Pigeonhole

Welcome to the blog of the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association / Te Wehengarua (PPTA), .... A blog that's not afraid to ruffle some feathers.

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Following two public slappings from the Ombudsman in 2013 the Ministry of Education promised to ‘proactively release’ information about charter schools rather than waiting for it to be dragged out of them via Official Information Act requests.

Following an extensive 'document dump' late last year, they seem to have fallen back into their old ways. Is this an example of what the May 2013 review of the MoE said was “…changes … not yet … fully driven down into the Ministry so that they are understood and followed by all staff”…  (i.e. blaming the workers) or is it something else? I suspect something else, and that something is the Minister’s need for political management.

PPTA was assured that there was an information release on charter schools due by the end of March. Funnily enough it hasn’t arrived. What was going on for the Minister then? Well – the storm around Te Kohanga Reo Trust had Parata very much in its grip , and there was the ISTP happening which was all about Parata getting some good vibes from her much trumpeted ‘world cup of education’.

Thus, no more information on this round of charter school applicants, which, amongst other things, would no doubt have included the newsworthy  confirmation that a US applicant was lining up for the next bite of the cherry. 

 

All of this is understandable – if disappointing. The question is, why would the Ministry promise to change when it won’t? This is public service 21st century style – where service is about serving your minister, not the public. The cynic wins over the optimist again and proactive information releases will be to the minister’s timetable.

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My experience with Novopay has been a deeply fraught, frustrating, and indeed frightening narrative.  Qualifying as a PRT in 2012 I began work as a day relief teacher and then ongoing work in fixed term relief positions.

The process of becoming a registered teacher is straightforward and robust, as it should be.  The process of becoming a paid teacher is akin to mating elephants.  A complicated courting, accompanied by high level squealing and trumpeting and taking nearly 18 months to see any results.  Since February 2013 I have either not received the complete amount of money owing to me or the taxation on my earnings has been incorrect.

Teaching is not easy Minister Parata. I reflect constantly if not hourly on how to help all the children and young people that I deal with. I plan and read, I travel 140 kms daily to do this. If I so chose I could qualify to be on a benefit.

Minister Parata, I live in a three bedroom home that belongs to the Ministry of Education, it has no insulation, an open fire for heating.  I need a regular and correct salary so that I can move into a warm well heated home so that my children and I do not get sick. 

Minister Parata  I am doing it by myself .

Minister Parata I have been in the situation where I cannot pay my rent properly, put petrol in my car, go to the doctor, physiotherapist or dentist or buy the shoes I need because Novopay does not pay me properly, or worse still takes money from me unlawfully.

I am running out of energy to fight any more.  I have had to threaten to go on a hunger strike in the last year, make constant phone calls and emails and speak to some outstanding idiots at Novopay in an attempt to get my correct pay.

Minister Parata, I am a quintessential kiwi battler, and my needs are very simple.

Minister Parata I do not want to be anxiously waiting for my pay advice every Tuesday,  I want to be able to trust that Novopay pays me correctly, taxes me correctly and puts the money in my bank account.  Not much to ask for is it?
Can you tell me when this might occur? Why must I use the Union, the press, a hunger strike, embarrassment for this to occur?

When I say that is all I want, that is not completely correct Minister Parata. I am a member of a profession that values education, we recognize the difference it makes in our children’s and young peoples lives.  We strive for excellence and success, it is a collective so the things that I want for myself Minister Parata are those that I want for all members of our profession.

I want our principals to be freed up from having to be worried about the ongoing effects that this absolute shameful debacle has on their, teachers, their absolutely essential and just as valuable support staff.  I want our executive officers to be freed from the petty mindless bureaucracy that Novopay is and allow them to concentrate on the areas that they really need to.  I want our Boards of Trustees to be free from becoming a bank and personal lending institution, I want our creditors to not have to hear I am sorry I can’t pay this week because of Novopay.  We don’t want charity Minister Parata, we want justice.

If this was the parliamentary pay system it would be sorted in a day, if not a week.

Minister Parata, it is a disgrace and it reflects on your governance and the National led government's impotence and incompetence.

If your advisers are telling you all is well at Novopay, Minister Parata, and you believe them, then it appears that the emperor really believes that they have  new clothes.

 

This is a guest post from PPTA member Paul Cronin. 

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One of the promises of charter schools was that they would be innovative. And as every educational expert from business sponsored think tanks, marketing companies and discredited political parties knows, one of the biggest hurdles to innovation is the collective employment agreement.

The immutable laws of Freidman and Hayek tell us we can’t have 21st century, child-centred instruction while teachers have such industrial era expectations as a set number of hours, class size controls, non-contact time or payments for extra duties.

So, what is going on here then?

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, Whangaruru (2 positions)

(10 Mar 2014)

Our secondary, bilingual school, nestled within the picturesque setting of Whangaruru, is an inpiring land and water environment which will be embedded in our curriculum delivery. We seek registered, experienced teachers to fill two positions. (1) 0.5 junior science teacher. (2) Full-time English teacher. Applicants will have proven teaching ability, can motivate and engage students to learn to their potential, inspiring our students to excel. We offer small classes of 15 and individual contracts with high-quality working conditions – equivalent to the Collective Agreement. If you are seeking a teaching opportunity to make a difference for our youth and want to work in idyllic surroundings, we welcome your application.

 

Have they forgotten what they were established to do? They have to show that our ‘long tail of underachievement’ is all a result of the lazy, incompetent teachers hiding behind exactly such outdated protections as collective agreements.

 

 (Before you rush off to apply for these jobs, they’re now advertising three positions. Out of four teachers. Within two months of opening.)

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The Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay found problems with governance, with the process, with accountabiliity, with implementation, with trust - with the system.

8 months later the Minister 'bought in' to fix Novopay - Minister Fix-it Joyce - hasn't fixed 'it'. 

The explanation Minister Joyce made  to the teachers and support staff who were, thanks to Novopay, left without pay - or without the right pay - was that the problem is the:

"huge amount of pointless data entry required at the start of every school year."

Apparently schools like to "make work".

Minister Joyce believes it is "time to reform other parts of the education system to prevent this happening again."

So in order to meet the needs of an Australian software company the Government is going to reform the education sector.

By May 2014 Novopay will have been stuffing up for 2 years – 24 months - a whole lot of pay periods, a whole lot of heartache and whole lot of work for a huge number of school communities.

But you know what - according to the Minister - it’s your fault not Novopay’s …

 

Afterthought - would this call to reform the education sector, to fit Novopay, have anything to do with an ex Talent2 shareholding Minister and a 'red tape' taskforce provided for in ACT’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with National?

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Posted by on in Charter schools

Hekia in the House today appeared to admit she reads the PPTA blog. (about 1 min into the clip)

She didn't seem to be answering the question though.

Just like - if she had read the blog - she hasn't answered the fundamental question about charter school funding.

Why are charter schools being funded / resourced in a way that state schools can only dream of?

 

For a more entertaining experience - view on YouTube and turn on the captions.

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One of the premises of charter schools was that they would be funded at the same level as public schools – clearly a pretty crucial factor if comparisons between the two are going to be made. The Ministry states that the resourcing is intended to “provide a broadly similar level of funding to that for schools and students in the state system.”

What the Minister hasn’t said is that the funding – while ‘broadly similar’ is actually far more than almost all students in the public system receive. A newly released cabinet paper from October last year spells it out though. “The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools…” and, the cost of these schools “is much higher on a per student basis” than others.

How much higher is revealed in the charter school contracts.

School sponsor

Establishment Payment

Annual operational payment, 2014

Students 2014

Per student funding, 2014

Villa

$1,019,533

$1,340,940

90

$14,899

ATC

$1,611,534

$2,123,804

108

$19,664

He Puna Marama

$1,880,693

$2,016,630

50

$40,332

Nga Parirau

$1,379,150

 

$1,508,560

71

$21,247

Rise UP

$391,945

$484,440

50

$9,688

Total

$6,508,389

$7,474,374

369

$20,255

 

Compare this to the average per student funding in the public system (2011- most recent year figures released for) including property, staffing and operations resourcing: $6,978

The Ministry of Education says that it’s unfair to compare these two, as these are new schools which always cost more. But the point is, they only build new schools when they really have to because of roll growth, not just for a political, or ideological point. Except in the case of charter schools.

And the greatest irony of all, this is a policy from the party that claims “Government spending is out of control.”

 

 

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One of the criticisms of yesterday’s announcement is that this is performance pay by stealth. Have a look here, here or here for examples.

It’s reasonable to be wary of this, from a Minister who said in the past that it something she’s considering.

PPTA’s position on performance pay is clear. In 2012 the Executive affirmed a long held stance rejecting “discriminatory performance pay for teachers”.  Nothing has changed since then.

The word ‘discriminatory’ is significant. To some extent teaching, like any other profession, already has elements of performance pay. And I don’t think anyone would argue with that.  At the most basic level, if you don’t perform at all, i.e. turn up, do what is required like finish your reports and keep your classes gainfully occupied, then you lose your job.

But there is a lot more to it than that. When performance pay is used, in teaching or other jobs, there various ways performance is measured. And in actuality, piece-work type employment, like apple picking, where the outputs are easily quantified, and the work is generally menial and repetitive is the only area where ‘pure performance pay’ happens regularly.

In most other professions there are some sorts of more or less subjective judgements made about how well someone is doing their job, or how much of it they are doing, which help determine whether or not they keep it, or get paid more or less.

And teaching is not that different. Except that one advantage teaching has, thanks in part to the strong collective agreement that covers our employment is that those judgements tend towards being less subjective and more transparent than in other workplaces.

The three areas in which teachers’ performance already impacts on their pay are:

  • Their qualifications – a proxy for ‘quality’ – not always the best, but certainly a reasonable indication of a level of skill and knowledge that will enable you to be a better teacher. Teachers with lower level qualifications earn less.
  • Attestation that teachers are meeting standards. There are two sets of standards that teachers need to meet – professional standards in the collective agreement to get pay increases and registered teacher criteria to continue to hold a practising certificate. Teachers have to show that they are meeting these standards – which are broad and reasonably holistic, and were collaboratively developed.
  • Pay for extra duties or responsibilities. Teachers who ‘do more’  - whether it’s leading a department or taking responsibility for some significant extra-curricular activities can get more money – this is what units are for. This is clearly a performance related pay – more work leads to extra pay.


So, hardly a ‘soviet car factory’ as some would suggest.

The second and third of these three areas are clearly where these new roles of ‘Expert Teacher’ and ‘Lead Teacher’ fit. They will have standards that teachers will need to meet to get the job – standards we’ll be involved in developing and which won’t (because we’ll make sure they don’t) place undue weight on reductive ‘measurables’. And these roles have extra duties and responsibilities attached – for sharing good practice, leading collaboration and encouraging innovation. Like the Specialist Classroom Teacher, which we fought for the in the 2004 Collective agreement round – they are a career pathway for teachers who have something else to offer their colleagues and the system as a whole, and in a role that is not simply ‘management’ of the school. And ideally – we’d like to see the third of these – qualifications be introduced to give them a further degree of objectivity and removal from school management control.

Performance pay becomes ‘discriminatory’ when it is competitive and rationed, and that’s where we have concerns. The position that we took in 2012 was that, if a performance pay system would pit teachers against each other in competition for a limited number of bonuses or recognise one type of easily quantifiable contribution to the school more than another less easily quantifiable one, then it would be resisted. At the time the Executive agreed that

“Discriminatory performance pay is a tool to control teachers and minimise the costs and responsibility of government for delivering equitable and high quality education to all. Some of its implications include:

  •  Changing the motivation of teachers from the intrinsic reward of seeing students learn to the extrinsic reward of a better pay packet
  •  Breaking down collegial and collaborative relationships, and replacing them with competitive ones
  • Increasing the recruitment and retention challenges for low decile schools
  • Ensuring that some students are taught by teachers to be deemed less effective, but remain teaching on a lower pay rate
  • Forcing schools into bidding wars for teachers in areas of subject shortages
  • Making it easier for inadequate educational leaders to command superficial compliance from teachers, at the cost of genuine motivation and buy in.
  • Undermining the morale of the teaching profession”


The new roles of ‘Expert Teacher’ and ‘Lead Teacher’ (the names are naff, I don’t know many teachers who will put their hands up and say, “Yep, I’m an expert”) don’t come with bonuses – but with extra pay for actual an actual job. There are always a limited number of positions – whether Principal or Head of Department. Roles that are focussed on mentoring other teachers rather than managing them, and sharing good teaching practice rather than developing it in isolation are fantastic – and in stark contrast to simply giving extra cash to a teacher who wrings the most ‘value added’ out of their students.

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Positive reinforcement is one of the main techniques in any teacher’s toolbox, whether it’s to congratulate Talia on staying in her seat for five minutes, or Logan on completing his third practice essay before the mock exam. And starting the year with some good vibes always is nice, right?

In this spirit then, let’s look back at some of the good things that the government did in 2013, and hope that we see more of these in 2014.

1. Continued investment in and support for the Positive Behaviour for Learning Action Plan. The various programmes under PB4L, which started in 2009, are starting to bear fruit. Many of the schools involved are reporting fewer behaviour problems, and, though it’s tenuous to link the two, the Youth 2012 survey shows some positive changes in student well-being and behaviour across schools. Linked to this, the prime minister’s Youth Mental Health Initiative instigated a review of guidance care in secondary schools and the report which has just been released is really valuable and significant. Positive Behaviour for Learning is run in collaboration with the sector, properly resourced, given time to succeed and is evidence based. We’d love to see more initiatives like this.

2. The response to the report on twenty-first century learning and the Network for Learning. This report came out at the end of 2012, and is a very sound document. The minister’s reference group to work out which recommendations to advance and how to do it is dynamic and credible. Teachers are looking forward to cabinet’s response to their report. Alongside this, the Network for Learning has huge promise, and what’s not to like about all schools getting free, uncapped broadband?

3. The Ministry of Education’s new approach to consultation. Secretary for education Peter Hughes has made it very clear that he wants the ministry to have a different role from how it has often been, as a facilitator of the sector, rather than directing it. He’s been keen to consult secondary teachers and principals for advice from the chalk-face when new policy is being developed or implemented. Though there still seems to be some teething problems in regards to the ministry recognising the cycle of the school year and when such requests will easily be answered, the goal of easy transition back and forth between schools and ‘head office’ is sensible.

4. The Aranui cluster and the secondary sector in Christchurch. This year has seen massive improvement in the ministry’s communication with the sector about Canterbury schools. The Aranui year 1-13 campus has two elements that are welcome; there has been genuine consultation, and the concept of the school as a hub for the community with social, health and recreational provision is fantastic. Many teachers would like to see this model replicated elsewhere.

5. The property announcements in response to the Beca Review. The big ticket $300 million to fix schools with broken or egregiously out-of-date buildings is necessary and welcome. More low key, but more significant in the long term, is the recognition of one of the many problems of Tomorrow’s Schools – school boards and leaders spending far too much of their time making decisions about things like carpets and swimming pools, and not focussing on teaching and learning. The option for schools to be able to hand property management back to the ministry couldn’t have happened soon enough.

 

Teachers are worth it image

 

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It’s no surprise that two of the four opinions published by the Ombudsman this year are against the Ministry of Education. Add these to the High Court ruling on Phillipstown (which hinged on not giving the school information it required), and the vision of a ministry incapable of meeting its duties of public accountability and transparency is confirmed.

I had hoped that by September when I put in an OIA request for the evaluation of He Kakano that Peter Hughes’ ‘new broom’ might have found its way into the crevices of the Ministry and stirred the dust a little. But no such luck.

Twenty working days after the request went in I get a call from the Ministry saying that they’re about to release it publicly and “Did I mind waiting until then?” On asking when this ‘about to’ would be’ I’m assured, “By the end of November”.

November comes and goes and the Ministry again assures me, it’s with the Minister, just waiting on the final go ahead to be released.

Another complaint to the Ombudsman later (fourth this year) and still no information.

It’s not just about the principle of publicly available information. This report matters – its evaluating a programme that has gone into 100 secondary schools over the last 3 years, cost millions of dollars and now is supposedly being used to inform the ‘Building on Success’ programme which is going to cost over $31 million. And Hekia claims that it works.

But that’s not what the rumours say. People who saw an early draft of the evaluation at the start of this year claimed that it raised some major problems with the programme. And participants talk about it being totally leadership focused – giving principals the chance to have interesting hui on marae around the country, but not doing anything for the teachers actually working with Maori students. This is in major contrast to Te Kotahitanga – which was classroom focused and rigorously, and publicly, evaluated. Not releasing this report, and allowing Hekia to trumpet how good it is, while quietly shuffling the programme aside and replacing it with the next incarnation is too convenient.

How opportune for this report to be massaged into bland obscurity, with a summary that glosses more than reveals, and slip it out onto Education Counts just a few days before Christmas.

Hughes has asked the sector to give the ministry a break and assume cock-up rather than conspiracy. It’s getting harder and harder to do that.

 

 

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A tall tale? Jet Star needs pilots in order to cover their flights – they overpromised and are unable to operate without these pilots. They have approached Air NZ requesting Air NZ pilots fly Jet Star planes - at Air NZ's expense.  This  means Air NZ will have to reduce both domestic and international flights.

Air NZ has refused.

Jet Star managers are up in arms at Air NZ's refusal to cover.  They are encouraging their passengers to write opinion pieces to the papers and to comment in social media damning this divisive approach.

Reasonable?

It seems that ACT supporters who encouraged the development of charter schools - an apparently different, new, innovative and exciting model of education  (and a well funded education model with - because charter schools can afford it - small class sizes) are now upset that local public schools (not as well funded) are saying they are not prepared to teach the charter school students.

Hang on a minute - isn't this supposed to be a new model of education? One that doesn't require qualified registered teachers? A model outside the state system - doing it differently.

Seems that for charter schools 'doing it differently' means - the ability to access and use for  free the teaching resources of state schools - so that the charter school extra funding  can be used elsewhere. The state schools are expected to juggle their resources for the benefit of the charter school.

Go figure.

If the charter school students will "miss out on opportunities" because they can't be taught in the state schools - then why was it we needed charter schools?

The NZ model of charter schools isn't about students. The NZ model of charter schools is about opening up the education market.

Lets close these schools before they open - stop the division - and resource all our state schools appropriately in order to support all our students.

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It's no surprise that a political spinmeister like Matthew Hooton would be so quick to leap to the defence of charter schools.American experience shows it is exactly people like himself, along with developers, consulting companies and of course, the self-styled "CEOs" of charter schools who make the big money and will be the real winners out of this political scam.

It's not about the kids. If it were, instead of parroting the minister's simplistic platitude about "the tail", Hooton would make an effort to understand the cause of under achievement and what might constitute a real solution to the problem.For a start, the 20% who are the cause of our concern happen to constitute the same 20% who grow up in extreme poverty, who are more likely to live in overcrowded dwellings, more likely to suffer from preventable health problems and more likely to live in families blighted by drug and alcohol dependency and mental health problems.As the Prime Minister's science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman has observed, there are no "quick fixes" to these problems; solutions, such as there are, will be multi-systemic and long term

Trumpeting charter schools then, as the answer to this complex array of problems is the educational equivalent of colour therapy.According to Hooton, it's ok to conduct educational experiments on other peoples' children because will lead to "new ideas".Sure Matthew; service academies, teaching creationism, and class sizes of 15 were all unknown until charter schools discovered them!One of the new charter schools has even announced it will be relying on local high schools for the delivery of core curriculum subjects "“ nothing new there.

Considering we are now pretty sure about what features of schooling make the difference for kids, such a level of ignorance is unforgiveable.The best education systems in the world don't go near charter schools instead they do some or all of the following. Firstly, politicians of all parties work together to develop and fund an education system that works for learners not the favoured few; political stunts designed to shore up coalition agreements rather than genuinely address under achievement would have no place in such regimes. Two, teachers are valued, well qualified, have good access to professional learning and work collaboratively. There is none of the denigration of teachers that is implied in the charter school agenda.Interestingly, the OECD has noted that a feature of top performing countries is a positive and consultative relationship with teacher unions.Three,the curriculum and assessment systemencourages innovation,flexibility and deep learningnot the anti-science mind control that is being proposed in some charter schools or the teach by numbers rote-learning advocated in others.Lastly, attention is paid to inequality.Schools are funded to address the range of health and welfare needs these students have rather than developing policy based on a belief in miracles.

Of course, these initiatives cost money; predictably the people who are the strongest supporters of charter schools are also most hostile to taxpayer money being spent on welfare and outrageous indulgences like ensuring students are healthy and well-fed.The existence of charter schools allows them to feel smug and satisfied by the glory of their own charitable instincts (paid for by the taxpayer what's more) while ensuring that the financial privileges their own offspring enjoy in schools such as Whanganui Collegiate, avoid scrutiny.

If PPTA members, having considered the case against charter schools, choose not to expend the professional capital they have acquired at great cost and over many years, providing succour to a political experiment in privatised education, that is their business.All these activities are, after all, done in their own time and out of their own good will.

As a cheerleader for competition and as an advocate for the promotion of self-interest above everything else, surely Hooton is not telling teachers that they should put extra time and effort into students in schools other than their own, given the risk that the external students could do better in league tables than the students for whom the teachers are directly responsible?

Make up your mind Matthew. Either we have a system that works cooperatively and collegially for the benefit of all students or we run our schools as profit-making, balkanised warring states and accept that a proportion of kids will lose out.We know what we side we are on and we are not about to apologise for that.

Angela Roberts PPTA presidentb2ap3_thumbnail_charterschools_advert_PPTA2013.jpg

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I don't think I'm the only one who shuddered when Parata posted her holiday snaps recently on twitter and one showed her grinning next to the gormless Michael Gove.

Gove's educational revolution in the UK is such monstrous disaster that it makes Novopay, charter schools and national standards look like the work of bombastic Mussolini compared to his National Socialist comrade north of the Alps.

The prospect of her coming back inspired by that meeting was enough for crisis calls around the red-flag adorned staffrooms of the nation on the secret PPTA hotline (not really).

But it turns out she doesn't seem to have taken that much from it after all. You see, Gove is someone who likes to be in charge of what kids learn. And he likes them learning facts, as shown by this list published in the Telegraph:

·In English, pupils will be expected to spell a list of almost 240 advanced words by the end of primary school, master grammar and punctuation and read more novels, poems and plays in full, including Shakespeare;

·Science lessons will introduce pupils to evolution at primary school for the first time, increase the amount of practical and maths-based work and scrap "vague", non-scientific topics such as caring for animals and societal context;

·History will be based on a clear chronology of Britain from the Stone Age to 1066 in primary school, with lessons focusing on the Norman Conquest to present day in secondary education;

But, (sigh of relief around outposts of socialist feminism, aka public schools) Parata's not going down this path at all. In fact, she's going down quite a different one, and one that may well be just as worrying.  See, for example, this story on Waatea News: Education Minister Hekia Parata says teaching creationism is on par with teaching about Maori creation myths.

You see, there's a fine balance in curriculum design between the laissez faire, anything goes approach and Gove's miniscule prescription. And in the case of creationism, Parata's taking the anything goes approach too far.

Promoters of creationism and "˜Intelligent Design' (like this) do not see it on the same level as myth and legend. In fact, quite the opposite. They see it on the same level as science "“ it's a literal, true explanation, not allegorical or metaphorical at all.

There are plenty of Christians (and followers of other religions) who don't see their creation narratives in this way, plenty of scientists and science teachers too. If the creation story stays in the realm of myth there's no conflict with evolution.<p">Now, we don't know whether the people running charter schools are actually promoting creationism as a scientific theory or whether they're just going to be teaching "˜the Bible Story' as the mythical, allegorical tale (with its own cultural importance) that many people accept it to be.

But that's the trouble. We don't know, and can't know, because they'll be hidden away in charter schools. And Parata seems not to care.  This charter school thing has brought out the woolly relativists and post-modernists that I certainly didn't know were lurking in the National Party. It reminds me of that classic teacher saying "Keep an open mind ... but not so open that your brain falls out."

 

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