Part B: Truth and morality in academia Aotearoa and how it affects us

Part B

The rise, fall, and rise of a university commercial arm: truth and morality in academia Aotearoa and how it affects us

 Looking at the substance of the Perth address to the ‘packed conference’ to learn even more about our professor. (Downloaded from the internet: ‘Using assessment data for improving teaching practice’)

 First, our professor’s claims for what his or her research programme has achieved: ‘Student achievement gains in reading and writing have accelerated at a rate averaging more than twice that expected, with even greater gains for the lowest-performing students.’ This claim is about average for any new idea in literacy and numeracy, whether from another academic, an idea promoted by a celebrity educationist, local consultants, or Aunty Mabel from Kapiti who has developed her idea from back to the basics.

Well, we were pretty much on the money with that one.

To be honest, in reading, I think better and more sustainable results, and a richer literacy context, could be achieved with the good old ‘Parents as Reading Tutors’ (PART), just another name for ‘Pause Prompt Praise’ with its special attention to reading mileage. Indeed, I’ll throw out a challenge to our professor: we’ll get that programme going again, with the same amount of money your one costs, and you put up your asTTle-based programme, and we’ll go toe to toe.’ If PART came out on top, which it would, especially if sustainability was a measure of success, that would give power to classrooms, eliminate over-theorising in reading, and stop academics intervening between teacher and child.

As for writing, all teachers need to do is read Elwyn Richardson; it’s all there, and can never be improved on, because it is about a teacher who has grasped the two or three big ideas about writing and responded to children in the immediate. There are, of course, attendant subtleties to be uncovered but these will come in the process of exploring in practice those big ideas. If you want a reasonably close contemporary embodiment of Elwyn (though he is still alive and still with grievance), Gail Loane could map out a classroom-centred programme for teachers to respond to. (To learn more about Elwyn Richardson, teachers could go to any of my postings on Elwyn; or the postings on ‘Teacher Diary’ which is Elwyn in disguise.) This would be far better than teachers being dominated and perplexed by asTTle.

Literacy should be about teachers grasping the big ideas and, from there, working things out for themselves. The issue is ethical: ethics starts from the immediate affective relationship between an individual and the individual being addressed; a relationship established before the individual speaks or acts. Ethics does not start from reasoning, or rules, or contracts – it starts from empathy. The other less immediate relationships an individual has to negotiate, necessarily requires more abstract relationships, but empathy should always retain primacy. That means the basis for our relationships should not be contractual or rule-bound but predicated on empathetic responsibility. The teacher (in this case) as the individual to promote good, carries the responsibility to do good for the child; to do good for the child the teacher needs to feel free to respond to the child, and to be relatively unencumbered by contracts, rules, bureaucratically induced fear, and asTTle. (The writing of Jim Neyland, Victoria University, focuses on this idea as the basis for ethical relationships.)

I know in the bureaucracies, especially in the review office, I am considered beyond the pale; and by some academics as crass – but rightly or wrongly, I am responding to an education system which, though it works better than it deserves to because of the wonderful efforts of teachers and principals, is heading in the wrong direction – heading in a contract-, rule-, and fear-laden direction. The present head of the review office is an intelligent man, a man with degrees in history, who should know better, but intelligent people often don’t know better, indeed, are easier to fool, because they consider themselves too clever to be fooled. This head of the review office said there had to be a review office because the government, having paid the money, had a right to see the money was well spent. Is that it? Is that the best an intelligent man with history degrees can do? Is this education dumb and dumber? Is the way the education review office presently functions the only way an external review agency can function? Is the pedagogical policy the only pedagogical policy an external review agency can function on? Is the way the education office functions ethical and moral? (All the review office can come up with is a change to encouraging school self-review: what a fiddle- faddle.) History is replete with people who were only following contractual orders, and did some very bad things. (Suddenly my thoughts are flooded with people, very good people, very good teachers and principals, who in questioning the philosophy and modus operandi of the review office were crushed.)

Under pressure from commercial stringencies has our professor given much thought to the morality of academic behaviour? For instance, has our professor consulted education philosophers like Ivan Snook and Jim Neyland? Our professor, if he or she is like other professors, will be very strong on using academic knowledge as a touchstone – why not use the academic knowledge of such people?

Yes – we were right about asTTle being at the centre of our professor’s idea. The professor refers to it before going on to say that the data from it should be ‘seen by teachers as something that informs teaching and learning, rather than a reflection of the capability of individual students and to be used for sorting, labelling and credentialling.’

Then much condescension of the kind we have come to expect from quantitative academics – a typical statement: ‘The interpretation and use of assessment data for guiding and directing teaching requires a mind shift towards professional learning from data and a new set of skills.’

So ’embedded’ are teachers in their old ways it takes ‘two years’ it seems, to pry them loose.

I need to remind our professor that the system has demanded such summative assessment (review office demands; board of trustee expectations, for instance), and even though the professor is likely to think otherwise (given the academic pedigree we have speculated for him or her) national standards is about summative – that’s what national standards means, and in the popular mind, and that’s what they will be, irrespective of the gloss the professor might like to put on them (which he or she probably will).

Teachers are into formative, and when I talk to them they go on at considerable length about it – hasn’t our professor been to a party where they’ve been present? It’s mostly formative in their mind, responding to children in the immediate. Getting in the way of formative, though, have been expectations and demands from other quarters, largely generated from the bureaucracies, in conjunction with the universities, for measurement and writing things down.

Then we come to the heart of the address which reportedly wowed the Australian conference – our professor’s five-stage cycle for ‘Teacher inquiry and knowledge-building – to promote valued student outcomes’.  This is the cycle developed to achieve the ‘mind shift’ in teachers our professor says is required. Except for one stage, the rest are of mind-numbing ordinariness. Indeed, the rest of the address is of mind-numbing ordinariness, replete with words like ‘unpacking’, ‘synthesis’, and ‘recent research analyses’.  Was the audience still as ‘packed’ at the conclusion of the address as it was at the beginning?

The cycle stage referred to interests me, because I think it is the stage which contributes whatever gains our professor’s project achieves. While the professor thinks, as quantitative academics always do, that analysing assessment data is the main trick, I think the variable that is the main trick, is this particular stage. Quantitative researchers often get wrong the variable that brings whatever learning gains they achieve – I demonstrated this in the Hattie series (Part 3) when I showed that it was ‘direct instruction’ that was the key variable, not ‘feedback’. (The variable identified by quantitative researchers as their key one is usually one that places them at a power advantage in relation to classrooms.)

The stage in the cycle referred to is more clearly expressed on the first page of the article: ‘Teachers need improved pedagogical content knowledge.’ If you give teachers’ content knowledge, especially in the form of big ideas, and allow teachers time to make that knowledge their own, they will do some good things with it. I am suggesting, as a result, that those who work with teachers on professional development concentrate on teachers’ pedagogical knowledge as pedagogical knowledge, not as the minutiae of ‘data assessment’. No matter how excessive in jargon and detail our professor’s project is likely to have been, I suspect the teachers involved will have picked up some useful ideas here and there and made something of them.

Then our professor reveals her conservative education provenance as a member of the ‘school effectiveness and improvement category of research’. Our professor says that, ‘Recent research analyses demonstrating that it is teachers who have the greatest system influence on student outcomes have led to an increasing focus on what happens in classrooms.’ But how wholehearted is she in her membership? As I will suggest below, while our professor is from that category of research, her statements expressing that membership are anaemic, with a tactical feel to them. My argument is that a subordinate purpose for our professor’s visit to Wellington was to execute a Trojan Horse manoeuvre to ingratiate and get Hattie back into the minister’s good books.

Our professor is one of New Zealand’s most eminent research academics, and the main purpose for the visit to Wellington is to promote his or her particular research project, so our professor has impeccable reasons for going. My argument is that the commercial arm our professor is representing is in need of rehabilitation in the eyes of the minister, so the visit and the circumstances of the visit serve a double purpose.

In some ways, the events surrounding the whole matter reminds me more of Exeter (read Hattie) following the disastrous Irish (read NZ Herald) campaign. On hearing of Elizabeth’s biting criticisms and his possible replacement as favourite, Exeter raced back to England, leapt off his horse at the court gate, and ran dishevelled to Elizabeth’s privy chamber, only to find Elizabeth not there, whereupon he burst into her bedchamber, to discover her ‘newly up, her hair about her face’. I think for this coiffure offence alone Exeter would have lost his head, let alone his subsequent flirtations with treason. Elizabeth’s response to Essex might have been similar to Anne’s. Essex played the frustrated courtier (read ‘Holy Grail’ researcher) while Elizabeth, not knowing if Essex had come with his army (read education, media, and public) behind him, played along.

He later wrote a poem of vexed courtship which probably gives some sense of how he expressed himself:

‘I loved her whom all the world admired,

I was refused of her that can love none;

And my vain hopes which far too high aspired,

Are dead and buried, and for ever gone.’

Exeter left thinking his boyish charm had saved his position and bacon.  When he was invited back, however, he ‘found her much changed’. Exeter was then dismissed and told to wait instructions – which only came in the form of his arrest and execution. Unfortunately, the story for Hattie will end much more happily than for Exeter.

With her statement about the place of teachers, our professor seems to be shaping up as a red-blooded member of the ‘school effectiveness and improvement’ category of research, but then backs off. She starts off in the direction of saying the teacher is a more important influence on learning than the socio-economic, but then inserts the word ‘system’ which excludes the comparison with the socio-economic. Two things result from this: enough has been done to signal that he or she is a member of the ‘school effectiveness and improvement’ ideology; and a statement of stunning obviousness. Since when was there any argument that within the ‘system teachers weren’t the greatest influence on student learning?’ With this tricky manoeuvre, our professor has done what he or she needed to do: our professor has repeated the research mantra that appeals to conservative politicians; and in the light of this, placed our professor and university associates in a better position to gain ministry contracts. Our professor has signalled his or her compliance to the minister of education; and also signalled a message to the minister on behalf of a close associate, Hattie. It is subtle and furtive, like a Freemason secret move, but will come through loud and clear to the ministry as: you can trust us, we’ll be staunch (and from Hattie it will also say – sorry), please could we have some more contracts?

     Return to the Herald item

 And, according to the Herald item, the likelihood of gaining more ministry contracts is strong, but whether Hattie is fully restored to his golden boy status is yet to be seen. What does seem certain is that the press release that formed the basis to the Herald item was intended as a mea culpa which, to some extent has been accepted. In a posting on this web site (‘The real reason why’) I predicted that Hattie would resile from his fierce criticism of national standards. It wasn’t long coming. (Hattie can easily show my argument to be wrong by following up on his criticism of national standards with further explanation – don’t hold your breath.)

The Herald item reports that next week our professor ‘will meet Ministry of Education officials to discuss how professional development should be rolled out in conjunction with the national standards.’ These are the same national standards that Hattie declared a week ago would put education in New Zealand ‘back by fifty years’. It looks as though a week in commercialised education is even longer than a week in politics but, then again, it is politics isn’t it? education politics.

All those things we speculated for quantitative research and our professor are evident in the press release-based item, for instance: large improvements in literacy were reported and it was all about teachers ‘being able to diagnose at a really deep level’.

In a big play for the commercial potential of asTTle, our professor said that ‘interpreting data ‘ achieved large improvements –not only in literacy but also with ‘numeracy results’.

Our professor blithely pushes ahead, saying: ‘ this level of analysis would correspond to a big work  load for already resource-stretched teachers, but said it was fundamental to teachers’ understandings.’

Though national standards have failed elsewhere, our professor has the answer: it lies, it seems, in the spray from a technology, an education robot, an asTTle, which will enlighten teachers and strengthen their professionalism. I, of course, vehemently disagree.  The use of that technology, I declare, will confuse teachers by making complex that which should be straightforward, and weaken professionalism by putting them in thrall to quantitative academics and education bureaucrats – bureaucrats who will waltz around as though they understand what they’re talking about.

Frances Nelson was distinctly underwhelmed and, for NZEI, which always moves cautiously and diplomatically, her comments were biting. The most significant comment in my view was that she was ‘worried about the impact of cutting other training courses to make way for that.’

Then Frances Nelson expresses an understanding of  the interaction of the full curriculum on children’s learning, which includes, of course, literacy and numeracy: ‘This is disappointing [speaking of  the professor’s data-laden approach] because there are schools that need professional development on the curriculum before the stuff with the standards will work anyway.’

Does the professor really get that? Does the professor really understand that? Does the professor understand that literacy and numeracy does not develop by direct literacy and numeracy alone? That failure in literacy and numeracy is usually part of a wider education failure, not solely or even mainly related to failure in literacy and numeracy? The professor’s apparent obsession with literacy and numeracy, which suits his or her data-laden assessment approach, threatens to give certain parts of our school population a narrow, second class education. Learning for all children, in all curriculum areas, works better if it moves forward holistically and on a wide front.

And then our professor surpasses him- or herself. If our professor’s press release hadn’t included these comments, especially the second, I would probably have dismissed this dismal little item as just another self-serving outpouring of yet another quantitative researcher.

First, you announced to the Australian audience that ‘Teachers need more training to write and understand the reports they will be required to send home to parents, under national testing requirements.’ This announcement opened the Herald item.

Did the impetus for these reports come from ‘research’ Hattie undertook, which became part of the government’s election policy? Will the reports use ‘data’ from a standardised test called asTTle which is sold from the commercial arm of an education department your research will also be sold from? Are you now angling to gain contracts for that commercial arm to explain to teachers how ‘to write and understand’ those reports? Have you asked teachers what they think of those reports? If you haven’t, is this because your real concern is with what the minister thinks, not teachers? Have you considered that your comments are just a tad condescending? Have you considered that teachers not being able ‘to write and understand’ those reports might be because teachers don’t like them, and that’s there way of saying it?

Do you entertain the possibility of a conflict of interest in your enthusiasm and judgement about the reports? Or don’t you give a damn?

Then the second, and the mother of all statements: ‘Professor T’ said she believed New Zealand was on the right track in developing its set of national standards.’ (Yes, our professor is female.)

It is important here that I allow the possibility that our professor on her own initiative, without consulting Hattie, issued the press release (or simply contacted the Herald reporter), but it is not likely. Hattie after all is head of the department and head of the department’s commercial arm. As well, all the universities I know have a policy of vetting press releases or approaches to the media.

Our professor is going to Wellington to present her research for a contract, also to make soundings for a contract for ‘professional development’ relating to school reports. Now school reports are not our professor’s specialty, they are Hattie’s specialty – which points directly to Hattie’s involvement at all stages of this sorry little saga.

When I consider the goings-on of researchers in our universities, I am reminded of the behaviour of Greek gods who went about their lives for good or ill, seemingly oblivious to the mere mortals and their earth-bound existence beneath the clouds of Olympus.

Here we have our professor going to Wellington to represent the commercial arm of her university to sell her project (based on Hattie’s AsTTle); to sell Hattie’s asTTle and its role in numeracy as well as literacy; and to sell professional development to train teachers how to do school reports (based on Hattie;s asTTle and Hattie’s recommendations). So our professor sends a message to Wellington – a message of support for national standards, a policy detested by teachers – a week before she goes to Wellington to peddle the wares of the commercial arm of the university she works for. All this just a few weeks after the head of that commercial arm, her close associate, her fellow professor, excoriated national standards.

What did this head of the commercial arm, her close associate, her fellow professor have to say a few weeks before: am I exaggerating the vehemence of that criticism?

‘The changes,’ he said, ‘threatened to destroy one of the great strengths of the New Zealand education system, which was teaching children according to their own abilities.’

‘Primary schools’, he said, ‘will be going back 50 years if teachers are forced to stick to national standards in reading, writing and maths.’

‘It would make New Zealand more like the United States, where schools moved children mechanically through all subjects at the same pace. The result was mediocrity because teachers just aimed to meet the minimum standard.’

Tolley ‘downplayed the prospect of league tables [another victory, well done all concerned] – and promised the new system will not revolve around passing a series of national tests, as in Britain and the United States.’

But Hattie was not to be mollified: ‘The changes still looked likely to force teachers to teach children according to their school year, rather than their ability level, which is nonsense.’

He goes on to say that a standards-based system clashed badly with the levels-based curriculum – ‘that will almost have to go out of the window  and would send the wrong signals.’

‘If this system comes in the correct job for the teacher is to teach to the test. And that’s the problem.’

‘National standards were likely to make teachers less accountable to parents, contrary to the Government’s intention.’

So our professor is going to Wellington to sell professional development data-based programmes for reading, writing, and numeracy based on asTTle to support national standards and the new reports; to sell those programmes for the commercial arm of the university department she is a major contributor to; and to represent the head of that commercial arm, her close associate, who, a few weeks earlier had said that the introduction of national standards would result in ‘mediocrity’, ‘send the wrong signals’, and result in ‘nonsense’.

Ye Greek gods!

For speculation on what provoked Hattie’s outburst you can read a posting on this web site (‘The real reason why national standards have been delayed’); of particular significance in that same posting, I suggested that ‘While primary education doesn’t need Hattie or Tolley they need each other – they are crucial to each other’s ambitions.’ I went on to say that, ‘We are likely to have to witness in the months ahead the dolorous spectacle of Tolley helping Hattie to put his toys back in the cot. And from that, to believe that all is well in the twisted alternative worlds that is national standards.’

This is what this posting is about; this is what the Herald item is also about – Tolley and Hattie, the doleful duo, making noises preliminary to making up.

As stated above, our professor said: ‘… she believed New Zealandwas on the right track in developing its set of national standards.’

Oh really – any self-interest involved in that statement?

Thought about it carefully have we?

Is this the first time you have come out in favour of national standards? If so, why now?

Anything to do with your visit to Wellington?

Anything to do with your commercial arm boss’s claim that national standards would set education back by 50 years?

Is your support for national standards evidence-based?

You have written a paper on partnership in education especially with teachers – very pretty words they are – would you say your support for national standards is a good example of the kind of partnership you espouse?

Have you discussed the issue with teachers and teacher organisations?

In typical ‘school effectiveness and improvement’ style, is the bedrock partnership you most care about, the one with the government?

As an academic what would you say to the claim that a standard cannot be defined? That a standard can be worked towards, but it cannot be defined? That an education system based on standards is a system based on a false premise?

Have you examined your support for national standards, and teachers’ opposition to it, on the basis of morality?  Did you consider moral principles in helping to decide what to do? (Ivan Snook’s moral principles as outlined in ‘more than talk’, Department of Education, 1978.)

Is your action in supporting national standards being fair to all concerned?

Is your action in supporting national standards ‘maximising the good’ and ‘minimising the harm?’

Does your support for national standards have some concern with the truth?

Will your support for national standards not unnecessarily impede others in their pursuits?

So you support national standards, you say so in the NZ Herald, you may have said it to a ‘packed conference’ in Australia; you certainly said it before you went to Wellington to discuss contracts for rolling out national standards; and you said it in bizarre contradiction to recent statements by the boss of your commercial arm.

Did your support for national standards take into account a concern for ‘the moral implications of the kind of society we are creating?’

That means you will have to support everything that goes with national standards. It means, for instance, you will have support the invidious labelling of schools by the education review office that will occur. A principal put this pungently in an e-mail:

‘I have begun thinking’, he said, ‘about the significance of the timeline ERO sets for their return: 1 year, 2 years, 3 years or 4-5 years. Previously I hadn’t given it a thought. It occurred to me that the timeline, in itself, would create de facto league tables, with schools boasting that “We’re a 4-5 year review school” or parents saying, I’ve heard they are on a 2 year cycle – not good.’ This would be the ultimate in aggregation of data! A school’s work reduced to one number!

That means you will have to support the removal of advisory support for primary school curriculum areas.

Do you think about things like that professor? Do you think about the moral implications of your actions in relation to the society we are creating?

And when some principals – human nature being what it is, the fear-based and the falsely-premised education system being what it is – carry out and use standardised testing and national standards’ assessment in suspect ways, does the moral dilemma of that concern you professor?

Do you think about things like that professor?

The review office is really your ally, focusing as it does on data and evidence-based teaching, focusing on a narrow conception of literacy, on the centralised imposition of literacy and numeracy programmes and programmes for standards and school reports – but have you not picked up on fear-laden nature of their relationships with schools? Do the moral implications of that concern you?

Do you recognise that numbers from research gathered from schools under competitive duress are suspect? A few years ago there was a meeting to discuss ways to ensure consistency in the administration of the Observation Survey across the ‘Strengthening Education in Mangere and Otara’ (SEMO) schools. Marie Clay was there. Researchers (people like you professor) wanted stanine scores from the schools to measure comparative shifts in literacy levels across schools at six years. Marie Clay, who never forgot where reading recovery came from, how teachers were her genuine partners, quietly demurred, ‘referring to high stakes’.

Let us track what will happen with the imposition of national standards and their accomplice – standardised testing: the projects will be forced on schools in imperious manner by the central bureaucracies; schools will focus on standardised tests; which will narrow the curriculum and reduce attention to the arts, social studies and science and, in that way, reduce opportunities for thinking and attention to the affective; the suspect results for the standardised tests will show learning improvement; which will be taken as evidence that improvement comes from centrally imposed projects; the mana of bureaucrats and researchers will rise and that of schools will fall – meanwhile, the actual quality of education for children will deteriorate on a wide front, but will few notice or care. It will become even more deceptive because national standards will also produce suspect results and show the same apparent learning improvement. The National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) will be a voice of sanity but their days could be numbered and, anyway, who will really be listening to them because they don’t come out with real numbers. (All this is already happening.)

Let us track the experience for, say, Maori boys: schools will become more formal, boring, and paper-focused; learning will be less active; behaviour problems will be more serious and widespread; early on many of them will be identified by standardised testing as below standard; they will know they are identified as below standard and so will all of the children in the class, many in the rest of the school, and some in the wider community; the heavy focus on literacy and numeracy in the morning, often through to 12.30 pm, will leave little time for other curriculum areas; curriculum areas like social studies and science, which will diminish opportunities for conceptual development and flexible thinking, aspects of learning many of these children need to develop for their literacy and numeracy; and less time for the arts will diminish opportunities for stimulating their imagination and creativity, as well as opportunities for conceptual development and flexible thinking. (All this is already happening.)

The tidal wave of national standards and standardised testing-based curriculum will damage more than primary schools; early childhood education will also be damaged, and is being damaged, by the increased formalism of schools. Transition to school lessons are now commonplace in early childhood centres, and becoming more formalised and extended, which is most unfortunate. Learning is by definition a transition, a transition which should focus on the needs and characteristics of individual children, not the supposed characteristics of the next stage of institutional learning. Just as primary children are being increasingly prepared for standardised tests, early childhood children are being increasingly prepared for school, a formal conception of school. The best way to prepare children for the next institutional stage is to meet their needs, as individuals, in the present. The irony is that Te Whariki is an outstanding curriculum, far superior to the primary school curriculum; and excellent for children’s individual transitions and, as a by-product for preparing children to go to school. Indeed, many new entrants, especially boys would do better at school if Te Whariki was the curriculum, rather than the new real curriculum, which is national standards.

To hold schools together business-style management techniques based on rules and contracts (and fear, of course) will become even more obtrusive. Education for children will become narrower and opportunities for teachers to show initiative more restricted. This will make teaching more unattractive to many imaginative teachers.

In a few weeks, as it happens, I am going to speak to the West Coast principals on morality and being a principal. There follows a few excerpts from what I’m going to deliver:

In the curriculum colonising I am arguing for, I want to suggest that a key area of moral action is the greater inclusion in programmes of the affective, the aesthetic, the symbolic, and the intuitive as being at the heart of successful classrooms, not at the periphery.

W.C. Fields said: ‘During a trip to Afghanistan we lost our corkscrew and were compelled to live on food and water.’ Well, it wouldn’t do any harm if, for a time, we considered academic pronouncements on classroom practice a corkscrew we lost, compelling us to teach on our shared knowledge of teaching. The best evidence for school education should start from the evidence we gather and share about our own classroom practice, informed of course by other sources, academic ones included. But we must avoid becoming in thrall to academics: quantitative research is especially suspect because it comes in the guise of objectivity. Quantitative research is characterised by being largely impermeable to classroom reality. I prefer academics who put forward philosophical-type ideas, then proceed from there, using arguments we can refer to our own experience, and in language that is accessible.

The problem is that politicians want contradictory things in education: from sentiment, it seems, they would like schools to have more latitude, but from ideology they want more control. When it comes down to it, though, sentiment soon gives way contentedly to ideology. The trickiness of politicians and their bureaucratic support organisations is always having to be brought up because it is always being forgotten. The political certainties of politicians are out of place in education, because we all know that the only certainty in education should be our determination to avoid one. They are making an education landscape increasingly arid, while desperately calling it verdant. And the paradox is, that when the aridity becomes too obvious to ignore, the education system has been designed to benefit with extra powers, those who did the designing.

That is why, in this talk, I have advocated that it is morally and practically imperative that schools and teachers colonise official policies to make them workable and humanistically balanced. Schools in how they write up curriculum policies should feel they have the freedom to colonise official policies, and teachers the freedom to colonise school curriculum policies. The plausible but impossible nature of official policies, and the review office as sniffing bloodhound in support, are central to the system’s irrationality. Tomorrow’s Schools won’t have a payoff, for all your work, all your fantastic work, until these issues are attended to and resolved. At the moment, even taking into consideration the tremendous efforts of schools, it seems appropriate to quote Edgar Quinet (a post-French Revolution writer) who said: ‘But this success, where is it?’


The central argument in this posting is that Hattie after his outburst in the Herald (August 1, 2009) wants to settle things down and re-establish his relationship with the minister. A claim from a  senior academic that government policy will put primary schools ‘back 50 years’ is a serious one, requiring further explanation and decisive moral action. To refute the central argument in this posting Hattie must act according to the claim’s seriousness. That would need to involve a change in the kinds of programmes offered by the commercial arm of which he is head. There is the possibility that he is about to respond according to the claim’s seriousness and that he and his associate researchers have agreed to disagree and a way to move forward negotiated. If this is the case, I would, of course, warmly acknowledge that in a subsequent posting. Leaving aside the central argument, however, most of the subsidiary arguments still, from my point-of-view, retain their validity. This web site, by the way, will not countenance an explanation by Hattie that he has been able to reconcile with the minister because of changes made to government policy.

Ivan Snook in his endorsement of networkonnet and Developmental Network Magazine in the ’90s spoke of my determination to hold to account those who take cheap shots at teachers. I believe our Professor T……..’s support for national standards, particularly given the manner of its presentation and the context (the impending trip to Wellington, and the unprecedented imbroglio concerning Hattie), constitutes the cheapest of shots. Ivan Snook goes on to say that my ‘educational philosophy is a humanistic one forged in the Beeby years and carried on by inspired teachers like Elwyn Richardson’. There were times in the writing of this posting that I felt such anger and disappointment that I had to walk away from the computer to compose myself. I hope, though, beneath the anger and disappointment that will, no doubt, have come through in the writing, there will be detected my love and admiration for New Zealand teachers and those who have contributed to our holistic philosophy.

Have you worked out the name of the professor?

Oh – when I mentioned Best Evidence Synthesis. And you worked out Helen in the Troy reference. Well done!

We’ll just leave it at that.

Vanessa Redgrave, in a notable TV programme based on real life, played the role of a member of a small orchestra made up of prisoners in a concentration camp who played classical music for the German officers. So involved did she become in this activity, that when the Americans liberated the camp she displayed extreme frustration. 

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