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So I’m going to get more political today.

<a href="National’s Education Minister Anne Tolley talked to principals and teachers yesterday about the new National Standards being set by the Government.

Now while there is a problem with the level of literacy in New Zealand at the moment, National in their characteristic naïveté rushed an ideological policy out without really trying to understand what the actual reality was in the schools.

What is most galling is how Tolley is being hard-nosed in the face of facts presented to her. She and John Key have fallen back on questionable research that seems to lack any solid foundations rather than face the reality. The worst thing is that they are promoting an adversarial atmosphere with the education sector and then ask why teachers are being so aggressive towards them.

When a teacher tells you that only one student in their class of 21 is passing the new standard, when independent researchers warn that your policy was rushed and needs serious review and alteration – arguing that you don’t believe them and that in fact the standards are working without producing facts, just suspicious figures, is not helping our children. It’s just exacerbating the situation.

What disgusts me is that National is sending a clear message that they feel teachers are nothing but greedy whiners. According to National the average secondary school teacher earns 70k a year. Yet out of the number of teachers I know, I find that seriously hard to believe. Where is National getting their figures?

It seems to me that they are hiding behind their reports rather than actually getting out there and seeing the reality. Seriously folks, if this many teachers and actual trained experts are saying there is a problem, then there is a problem. Relying on information that is two or three times removed from the facts is just being stubborn.

Furthermore, working to smear the reputation of teachers is a further idiotic action as it makes their jobs harder and ultimately undermines the quality of the education children get. National is only making a token effort to seem like they want to work with teachers. The reality is that they are painting the education sector as the enemy.

Of course there are some in the teacher’s union who aren’t helping their cause. Apparently some children are sending a letter template to Tolley – some on union stationery – complaining about the recent disputes. Now this kind of activity just feeds National’s adversarial position. I’m sure there are some tin hatters out there who will cite a conspiracy to besmirch the union – but I think it is highly likely that some members have foolishly thought it would help.

It’s turning into an ugly public stoush. But the reality is that it is the Government’s responsibility to quell the animosity and work in good faith. Instead it has tried to paint teachers as the villains of the piece, which only succeeds in inflaming them more.

By refusing to listen to the experts that the National Standards are not working and will lead to more children failing in our system – National are putting fuel on the fire and revealing that they don’t care for facts. They stubbornly believe that their ideological hard line will prove to be the winner. Unfortunately talking tough isn’t always the answer, and in this instance it only goes go expose how little National cares about the facts. Instead they have hidden behind statistics that average out and toy with the figures to make it sound like it is working.

Much like with the “tax cuts” – the reality is obfuscated by statistical trickery to get a result that National wants to be seen while the reality can be disputed by “statistical research.”

Having done statistical research, it is not based on reality but by taking a sample and predicting beyond that sample. It is useful for predicting future possible trends, but not for providing actual facts.

And the whole reason that we haven’t seen a boost in buying before GST rises is precisely because a majority of NZ is not onboard with National’s version of the tax cuts. It’s the old adage of “too good to be true.” We are waiting to see what the reality is when we start seeing those cuts in our pay checks and the cost of living.

I think National has seriously underestimated NZers. And with elections coming closer, this is possibly the worst time for National’s honeymoon to be over.

Conan

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