In my meanderings through the interweb this week, I had the misfortune to discover the worst education article I’ve read in a long time. It began:
“Across much of the English-speaking world, a struggle is raging over control of education. The good news is that politicians, the people we elect to make decisions on our behalf, seem to be winning.
The pattern is remarkably consistent. Governments, both of the Left and the Right, are wresting control back from teachers’ organisations. They have realised that education is too important to be left in the hands of teachers.”
As I read on I truly – not being facetious here – TRULY thought that maybe the article was ironic and a big joke. With comments like “Politicians, the representatives of the people, are quite properly reclaiming the right to decide how schools should be run“, surely it had to be?
Nope. Not a joke.
He went on to tell us what a grand job Australia, the USA and the UK are doing in introducing merit based pay, opening charter schools, breaking the unions, employing unqualified and untrained ‘teachers’, and relishing the thought that New Zealand would soon follow.
He trumpeted towards his grand finale by telling readers that “The common theme across all these countries is that governments, dissatisfied not only with performance in the education sector but also the lack of transparency and accountability, are forcing through changes in the face of determined opposition from teachers’ organisations which are understandably reluctant to relinquish their power” ending with a flourish gleefully jumping up and down at the wonderful prospect ” of how things might be in an education sector where schools are no longer, in Ms Parata’s words, “a secret society”. ”
After a short rest to bring down my blood pressure, I penned a reply and waited to see what other people would have to say…
What did I find?
A day and a half later the responses disagreed with the article. All of them. And they were well reasoned. And calm. With facts.
And it gave me hope.
Dylan Braithwaite responded:
“The problem I have with the article is that it positions teachers as essentially hostile to change in education requiring a winner-takes-all approach to policy making. Teachers and teacher unions are so caricatured in the article as to barely resemble normal people. That’s the problem of how the article is constructed.
The second problem with the article is with evidence. As in, there isn’t any evidence to support the argument that the reforms the writer is arguing for make any positive difference to underachievement as an issue in the education systems mentioned in the article. Indeed, all the evidence points in the opposite direction.
Since establishing a charter schools system, performance pay systems and league tables, achievement statistics in the USA has declined. Since instituting academies, achievement statistics in the UK have declined. Since instituting free schools in Sweden, achievement statistics have declined.
There’s no doubt in my mind that once the reforms Gillard has introduced in Australia take hold that a similar pattern will emerge.
You see, the real problem that the politicians are responding to is not an achievement issue. Were that the case then they would look at the policies of leading countries such as Finland and institute reforms undertaken there – which are polar opposite to the kinds of reforms discussed above.
No, the real problem that the politicians are responding to is an economic crisis, one in which more areas of previously protected public markets need to be made readily available for capital exploitation. All the evidence, most especially US evidence, points to the fact that charter schools are more expensive to run, with less spent per-pupil despite state agencies delivering higher per-pupil funding.
You can guess where the difference goes – that’s right, it lines the pockets of private providers in the form of profit.
I’d like to finish by saying, as a teacher, how scared I am of where the kinds of politics Du Fresne is espousing, could take us. I’m reminded of the old adage that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. It should not be lost on anyone that unions were at the forefront of the democratization of our society. And that just as workers won the right to vote, so too that went hand-in-hand with the right to collectivize and bargain terms and conditions of employment on their own behalf. Rights that workers hitherto did not have, and are quickly losing in our de-unionised economy. In other words, I find DuFresne’s approach anti-democratic.
I will speak up against these reforms for as long as this country remains a democracy – and beyond if it comes to that.”
If you want to read the original article and maybe even respond, you will find it here.
But I totally recommend getting the tea and biscuits first.