Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: From soundbite to policy

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  • Goodoh,

    Here's a strange thing. When my daughter was mainstreamed at her local school in 1989, the Minister of Education, speaking on Morning Report, called me a zealot because I was insisting that my daughter "who would never learn anything" was "sucking up money from other kids."
    He's now Speaker of the House.
    And he's called honorable.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I personally found being taught for the purpose of passing exams enjoyable and motivating. But I don't consider myself normal in this respect.

    The subject in 5th form I most disliked was Art, because, so far as I could tell, there was nothing to learn and no way to know if you were getting better, other than the occasional comment from someone whose artistic abilities I had absolutely no respect for. This had not been a problem in the 4th form because there was no grading system of any note, you just did some art, and the teacher was clearly good at it.

    In 5th form, so far as I could see, what was required of you was not any 'knowledge', or even any talent. It was the demonstration of massive quantities of work. It's pretty easy to tell when someone has done a lot of art because there's a lot of art to show at the end of it. But if someone were to ask me what it was apart from huge volume that we were meant to demonstrate that year, I wouldn't have a clue.

    And I had too much on my plate to generate huge volumes of art - 5 other subjects and a lot of sport. So the School C grading system had no choice other than to set me as a failure at Art, and unfortunately that was pretty much the last time I tried at it. There is something very sad about that. I was not bad at Art, I just didn't have the time to be a professional at it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Hi Goodoh. I don't particularly want to know anything more about the Speaker of the House, but I'l love to hear more about your daughter.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Ben - I agree - it is sad. When everything is focused on achievement you risk losing the enjoyable stuff. But it's nice to know you enjoyed achieving, anyway. You are the sort of student that schools used to be designed for. (I think there's more allowance for individual learning styles now - I hope so anyway).

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Goodoh,

    Thank you for your interest Jan. She's just turned 24 and is living in a house with a young couple and their baby. Lots of people come and go and it's a great place. We don't use any services, just have a network of people who help support her. She hasn't got school cert or NCEA but she's got a great community...
    Taught me a lot about marginalised people. Despair of this punishment-focused government who would rather lock people up or fine them than find out why things are going wrong. Pretty damn basic really.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Thanks Goodoh. Sounds like there's no shortage of love there. Is she happy? So good to know you've got a community of people around you. That's a real achievement. Next achievement as far as I'm concerned is getting rid of these wideboys who pose as government ministers.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    When my daughter was mainstreamed at her local school in 1989, the Minister of Education, speaking on Morning Report, called me a zealot because I was insisting that my daughter "who would never learn anything" was "sucking up money from other kids."
    He's now Speaker of the House.

    Not that I doubt your story, because it sounds entirely credible, but those facts don't stack up. National didn't becoming the governing party until 1990. Lockwood Smith was indeed Minister of Education in that government, but he couldn't have been speaking in that role in 1989. So was he speaking as Education Spokesman? Or did you get your years wrong?
    As I said, I'm not doubting you. Just wanting to clarify Mr Smith's exact role at the time.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Goodoh,

    Sorry, 1989 Education Act - you're right National came in soon after. They thought the act was dreadful - if it had been 2008 they would have repealed it by lunchtime.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Jan, the funny thing was, I went to Selwyn College, which at the time was proud of it's position as a progressive school, valuing artistic subjects very highly. And yet I felt that it failed me completely in the Art department, once it hit the point of national standards (School Certificate). But it didn't fail all the Art students - many achieved very highly.

    But that was the problem - the focus went onto achievement. Art became a closed shop to me by simple virtue of there only being 24 hours in a day. What time I did have for Art I gave with all my attention, and I made quite a lot of progress. Just not as much as the kids who were prepared to spend 30 hours a week on one out of 5 subjects. That was discouraging.

    Even more discouraging was the fact that I could not continue Music at all. Nor Latin. You can only take so many subjects. In 4th form we took something like 10 subjects, but in 5th you had to narrow it down to 5. English, Maths, and Science were compulsory, so that left 2 electives. How suckful is that for people who have wide interests?

    If I knew then what I know now, I would not have let it discourage me. But one of the things about all these national tests is they become a big focus, and everything is subordinated to getting good grades. We were assured time and time again how important it is. So I quit Art altogether, a year after I quit Music altogether (and a bunch of other subjects that I liked too). I was extremely resentful of PE which was a compulsory subject that year because it was wasting valuable time that could have been spent on examined subjects.

    So, yes, while I was the kind of student who schools were designed for in the old days, I really don't think the way those schools worked actually did me any favors. They just made me drop my interest in a lot of things, to specialize highly in things that mostly I have never used. I work as a computer programmer, but I can tell you that I have never needed calculus even once. Furthermore I learned computer programming at home, outside of school hours, and found that my schooling got in the way of that big-time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Out of interest, what Education experience does Anne Tolley have?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    She was on a Kindergarten committee and a BOT.

    From the Govt website:

    A. Tolley

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 189 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I personally found being taught for the purpose of passing exams enjoyable and motivating. But I don't consider myself normal in this respect.

    I'm not particularly normal ether. What cranks my engine, is learning for the purpose of creating art. It's the same as exams you've described, but different.

    I'm building a numerically controlled plasma cutting machine. I have no background in electrical engineering or computer programing. But, My CNC, XY table is the carrot on the stick. It will give me a competitive edge. I could be pumping out art, at within 0.02 mm of accuracy. So, z: competitiveness x: achievement satisfaction y: Art? because I'm a life long learner, I like to share my stuff, but mostly its where I build my sense of worth.

    Before I went to an alternative secondary school, I was being sent to the art room, to help the art teacher tidy it, made to take my desk out into the corridor to work out there by my self and generally, I by my inability to perform to "the national standard". and that showed up as "disruptive student" I didn't manage to perform because of ongoing sexual abuse, y'know friend of the family, local pedophile and all that, what we don't talk about, and dyslexia.

    The number one reason I never went to jail, Is that I went to an alternative school,that wasn't judging me. I was empowered by it's democratic ethos. It provided a learning environment, where I could tune in and drop out, with some sense of pride, and respect for people more academically capable than myself. Hence here I am, learning how to write like people more academically competent than myself. aren't it grand.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Marks out of a hundred, Mark? :-)

    Well, to be blunt (and I hope you'll forgive me), I'd give you 79-83. Perhaps you'd feel that's unfair based on my previous glowing comment (which I'll attribute mainly to the candid clarity with which you wrote.

    I'll explain the reasoning behind your low mark; you gave solid examples and sound reasoning for the ways the teachers and system influenced you, both positively and negatively. The question was pretty much aimed at garnering the negatives, and while I appreciate the fairness of your answer, I'd say you may have been a little too evenhanded (if that can ever be a bad thing). More to the point, I feel that you perhaps neglected to mention any extra curricula influences, above you mentioned:

    because my mother taught me to love stories. ... My father's rage at my arithmetical incompetence also probably didn't help.

    You did not really elaborate in what way their attitudes affected your own. In this respect there was also no mention of how or if your peers' reactions to the teachers and system had a significant influence on your outlook.

    Having said all that, and felt like a NAZI, still...
    a wonderful answer.

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

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    ben I was a kid (and young adult) who tested well. I was very good at working out exactly how much work I needed to put in to get the mark I needed (and often only aimed for the exact grade I needed to proceed to the next level) and was able to goof off all year long and make up with a sort but intense bust of work when exams or assignments were due. These are not skills that have served me well in adult life

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Good to hear the Green's Catherine Delahunty is on the Education and Science select committee. She has been an education and student activist since she was 14. She organised a march on parliament when she was 15 and took on the then Minister of Education - possibly George Gair. In this battle she appeared on the TV Gallery programme interviewed by Brian Edwards.

    She's been an activist ever since, very articulate, and never intimidated by anyone, least of all the Roger Douglas's of the world. Not much will get passed her.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    By the way on my plane to Auckland today were some fresh new MPs, so I did a bit more raving about this unnecessary Education Bill and the unjust law making process which denies us ordinary citizens our democratic rights to make submissions to a select committee.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    I'm building a numerically controlled plasma cutting machine. I have no background in electrical engineering or computer programing.

    I'm guessing that you'd have some precision engineering skills. In my humble experience of precision engineers, they're an interestingly "different" bunch.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    By the way on my plane to Auckland today were some fresh new MPs, so I did a bit more raving about this unnecessary Education Bill and the unjust law making process which denies us ordinary citizens our democratic rights to make submissions to a select committee.

    You're our own one-woman select committee live submission. We should all pitch in and finance you to spend as much time as possible on the AKL-WLG-AKL route and at Thorndon New World.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    My daughter received her end of year school report on friday. It's really good. top marks to the teacher; she carefully crafted her kind comments. Goldie feels validated in her efforts.

    And, the report gave literacy and numeracy competence measurements, that can be understood by an ordinary member of the public. The school report is a formal version of what the teachers tells me when ever I decide to ask, during the morning before class, after or at the scheduled parent teacher meetings. My main concern is how my child is interacting socially. The reports says she's doing well, she learned allot of empathy this year.

    I'd like to know how many people don't understand teacher feed back about there children's progress, necessitating urgent "common sense" legislation. maybe its the part of the adult population that's a bit thick :)

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Isabel, that's what I was like at University. Having realized that you're not actually one of the top 10 minds there in the first 20 mins, you stop trying to be. I goofed off everything that bored me and did the same intense few weeks you speak of to scrape out a bare pass. I was a lot happier, and learned a lot more that way (about the subjects that interested me).

    But I'm curious that you don't think of it as useful as an adult. Life as a consultant (when I did that) was much the same - endless goofing, followed by bursts of extremely high activity. I think there is a place for that way of doing things. Furthermore, that type of behavior is very useful in workplaces, because goof-offs are always efficiency experts. They spend so much time working out how to save themselves effort that they are always making improvements to systems.

    But I think a talent like that is very hard to teach. Seems to me that people work like that because they are like that naturally. It is seen as a failing in our society, rather than how I see it, which is as a 'personality type'. Being hard working is rated very highly, but the goof-off is actually someone who is totally goals-focused. They won't do work just to feel like they are working, because they don't like working. They may do it to look like they are working, because society demands that. But when work actually needs to be done, that personality-type will do it. In fact, when work needs to be done fast, they're the best person to do it. They won't be distracted by what doesn't really need to be done. The person who works hard all the time may justifiably refuse to work harder when push comes to shove. They may lack the energy, having already expended it.

    I think over time, the best hard worker will do more work, including useful work. The best scholars were always total swats, you can't beat putting the hours in. But an awful lot of people put in the hours and don't get as much out as the person who leaves things until the last minute. And an awful lot of the time, the last minute is all you have. That's where the slacker's amazing talent comes in - how to do the required amount of work in the least amount of time....

    I don't think you can blame the school system for how you do things. It's not like they told you not to do all your homework every night, and to concentrate in class. You just found a way that suits you. If it hasn't worked out well as an adult, maybe you're just in the wrong job?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    @steven crawford - you're a brave man, and when I hear from you or see your comments here, my admiration for you grows and grows.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    Mark:

    I'd give you 79-83.

    Very fair. And a lovely answer. Sleep well!

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I'm guessing that you'd have some precision engineering skills. In my humble experience of precision engineers, they're an interestingly "different" bunch.

    No, just some fitter welding (FAB engineering) but no matter, the manager of Weta digital's, digital to analog processing machine, says he's a fitter and welder. That machine is very, very precision. I signed a contract preventing me talking about it. However, I can say, I did see Trinitron screen pixels being measured by a ruler. I felt reassured, as I had been using vernier calipers on mine.

    The CNC profile cutter is mind boggling. There all these wires and circuitry and computer logic and servo motors and precision bearings and software that doesn't run on Mac. One of the difficult aspects of the project is obtaining affordable second hand parts that are compatible with the other parts. I'm at the stage where I know enough about what I'm doing to ask the right questions and who to ask, leading to knowing more to in-turn ask more.

    Non dyslexic person go to the library. Then enters the due filling system process. Dyslexic person go's to the librarian for help.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Middle-class people accept that there are 'good schools' and 'bad schools' and they don't want their children to go to 'bad schools'. That's an unconscious way of accepting a two (or more)-tier system, and wanting the advantages conferred by the upper tier, surely?

    Hmm. See Jolisa's comments earlier about the conflict between wanting to stay in the public system and demand it be better, and move to the private system because it is better.

    I don't see a conflict between wanting your kid to go to a good school, and wanting all schools to be better. In fact, enough of the second, and everyone gets the first.

    I'd like to know how many people don't understand teacher feed back about there children's progress, necessitating urgent "common sense" legislation. maybe its the part of the adult population that's a bit thick :)

    I've never found that I've had trouble understanding teachers. I have found sometimes that they've been pretty slow about giving me information.

    When my son was younger and moved up from one class to the other, the new teacher quickly organised a crisis meeting because his reading was well behind, and he was struggling. He got put into reading recovery and made great progress.

    I've always wondered why the teacher of his earlier class had never mentioned that he was falling behind. We were always told that he was doing OK.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    Boys are often slow to get started and it takes a while to establish wheter there is a problem or not. Reading Recovery is not assessed until the child's 6th birthday at which time if there is enough room, and if the problems are bad enough, then an intensive daily Reading Recovery is started.
    Wouldn't it be great if the funding needed for such programmes as above was increased markedly by diverting from funds which are probably going to be needed for National Standards Testing?
    For some kids by the way the readiness for reading can be delayed simply not ready, but the rush for those kids to "keep up" can make them feel failure and the failure inhibits their learning. Pace. Pace. Pace. Watch what happens when the pace is too fast (or too slow) when teaching computer skills to adults. Often stroppy and balking!

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

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