Friday, September 9, 2011
"Legal" Temporarily Trumps "Ethical" in National Standards Standoff
I attended a meeting this evening that consisted of a good number of Southland's primary principals and board of trustee chairs. It was a sombre meeting as many board chairs shared the horror and frustration of the last week.
Despite a stated obligation to negotiate with boards that had not included National Standards in their Charters, the Ministry had decided to short circuit the process and demand that all schools that were currently noncompliant had to do so in a matter of days. Those schools that actually managed to get Ministry officials to front up and talk to them found that they could not get satisfactory answers to most questions and that the majority of the answers provided were heavily scripted.
Boards that were strongly committed to meeting the needs of their children and could find no educational advantage in the Standards have decided to include them in their charter and comply. Not to do so would came at a cost most boards were not be prepared to pay. The situation was described by one passionate board member as follows:
Imagine if the government of the day decided that reintroducing corporal punishment will make a noticeable difference to raising achievement in our schools. Boards that refused to follow this requirement were told they had to comply even though they had strong ethical concerns. If they didn't comply then the board would be sacked and a commissioner would be appointed (at the school's cost) who would then introduce corporal punishment into the school. The idea of an outsider, with no appreciation of their children's backgrounds or needs, instigating corporal punishment on their children would be too horrific. If anyone was to inflict this on their children it would have to be themselves, at least they could manage the potential severity of the requirement to the lowest level possible.
While physical punishment may seem a little extreme to use as an analogy, for many who see the potential damage that a narrowing of the curriculum and labeling 5 year olds as below the standard could do, it does seem appropriate.
Another board member said to the Ministry bureaucrat who they were confronted with, "so we have a choice between what we ethically and morally believe as right and what is legal?" They were given a clear understanding that their choice needed to be the legal one. NZEI and the NZPF are advising schools that they should now follow the legal requirement but also have it recorded that they were doing so under duress.
However this is no backdown for noncompliant schools when compliance has meant due process has been ignored, no attempt has been made to address genuine concerns and threats to remove boards previously assessed as highly competent have occurred. The issue is political the methods of control are draconian and putting the welfare of children first and maintaining community control of our schools is the sensible option at this point. The battle is not over and compliance under duress is not the way to progress educational change in this country.
National Standards have been developed out of a lie and their ongoing existence is supported by even more lies. Every level of this house of cards is based on fabrications and misinformation and collapse is imminent.