Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: From soundbite to policy

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  • jon_knox,

    Kim Hill interviewed Malcolm Gladwell over the weekend and Education was one of the many things discussed.

    Belgium • Since Nov 2006 • 464 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    We're not talking calculus or physics. We're not even talking school C, we're talking about kids who struggle to read and write. We should all have a problem with that.

    Like we should all have a problem with service station attendants not actually knowing what makes a car tick?

    There is an enormous percentage of illiterate and or numerically challenged people who've made positive contributions, they just get paid less, (considered of less value). However, for reasons not much researched. Illiterate people can do well in business, they often cut to the chase, they leap frog the cumbersome and actually rather dated technology of printed word. Kerry Packer, built a media empire, and he was profoundly illiterate. Whose problem is that?

    The real problem's, I reason, we encounter with literacy and numeracy is cultural. The problems are more psychological than practically applicable--meaning, the actual problems with Illiteracy and Illi'numeracy are paradoxical. Go figure it out.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4311 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    __You weren't prosecuted under the identical offence when it carried a $15 fine (max $150), why are you concerned that you would be now that it carries a $30 fine (max $300)?__

    Fair point - though the figures you give are wrong if the news reports are anything to go by: add another 0 to all of them.

    Different penalties for first offences and second offences. I'm presuming no-one who is concerned here (or about whom those who are here are concerned) has a previous conviction for truancy? If so, the fines are certainly as I describe them, and the law otherwise unchanged.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Kerry Packer, built a media empire, and he was profoundly illiterate.

    Not exactly - Packer was the third generation of an existing media empire, which was already pretty substantial by the time his dad Sir Frank - also rumoured to be somewhat cognitively challenged - popped off and left him in charge.
    Doesn't detract from your point, though. One thing about cognitive/behavioural disabilities, they certainly highlight the importance of personality.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Yes, and personality is something that still developing during school hours.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4311 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Raising the literacy & numeracy levels of the strugglers is purely a matter of:
    1) Identifying, not disrespecting, the strugglers
    2) Immediately (not years down the track) putting in the resources - the specialists who have alternative strategies to suit all learning types - these people are like gold, we don't have enough of them
    3) not expecting the classroom teacher who has to deal with the vast array of abilities & potentials of 30 kids to successfully manage all of the variables, all of the time and keep them all on task.
    4) stop suspending & expelling kids, who then aren't accepted by any other schools, whose education is then down the tubes. They also get expelled from Correspondence School if they don't submit the required amount of work - and who keeps them on track? The parents who are either working or "don't care" or are unable to informally teach their own children?
    5) Dreaming up new ways to cope with (4) is the challenge and the answer isn't Boot Camp.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Malcolm Gladwell recipe for success: a) Do work that is meaningful and inspirational to you, b) work hard and c) remember that deserved reward depends on the effort you make to achieve it.

    As is the way of things B follows A. Nobody expects success at maths from someone who is inspired by painting (unless they also find maths inspiring).

    One wonders, AS, whether you think any further than the school gate. Whether you actually think it is important for children to suceed - at something they can do.

    If we are not inspired we are not curious and if we are not curious - if all we know is spelling lists and times tables endlessly repeated - we might be able to read 'The cat sat on the mat,' and multiply 12 by 11 - but we'll never ask why the cat sits on the mat, or how it got there - or even be enchanted with the beauty of the cat as it sits on the mat. And we'll certainly never be drawn into the intoxicating world of science and mathematics.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    Steven:

    Like we should all have a problem with service station attendants not actually knowing what makes a car tick?

    Jan:

    One wonders, AS, whether you think any further than the school gate. Whether you actually think it is important for children to suceed - at something they can do.

    oh, FFS! Let me be quite clear here. LITERACY and NUMERACY is what I'm talking about. Are you saying that after around TEN YEARS of compulsory education, it is fine to have kids coming out that CANNOT READ OR WRITE??

    I'm NOT TALKING ABOUT BEING ABLE TO DO CALCULUS, OR WRITE A PLAY, OR BE BUDDING PHYSICISTS, OR BE THE NEXT JONAH LOMU. I'm talking having an expectation (and an exceedingly low expectation at that) that after TEN OR MORE YEARS OF COMPULSORY EDUCATION a majority of kids will BE ABLE TO READ and WRITE to a level sufficient to allow them to function in society.

    Can any of you genuinely say you object to an expectation that on leaving school, most kids should be at least functionally literate?!

    I give up, I really do.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    I give up, I really do.

    You give up rather easily AS. I've read all the responses to your simple opinions. Perhaps if you'd learned to listen when you were at school instead of learning only to recite and chant you might be able to understand that your preferred way of teaching literacy and numeracy through constant national testing, is regarded by successful and caring teachers as putting at risk a real education - which of course includes numeracy and literacy because children who are inspired want to learn. Those who can't learn will always be with us - and no amount of testing will help them. But a bit of inspiration might help them reach their own potential. That's all people are saying - if you can hear that.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    your preferred way of teaching literacy and numeracy through constant national testing

    Hey, to be fair that's Tolley's preferred way, not AS's. I agree with him about the goal being full literacy - though I note the concession "majority" in his last post - but I reckon achieving that would require far more resources than are currently proposed. And that I think feeds people's suspicion of merely identifying the low achievers through testing. What are we going to do after that?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Ahem, ideal goal.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Hey, to be fair that's Tolley's preferred way, not AS's.

    Sorry - I hadn't picked that up.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    I agree with him about the goal being full literacy - though I note the concession "majority" in his last post - but I reckon achieving that would require far more resources than are currently proposed.

    As pointed out earlier, we are already doing a pretty good job . The issue raised is truancy fines for our poorest families who are often proven to have these problems and the"no child left behind " (showing evidence of failure) policy is one that other Parties were debating in the House. Literacy and Numeracy are ALREADY in the National Education Guide. Punishing people by taxing the vulnerable, increasing the fines for truancy, as well as taking away their right to due process for dismissal should they try to deal with a truant child, all bills under urgency, seems like a jolly nice National way of saying "Merry Xmas, Up Yours". Nice

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    I agree with him about the goal being full literacy - though I note the concession "majority" in his last post - but I reckon achieving that would require far more resources than are currently proposed.

    As pointed out earlier, we are already doing a pretty good job . The issue raised is truancy fines for our poorest families who are often proven to have these problems and the"no child left behind " (showing evidence of failure) policy is one that other Parties were debating in the House. Literacy and Numeracy are ALREADY in the National Education Guide. Punishing people by taxing the vulnerable, increasing the fines for truancy, as well as taking away their right to due process for dismissal should they try to deal with a truant child, all bills under urgency, seems like a jolly nice National way of saying "Merry Xmas, Up Yours". Nice

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Can you tell how much I meant that :) Sorry, my computafukup.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    I agree with you Sofie, but I also worry that the so called 'cure' of national testing for a disease we don't have too badly when compared with the rest of the world, will put off the children who are currently engaged in learning. I went through primary school in the 'good old days' when tests (and strapping) were the most commonly used tools of the trade and it certainly taught me how to stare out of the window and think my own thoughts and also to see school as the place where nothing much worthwhile ever happened. Then I went on to high school where national exams like school cert were designed to show exactly half of us that we were failures and were scaled up or down to make sure that that happened. I'm literate, because my mother taught me to love stories. I can barely cope with sums in spite of, or perhaps because of, the endless repetition of tables at school. My father's rage at my arithmetical incompetence also probably didn't help. It only really occurred to me when I was bringing up my own children- because I never had a reason to want to think about it - that 'four fours are sixteen' meant that four lots of four things made sixteen things. When you think about it, getting kids to recite strings of words is a funny way to teach them about numbers of things. I'm happy they don't seem to do this any more - but perhaps Anne Tolley will bring it all back.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Then I went on to high school where national exams like school cert were designed to show exactly half of us that we were failures and were scaled up or down to make sure that that happened.

    Yup, it struck me as a very strange system. I'm pretty good at maths. In 7th Form Bursary Calculus I thoroughly checked my exam paper at the end and worked out there were only 6% of the answers given that I wasn't 100% certain I had got right. I expected to get a score in the mid 90s and instead got 84. Which was a carefully calculated scaling to tell me I was merely an above average student. It also served to disqualify me from the accelerated courses I wanted to do at University, which required a grade of 85. Fortunately! Varsity maths was not for me. Maths went from being a subject that empowered you to work out awesome things, to one where proving the bleeding obvious took 20 pages. I'm glad that's someone else's job.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Guess I got some of your percents Ben. I did bursary a year early with the intention of doing it twice. My parents advised me to take a range of subjects, one of which was the dreaded calculus. After a year or no work, my 23% was scaled up to 49% which strangely constituted a C pass that year. same kind of thing in physics too, 29% to 51%. (In my defence, I did get three legitimate passes in arts subjects but...) So I decided not to waste my parent's money forgoing a second shot at this strangely skewed testing system, for the university life.

    I was always pretty focused on the ideal, that we go to school to learn something, and particularly as we get older, to learn something that will be of value to us in later life. So where you say Jan;

    Then I went on to high school where national exams like school cert were designed to show exactly half of us that we were failures and were scaled up or down to make sure that that happened

    I never saw the exams like that at all. I saw them as an opportunity to prove how much I'd learnt about subjects I was in the main interested in.

    So I'd be interested, after a bit of self-examination Jan, how you developed such cynicism towards your own education at such a young age.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Well here's the education and science select committee: Alan Peachy, Chair and Roger Douglas a member. Chris Carter is Deputy Chair. Also has Maryan Street, Sue Moroney and Catherine Delahunty plus 3 more Nats.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    of course some will never reach the average - half the kids are always going to be below average - that's the nature of the beast.

    As someone pointed out the averages are moving (up) which is a good thing - I think at a very basic level we need to target two things: firstly making sure everyone who leaves school can function in society (bsic literacy, numeracy) and secondly pushing those averages up (this is a case where a rising tide does lift all boats)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    seems right Paul, Unfortunately when the highschool leaving criteria is age as opposed to literacy/numeracy, then what can be done?

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    oh, FFS! Let me be quite clear here. LITERACY and NUMERACY is what I'm talking about. Are you saying that after around TEN YEARS of compulsory education, it is fine to have kids coming out that CANNOT READ OR WRITE??

    I'm NOT TALKING ABOUT BEING ABLE TO DO CALCULUS, OR WRITE A PLAY, OR BE BUDDING PHYSICISTS, OR BE THE NEXT JONAH LOMU. I'm talking having an expectation (and an exceedingly low expectation at that) that after TEN OR MORE YEARS OF COMPULSORY EDUCATION a majority of kids will BE ABLE TO READ and WRITE to a level sufficient to allow them to function in society.

    Can any of you genuinely say you object to an expectation that on leaving school, most kids should be at least functionally literate?!

    OK, so just to be quite clear, what you're saying is: that everyone/anyone who is opposed to the proposed mandatory testing thinks this is an acceptable situation?

    Is that correct? You seriously think that?

    Becase you don't seem to have considered the possibility that people might be deeply troubled about it for reasons other than what I can only really characterise as your straw man.

    I have problems with it, because something broadly similar was introduced by NuLab in the UK. When I say 'broadly similar', all the buzzwords are the same, and therefore my expectation is that the end result with be not entirely dissimilar.

    The result of introducing all that standardised testing and 'teaching for the tests' was, according to accounts/feedback I have read, to massively increase the workload (i.e. paper shuffling) on teachers. Massively. And consequently seriously, seriously reduce the amount of face-to-face teacher/pupil interaction they were able to achieve on a day-to-day basis, either one-one or teacher-class.

    As Kerry has pointed out:

    3) not expecting the classroom teacher who has to deal with the vast array of abilities & potentials of 30 kids to successfully manage all of the variables, all of the time and keep them all on task.

    A typical teacher is already somewhat overworked.

    I don't expect all teachers and all classes to be as god as Tim Kong's. There aren't enough good teachers, there aren't enough rescources, and there isn't enough interest shown by parents. None of which is going to change any time soon, and all of which are arguments for another day.

    What I am interested in is moving in the right direction. I think introducing this testing is going to be a huge step in the wrong direction.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    So I'd be interested, after a bit of self-examination Jan, how you developed such cynicism towards your own education at such a young age.

    That's a challenge Mark. I'll try.

    It's hard, because you're a slightly bewildered child while its happening. I was bright enough. Loved anything to do with reading and writing. I was usually in the top group at primary school because literacy was seen as more important than numeracy.

    Rote learning was important in those days. If you were good at it, and enjoyed it, you sailed through. Showing us the relevance of what we were learning was not a priority. it was just important that we learned it.

    Many of our teachers - male in particular - were focused on physical punishment. That's quite threatening and demotivating even if you're not the recipient.

    I started school post war and many of the best teachers didn't return from the war. We had an aging and scrappy lot. Primary school was boring. Home was more liberating and a lot less threatening.

    At high school my lack of maths skills counted and I was put into 3F - which stood for French three times a week with a teacher who spent much of the period improving our morals: 'Don't wear short sleeves girls, it tempts the men!' (Honestly!)

    Fortunately we had heaps of Art with a wonderful teacher. Because of Art and English I was allowed to sit school cert in 3 years rather than four, like the rest of 3F. I got high marks in both Art and English and did well in School Cert but by that time I was not too flash at concentrating in class, after years of dreaming out of the window, so I swatted day and night for two weeks before the exams and scraped through my other subjects.

    We had one or two good teachers in that third year because the intelligent girls got the good teachers. We had an interesting, but acerbic, geography teacher. I think it was just too late for me to know how to apply myself by then though. I have done papers at University on and off for years and after a period of dramatic adjustment have hugely enjoyed them and done reasonably well.

    This is a long, long, long answer - if you want the short one I'd say that, apart from my wonderful Art teacher, many of my early teachers saw themselves as baby-sitters and didn't have the skills or the desire to engage us in the excitement of learning. If some of us succeeded in that world then it was because of other influences. And those of us that achieved anything afterwards often had little to thank our schooling for.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Thanks for that Jan. A wonderful answer.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Marks out of a hundred, Mark? :-)

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

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