Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Minister of Unknowing

Reader Anonymous of Auckland Central draws our attention to the latest utterance of Ms Anne Tolley, the somewhat undereducated Minister for Education. It's all about Standards, you see, but not League Tables.

I know, it sounds confusing. How could we have national Standards for schools, you may be thinking, without the information about the attainment of these Standards by individual schools being used to compile League Tables? Perhaps, in an enlightened New Zealand led by that nice Mr Key, such perfidy will become unthinkable: nobody would compile the information about individual schools into such a Table, because to do so would be wrong. The Minster has said she wants no Tables; there will be no Tables.

Of course, it may necessary, in the period between the seizure of the means of government by the National Party and the eventual withering of the state (or at least those parts of it which are inconveniently democratic) for the Government to prevent this information being released, in case it were to fall into the grasping hands of counter-reactionary elements. The matter of Official Information Act requests can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. Ms Tolley doubtless will have in mind the example of the House of Commons in dear old Blighty and its release of information about its Members' expenses claims. Despite the prior leaking of complete details of expenses to the Daily Telegraph, and despite widespread public outrage at some claims by some Members, the House of Commons wisely chose to redact the contentious claims from its release. Students of Information Management will be the first to recognise that, by this simple procedure, the Commons has negated all the illegally leaked information: the official publication does not include the claims about moat cleaning and the duck island, so those claims do not exist (although they have been paid).

Using a similar technique, Ms Tolley says "as far as I am concerned, we are not planning to publish any form of information that could be used for league tables" and the information about Standards instantly becomes useless for such purposes. However, readers with an inflexible commitment to rational thought might object to her next statement:
But she said it would be acceptable for some parents to dole out blame if their children's performance was not up to scratch. "There's a variety of reasons why that might happen, especially if a teacher isn't using a good assessment technique in their teaching when the national standards are in place ... We encourage parents to get involved in a child's education."

It seems paradoxical. Parents will have access to information which will allow them to blame teachers, but this information will not be useful for building League Tables. At this point, you may be saying to yourself "am I smarter than an Education Minister" but you would be foolish to think such a thing.

You see, Ms Tolley does not have a conventional education as such - the kind administered by her Ministry - but in fact she is a Zen Master. By making these apparently contradictory statements she is sharing some of her Wisdom with us. She is showing us that we cannot know, in the Western epistemological sense of 'knowing.' It is only by years of study at the feet of a Master such as Ms Tolley that we can understand that we do not understand. Many further years later, we may finally grasp the truth of what she says, and so gain Enlightenment.

By then, of course, the conventional Education system will no longer exist, and what schooling which still occurs will be in the hands of private schools, subsidised by the Ministry. By this approach Ms Tolley will have achieved not only the radical ideas of Deschooling proposed by Ivan Illich, but also shown our children that true understanding cannot come from schoolbooks and study trips. It can come only by abandoning everything we thought we knew. With her 80 percent cut in adult education funding and her transfer of funds from public eduation to private schools, she has guided us to the start of our journey on the long road to Enlightenment.

She is truly ambitious for New Zealand.


Joe Hendren said...

Nicely said Paul.

I hope someone is smart enough to ask her a parliamentary question along these lines :)

Anonymous said...

Do not despair Paul, there is worse to come:

Yes the Treasury said the funding approach would not work and good on them for being smart enough to say so but...

in this article, the Ministry of Education recommended that the Government INCREASE its funding to the independent school system!

Coincidentally(?), this is exactly what Anne Tolley wanted to hear!

With friends like the Ministry of Education, do Taxpayers need enemies?