that national standards are very much to do with the bureaucratic context of the implementation and attention to bureaucratic detail. It is typical Hattie, an academic from psychology, to say there is an opportunity for ‘schools to contribute and even control these implementation processes’, that is because implementation processes cannot eliminate the faults entailed in national standards only the structures within which these implementation processes occur. And, as I’ve said elsewhere in this posting, the only way to eliminate the faults of national standards is to make changes that would result in them no longer being national standards. In other words, end up where Alexander does.

Hattie reports approvingly on Barber advising ‘gentle pressure, relentlessly applied.’ By whom on whom? Hattie partially answers this one: ‘We can apply these implementation processes both to the Minister and the Ministry in New Zealand, as well as individual schools.’ But who is the ‘we’? Is it Hattie leading his special group of academics? I think he would say yes, and everyone else in the education community. I reiterate, however, that to seriously entertain the implementation processes, you need to have seriously accepted the structures, so most in the school community would not want to get involved. But the criteria expressed for applying this gentle, relentless pressure are clearly intended for application against schools; how else to interpret criteria such as ‘sharp accountability’, ‘capacity to intervene when necessary’, ‘and incentives to reward success’?

The first part of the final paragraph is cliché.

The task Hattie has set of guiding us along the path less travelled has resulted in failure, and Hattie knows it. He cannot lift himself. ‘We may have one of the best systems in the world,’ he says, ‘but we cannot defend a system with one in ten schools deemed failing; one in three students failing Level 1 numeracy and literacy; every school competing to devise the optimal systems, sometimes too alone.’ He is sensible enough to say ‘deemed’ failing, showing some caution about accepting the review office’s figures, but why go to the secondary school for his figures on literacy and numeracy, when we know the figure for the tail in primary is between 14 -15% which is exemplary given New Zealand’s poverty statistics and gap between rich and poor?

The second part, bathos.

‘Nor can we defend a system that decides one policy (national standards in literacy and numeracy) and not get it right – both right in the policy, the standards, the implementation, and its evaluation in terms of the correct horizon. It may be necessary to have edicts about the chosen horizon; otherwise schools may have the best intentions of aiming at the Far Horizon, only to feel pressure to reverse the relationship based on feedback pressures (e.g., league tables) from parents and others, particularly the media to aim for the Near Horizon.’

All that sound and fury collapsing into a futility of babble, horizons, and edicts. Here we have national standards which on Hattie’s account (if you get behind the concealment) have failed everywhere else; here we have Hattie saying he will be our guide for taking us on the path less travelled; and here we have Hattie in his concluding paragraph recommending edicts as the solution. Yes – edicts. In effect, an admission of failure but, like a pug still throwing punches from memory, he still tries to land one: ‘National standards offer the most wonderful opportunities for refreshing and reinvigorating an already top of the world system, but it could the most disastrous policy formulated if it turns our attention to narrowing, testing, league tables and diverting attention to between-school rather than within-school differences’. Pathetic! John, throw in the towel.

Edicts are nominated by Hattie as the ultimate solution, the culmination, to getting us on to the path less travelled. In one way it is unbelievable, in another, it isn’t. In a sad way it reveals Hattie for what he is, and for what I’ve described him to be. The way to get on to the path less travelled, to aim for the far horizon, is edicts. There you have it. But you see, even the saying ‘path less travelled’ reveals to conceal because the path to successful national standards is not ‘less’ travelled – on the evidence of what Hattie tries to conceal, it has not been travelled at all. That is because the path more travelled is not a perversion of national standards, it is their essence.

Hattie’s forked tongue has enabled him to colonise New Zealand education at the cost of a few US Army surplus blankets, a baseball bat, and a bottle of coke. At the very least, I hope this posting serves to up the ante.




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