The Dim-Post

March 15, 2012

Shearer’s speech

Filed under: education,Politics — danylmc @ 8:52 am

You can read it here. From a communications point of view it is pretty patchy. The opening anecdote and call back to it at the end ‘[New Zealand] will be a place that’s good for lambs’, are amusing, but conflict with his message that we need to move away from primary produce. And the slogan: ‘a new New Zealand,’ is so terrible it almost passes through some sort of marketing event horizon and becomes acceptable. But the rest of it is fairly well written.

The big announcements, and my comments:

  • Labour will probably keep the Capital Gains tax and probably ditch the $5000 tax free threshold, both of which seem sensible.
  • Shearer cites Finland as an example of a small country that transformed itself into a wealthy knowledge economy. So catching up with Australia is out. Catching up to Finland is in.
  • Shearer wants to focus on education to achieve this transformation. Meh. Finland does have one of the best education systems in the world, but ours is only a few points behind it.
  • Shearer wants to focus on teachers and hold failing schools to account. Sure, whatever. The main problem with our education system seems to be our problem with child poverty manifesting itself through the education system. Finland also has one of the most comprehensive welfare systems in the world, with state supplied child care up to the age of seven, and the second lowest rate of child poverty in the OECD (old New Zealand is 22nd out of 34).
  • Shearer promises to be a radical leader who will oversee massive transformation of the New Zealand economy. I guess politicians have to say things like that, but it always sends shivers down my spine. We’ve had an awful lot of radical, transforming governments and it hasn’t worked that well for us. I’d like a government that brings about incremental change that leads to real, sustainable growth, not more radical transformation.
About these ads

59 Comments »

  1. My read is that the ‘lambs’ thing is an oblique allegory to the fact that the supply of younger (human) New Zealanders is somewhat in danger of drying up, but that may just be me reading too much into it.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 15, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  2. To add: Also a pretty dodgy allegory if you look too closely at it.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 15, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  3. Finland does have one of the best education systems in the world, but ours is only a few points behind it. I think his point though was that our education is a system of two halves and enough kids aren’t receiving an adequate education for it to be an issue for us all. I agree though that it’s worrying that he ties it in with performance of teachers rather than poverty. Where have I heard that before?

    New New Zealand is terrible and somebody should be shot or at least scowled at vigorously. It sounds like we’ve renamed the country Nunu Zealand. ):

    Comment by Dovil — March 15, 2012 @ 9:01 am

  4. where does this shit about failing schools come from? focus groups where parents say “my son is a genius and he’s not doing very well. the school is failing!”

    Comment by Amy — March 15, 2012 @ 9:02 am

  5. You say
    Finland does have one of the best education systems in the world, but ours is only a few points behind it.

    Which is true on the surface but the problem is that our is very uneven. So the average is OK but there are large communities doing very badly that creates a strain that damages us socially and economically.

    The other part of the problem is that because of the lag in response to change int he education system we haven’t seen what damage national standards has done yet.

    Comment by Bart — March 15, 2012 @ 9:06 am

  6. Alright new game for the day. First person to identify ten jargon/bingo words/statements/metaphors wins. DMC is current leader identifying:
    1. lambs
    2. slogan “New New Zealand”
    3. transformation.

    Comment by WH — March 15, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  7. abour will probably keep the Capital Gains tax and probably ditch the $5000 tax free threshold, both of which seem sensible.

    Why is the ditching the 5k tax free threshold particularly sensible?
    Do you mean from a fundamental economic or a centre-voter capture kind of way (or both)?

    Comment by Gregor W — March 15, 2012 @ 9:16 am

  8. @Lew: “To add: Also a pretty dodgy allegory if you look too closely at it.”

    Oh, fuck me. We’re not going to rehash that whole Pete George objection to Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” thread from a couple of weeks back, are we? Can’t we just all agree that eating people is wrong?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 15, 2012 @ 9:24 am

  9. @WH

    1. Far too many of our eggs are in the one basket.
    2. The honest truth….
    3. He thought it was more important to make a difference than to get re-elected.
    4. …took that message on board.
    5. …transformed their economy through innovation and talent.
    6. …we could all take a lesson from that.
    7. I can tell you that I have no interest in being a prime minister who just cautiously tinkers.
    8. Everything else is bottom of the cliff stuff.
    9. So we need to take a fresh look at everything we do.
    10. They deserve a share of the pie.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 15, 2012 @ 9:28 am

  10. Andrew, the unreconstructed Flanders & Swann said it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCdshepGguI#! (skip forward to 2:00).

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 15, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  11. We’ve had an awful lot of radical, transforming governments and it hasn’t worked that well for us

    My theory about the popularity of the government last term was that it was because they pretty much did nothing, and after a succession of governments which were big on change it was kind of nice. Sure, Key and co didn’t fix anything, but they didn’t really make anything worse, either. It’s only now that they’ve got some actual policies that people are starting to go off them.

    Comment by helenalex — March 15, 2012 @ 9:41 am

  12. The comparison with Finland is just rubbish. Finland is a homogeneous society. New Zealand is not. So he can forget about using the education system to solve child poverty. What a load of crap.

    Comment by smttc — March 15, 2012 @ 9:42 am

  13. we he said Findland he meant to say Norway.

    or maybe he meant that if we start a cellphone manufacturing industry we could ride the upcomming cellphone wave which no one esle has cottoned on to yet.

    Comment by NeilM — March 15, 2012 @ 9:47 am

  14. @Gregor W that was quick – although it was an easy game of bingo.

    Comment by WH — March 15, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  15. He thought it was more important to make a difference than to get re-elected.

    Right about now the PSA will be reading the wiki page on Esko Aho, Shearer’s political inspiration, and getting really scared.

    Comment by danylmc — March 15, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  16. I’d sum it up as: “In two years I’m going to have a plan, and it’ll be new, honest!”

    Best bit: “It means questioning the comfortable assumptions we make.” which he immediately follows up with the comfortable assumption “We have smart, creative people and a clean, green branding.”

    Comment by insider — March 15, 2012 @ 9:59 am

  17. Best bit: “It means questioning the comfortable assumptions we make.” which he immediately follows up with the comfortable assumption “We have smart, creative people and a clean, green branding.”

    Yeah, good catch.

    It means questioning the comfortable assumptions we make.

    Let me give you a few examples.

    We like to flatter ourselves that New Zealand is clean and green and pristine. But really our green credentials owe more to our small population and a strong south-westerly.

    In reality we fall well behind environmental standards of many European countries.

    Our environment should be seen as a driver of our economic success rather than a hindrance.

    We have smart, creative people and a clean, green branding. It’s a combination that other countries would die for.

    My aim is to make that branding a reality.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — March 15, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  18. nokia were sucessful because they had the right product at the right time, it had nothing to do with Findland’s image or its environmental practices.

    sure if we can pick a major winner in the next huge technology boom we could be like Findland but how we do that has yet to be explained.

    There is of course Norway’s approach.

    Comment by NeilM — March 15, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  19. @NeilM You’re just pining for the fjords.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — March 15, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  20. @helenalex My theory about the popularity of the government last term was that it was because they pretty much did nothing
    Only if nothing means abusing Urgency by ramming controversial bills through (National Standards et al), trashing 30 years of NGO aid delivery, attempting to mine schedule 4, giving away unsustainable tax cuts to the greedy rich, removing Auckland’s ability to raise funds to fund our transport infrastructure investment. Methinks you were sucked in by the smile & wave…

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — March 15, 2012 @ 10:46 am

  21. I can’t find anything good to say about Shearer’s speech except “CGT, good”. Education? Seriously? WTF Dude, the problem NZ faces in NOT THE FUCKING EDUCATION SYSTEM. It’s NO JOBS and RISING POVERTY, and MASSIVE PRIVATE INDEBTEDNESS. You can’t educate more jobs into the economy, and with a hardline attitude on welfare, more jobs is the only way to alleviate poverty. Improving education is simply going to mean more education leavers will leave NZ for the FUCKING JOBS. That’s EVEN IF Labour can improve our education, which is already bloody excellent, which is why its so easy to get an overseas job. And very alluring since Labour set the groundwork (by making students pay for their education, cheers Phil Goff) for the enormous student debt problem, which is only one small piece of our overall debt problem.

    Students are right to be switching to finance oriented degrees. With the entire OECD sitting with it’s head in the sand about the fact that the finance industry has killed their economies, it’s triumphant. Really a no brainer as the biggest and most powerful growth sector presiding over the destruction of Western economic dominance of the world. Kids are smart, they haven’t ever been encouraged to “invest in NZ” emotionally, and they are flowing with the money trends. Loyalty to this country is something that is becoming something only the already lucky and rich develop, and they are becoming fewer and fewer. Upwards mobility is a thing of the past – the trend nowadays is downwards mobility.

    On the topic of how to make more jobs there was nothing in there at all, because Shearer actually has no ideas. The lack of a powerful knowledge economy in NZ is not because of the supply of engineers and scientists is weak, it’s because they can’t find work, and they’re losing the work they have.

    In fact this “knowledge economy” angle really needs serious deconstruction, hard and fast. It’s an incredibly destructive myth about how NZ can better itself as a nation. It fundamentally misunderstands that knowledge IS NOT CAPITAL. Not in any sense that is difficult to move elsewhere. Focusing on growing knowledge without growing any kind of permanently located capital means that the knowledge simply flows like water (or maybe milk, and debt repayment) out of the country. Our dedication to churning out engineers and scientists is fantastic for the Australian economy, who get a steady source of desperate and well trained english speaking people to man their massive infrastructure investments.

    We really are in for a very long recession if this is all Labour’s got. It won’t end until the third world actually catches up with us, because that is the kind of economy we are aiming for by selling off what we have and killing our welfare system. I really struggle to recognize this country any more, and I’m only 40 years old.There’s a profound lack of awareness between the middle and working class, and the growing underclasses. They aren’t on the radar because they are priced out of even living either in the same part of town, or even the same COUNTRY as those who have work.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 15, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  22. I think it would be instructive to compare snippets from Shearer’s first state of the nation speech with Key’s first as opposition leader in 2007 –
    http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=9215. My, what a contrast…

    – “New Zealanders want their leaders to focus on the future. They want their leaders to have a clear idea about where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there, and what we’re going to do to make it happen.”

    “I believe the best years for New Zealand are ahead of us. As a nation, we have everything to look forward to. We can be a country that is coming together; not a country that is coming apart.”

    – “I can tell you that I have no interest in being a prime minister who just cautiously tinkers. If you can’t change things for the better, you have no business being in the 9th floor of the Beehive.”

    “My time in politics will only ever be a success if I can look back knowing I played my part in building on that pride.”

    – “That’s why my goals for education are ambitious. I won’t be satisfied until every child in New Zealand is getting an excellent education, and until every child in New Zealand is being equipped to flourish.”

    “In education, we need to ensure that all kids get an opportunity to learn from good teachers, no matter what decile school they go to. No child should be viewed as a write-off, or left behind by the school system.”

    Comment by insider — March 15, 2012 @ 11:29 am

  23. What Ben said. Particularly this:

    “The lack of a powerful knowledge economy in NZ is not because of the supply of engineers and scientists is weak, it’s because they can’t find work, and they’re losing the work they have.”

    And not just work in ‘the real world’ (private or public industry), but also because of the short-term orientation, and business subsidising nature of academic-based R&D. You’d see this first-hand Danyl as the colleagues you work with in the lab head over to North America and Europe to get a post-doc research fellowship (and then settle with their ‘powerful knowledge’).

    Gordon Campbell did a worthy piece related to this in the latest edition of Werewolf.

    Comment by Pete — March 15, 2012 @ 11:42 am

  24. I thought we were trying to emulate Ireland??

    Comment by Mark — March 15, 2012 @ 11:47 am

  25. Findland’s high tech industry didn’t appear magically out of nowhere. The post war period saw them develop a base of primary, manufacturing and mining industries that presumably gave them the capital to develope education and technology.

    It isn’t a case of either we have resource exploitation or we have high tech. We need the former to provide the base for the latter.

    Comment by NeilM — March 15, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

  26. I wonder if Shearer is trying to be bolder than you give him credit Danyl. You’re thinking about this speech as a signal about a tax rate. Shearer has announced that he wants to be a one term transformational leader.

    Aho made bold decisions.

    He was, I need to say, voted out at the next election.

    We have to bite the bullet.

    A suicide-run might not be a nice term for it, but Shearer says he wants a one term transformational shot at becoming a best practice social-democrat state in the model of Finland. Shearer wants us to think about tax systems, not a $5000 tax exemption.

    Not just a bit of tinkering here and some adjusting there and leaving the rest to the market.

    The question is what does “not a bit of tinkering here and some adjusting there” look like? Seriously, what would serious structural change look like? Politicians have talked for decades, but none of them have said they’re prepared to go down in an election after making hard decisions. Does Shearer look like someone who wants to seriously reshape the way we live?

    At the very least he is asking us to start asking questions about the way we have structured our society. How come smart business people like Steven Joyce can make millions in tax free capital gains, while the women cleaning the same offices that night are taxed at high rates on all of their income?

    How much will a first rate innovation system cost us as a society? 4%, 5% or 10% of Government spending? How do we get there?

    Comment by Oh Busby — March 15, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

  27. Firstly, can we stop calling it ‘Findland’? Jesus.

    Secondly, what Ben said. Education as the solution is handy because it bridges the political divide, but it’s another one of those comfortable banalities that sounds like a radical challenge to the status quo but actually isn’t.

    More specifically;

    @Lew: “the ‘lambs’ thing is an oblique allegory to the fact that the supply of younger (human) New Zealanders is somewhat in danger of drying up”

    Is it? I thought we were well above replacement rate (…yay?)

    @Danyl: “Shearer promises to be a radical leader who will oversee massive transformation of the New Zealand economy. I guess politicians have to say things like that”

    Consider what the lifespan of a politician who promised to be a conventional leader who will oversee minor tinkering with the New Zealand economy.

    It’s a good rule of thumb that you can determine the rhetorical value of a political statement by imagining how viable the exact opposite statement would be.

    Comment by Hugh — March 15, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

  28. I think we already have the scientists and engineers we need for a Knowledge Economy (TM), and if we don’t it’s comparatively cheap to import a few of them. What we don’t have is a high level of tech-savviness in the general population to provide the supporting workforce for the knowledge economy, as well as the domestic demand. My guess is the cheapest way to achieve this (cheapest = hundreds of millions rather than billions) is to spend dough to bringing education infrastructure into the 21st century. This would probably require government borrowing though, and an accompanying rhetorical pivot. If Labour is going to propose spending that much on a new program I would prefer them to shell out for poverty eradication. I would also prefer to live in a world in which poverty eradication was a surefire vote-winner but whatareyougonnado.

    Comment by bradluen — March 15, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

  29. “Seriously, what would serious structural change look like? ”
    Big Kahuna*? But none of our current “leaders” has the look of a kahuna.

    *G Morgan.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 15, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  30. it’s only fair that a Shearer mentions lambs and wants a good supply of them

    Comment by MikeG — March 15, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  31. What’s wrong with the education infrastructure brad? Genuinely curious as to what is wrong with it and how spending more money on it will solve our probs. Cause I’m getting the vibe that the reason we don’t have better educational outcomes is poverty, not education per se.

    Comment by Me Too — March 15, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  32. >What we don’t have is a high level of tech-savviness in the general population to provide the supporting workforce for the knowledge economy, as well as the domestic demand.

    I don’t think the lack of jobs is down to a lack of tech savviness. I think it’s down to the inability of NZ business to use the knowledge economy they already have. This might not be their fault – perhaps the whole idea is actually fuxored, something that is seldom considered. It’s like an axiom that a knowledge economy paves the way to a strong economy, when in fact that could just be cargo-cultism. Perhaps it’s actually the other way around – that strong business ideas being sold well develop knowledge economies around them. Hence our highly technological farming industry. NZ is very weak in this department (attracting knowledge workers), and maybe again that is not the fault of business, which simply can’t compete for the good people with, for example, huge Silicon Valley shops. We can’t get venture capital because this is just the wrong place to set up such a business. Perhaps it really is the wrong business to be setting up. Perhaps we need far, far, far more infrastructure than we already have, just to be in the ballpark of the industrial complexes of countries which are more conveniently located.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 15, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

  33. Me Too: Well, for instance, 42% of students are in schools whose principals report a shortage of computers hinder their capacity to provide instruction (http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/31346/899_PISA-06_School_Context_Web.pdf , Table 13). More generally, capital spending on schools hasn’t increased at the same rate as other spending schools.

    Also alleviating poverty improves educational outcomes for sure, but improving education also improves educational outcomes.

    (apols if this is a double post)

    Comment by bradluen — March 15, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  34. Perhaps it’s actually the other way around – that strong business ideas being sold will develop knowledge economies around them.

    No ‘perhaps’ about it. This is precisely the issue.

    Perhaps we need far, far, far more infrastructure than we already have, just to be in the ballpark of the industrial complexes of countries which are more conveniently located.

    I don’t think infra improvements will address our structural (political / economic) and geographic disadvantages.
    ‘Build it and they will come’ thinking doesn’t tend to stand the reality test.

    Disclaimer – I say this as a person intimately involved with large scale ‘build it and they will come’ projects.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 15, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

  35. I think “we need infrastructure” is just as cargo-cultish as “we need education”.

    Comment by Hugh — March 15, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  36. you’re not going on about UFB and porn again are you Gregor?

    Comment by insider — March 15, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

  37. >I think “we need infrastructure” is just as cargo-cultish as “we need education”.

    I don’t think so. We need both, but we already have one – the education. I’m not laying claim to know exactly what infrastructure would be best for NZ, that’s a huge and complicated question that would probably just betray bias. But it’s pretty clear, since we have excellent educational outcomes, that that is not our problem, and to say it is our problem is just setting up the sector as a whipping boy.

    Comment by phuzzo — March 15, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

  38. So as far as I can tell, Shearer gave his “Meh..” speech in March.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — March 15, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

  39. The distinctive features of Finland’s education system include its egalitarian ethos and outcomes, its highly qualified and well respected teaching staff, and its emphasis on engaging parents in their children’s learning, which fosters positive relationships between home and school.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Finland

    Comment by Laura — March 15, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

  40. Finland is NOT New Zealand. Neither is Ireland.

    They are probably equidistant from Hawaii.

    finland

    Comment by peterlepaysan — March 15, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

  41. “Students are right to be switching to finance oriented degrees. With the entire OECD sitting with it’s head in the sand about the fact that the finance industry has killed their economies, it’s triumphant. ”

    Great comment. I think the OECD have got it’s head in sand over a lot of things.

    Comment by K2 — March 15, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

  42. >Great comment. I think the OECD have got it’s head in sand over a lot of things.

    Cheers. I do want to clarify that one, though. When I say “students are right”, I mean they are acting in their interests, not that I think it is right that it has led to this. There is no outcome more obviously bad economically, than that the bulk of people would be encouraged into a business that produces nothing at all. It’s a sign that a society is well fucked when finance is triumphant – this has been true since the ancient world, and has been repeated many, many times over.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 16, 2012 @ 12:31 am

  43. One observation – Shearer’s observation that the only people who care enough about New Zealand to want to fix it’s problems are New Zealanders themselves seems at first blush to be a statement of the obvious. But you would be amazed at how many New Zealanders who think they actually live in the United States of America, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who think China is pretty much a benign new potential step father, and assume an indulgent and patronising world loves us and will always come to our rescue.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 16, 2012 @ 7:28 am

  44. I’d like to see a bit of evidence for the claim that we are producing a disproportionate amount of accountants as compared to scientists/engineers and that this is really where our economy is going wrong.

    Shearer presents this as fact but with no support, it looks like a cheap shot.

    A friend of mine has a computer startup company that is doing very well. He did not do anything related to technology in his degree but has probably achieved more in business than most science and engineering graduates. It’s true that he employs a reasonable number of programmers but the business idea and model as well as the ability to make it work did not come from a bakgound of high tech education.

    Comment by NeilM — March 16, 2012 @ 7:53 am

  45. Just having a quick look at the Auckland Uni Business School, anyone doing accounting would most likely get a decent exposure to computing as well.

    Comment by NeilM — March 16, 2012 @ 8:07 am

  46. The evidence that technology in the classroom can improve learning is reasonably solid IMO (e.g.). There are, of course, many other ways to improve learning (I am fond of the very labour-intensive idea of one-on-two or one-on-three tutoring in the first few years of primary school, with students having difficulties getting more time), but Education! Tech! Infrastructure! is at a nice intersection of (i) probably useful, (ii) expensive but not stupidly expensive, (iii) something that sounds enough like a magic bullet to be a sellable idea.

    Comment by bradluen — March 16, 2012 @ 11:12 am

  47. Ben Wilson @ 42 “business that produces nothing at all”
    Crikey, I was building a lot of respect for your comments until I read that. Banking produces nothing at all in the same way that retail produces nothing at all, tourism produces nothing at all and hospitality produces nothing at all. Yet many people hand over their hard earned money to businesses engaged in banking, retail and hospitality, so they must be fulfiling some need in society.

    How do you think those with excessive money (savers) and those with a need for money (borrowers) could, efficiently, get together, without banks? Craigs list? “Hi, I’ve got $1000 that I don’t need until a week on Friday, when I’ll be buying a new car. At that point I’ll need it back, plus another $9,000 so I can buy this car. If you can help, please call me on 555-…”
    Bloody banks I don’t know. What have banks ever done for us, eh?
    Home loans.
    Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That’s true.
    And ATMs.
    Oh yes… ATMs, Reg, you remember what the city used to be like? When you wanted to have a drink but you was all out of cash and the banks were closed.

    All right, I’ll grant you that home loans and ATMs are two things that the banks have done…
    And the interest on savings
    Well yes obviously interest on savings accounts… interest goes without saying. But apart from home loans, ATMs and interest on savings…
    Foreiegn currency for your holidays…
    Credit cards… Cheques… direct debit…
    Yes… all right, fair enough…
    And the internet banking for buying stuff on TradeMe…
    Oh yes! True! Yeah. That’s something we’d really miss if the banks left, Reg.

    @NeilM, back in the 1980’s, NZ was said to have 1 accountant per 2,000 population, whereas the OECD average was more like 1 in 10,000. Or something along those lines.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 16, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

  48. I see your rather dated 1999 study and raise you one set of anecdotes from 2012:

    http://chronicle.com/article/A-Tech-Happy-Professor-Reboots/130741/

    As you say, there are other ways of improving educational outcomes and they are harder than new flashy toys. Uneven resourcing of schools for ICT is a real issue and reflects existing inequalities in society because, mostly, schools have to raise their own funds for it. But having a significant minority of students struggling with basic literacy and numeracy is surely the more important issue for wider NZ society.

    Comment by MeToo — March 17, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  49. @ Mark #24: the Celtic Tiger’s landed flat on its face. Unless of course, one still rain-dances for John Frum to arrive from Wall Street, being in constant denial that he’s in Chapter 11 proceedings.

    I’ve also heard that Finland is not as homogenous as its critics think it is.

    And if we do somehow strike oil in the Great South Basin, we need to follow the path of Norway and not Britain.

    Comment by kumararepublic — March 17, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

  50. #48
    Indeed. Did you know that Rupert Murdoch has a publishing company in his empire? From memory, it’s Harper Collins, who publish a lot of educational texts. In fact, Murdoch is a big fan of e-learning & has a whole educational wing, headed by the ex-New York City Overseer of Education. Imagine how much “content” he’s got locked up, but could stream into schools everywhere. The Guardian reported that the British Minister of Education, Gove, met with reps of Newscorp on average every 3 days. Is that what we want fed to our students??

    The British tech industry also complains about the quality of school leavers’ tech know-how. AT secondary school, here and there, computing is largely learning to use Word, Excel, Publisher, Moviemaker, Photoshop if you’re doing graphics/art/photography. Students don’t generally learn programming. So, the question is whether there is a good fit between the needs of tech companies and the skills taught at schools.

    Personally, I think ICT is over-rated in the classroom. It’s just as hard to manage 30 kids on computers, who keep flipping up FB, games, etc. More seriously, we are dealing with a deluge of information that keeps on growing .Information means nothing by itself. The key skill is knowing how to analyse and evaluate that information. That skill rests on competent literacy, excellent comprehension skills, the ability to make connections, and – ta-dah!! You must have knowledge of your own stored in your fat head and a sense of curiosity about the world as the foundation to work from. You don’t need ICT for this. You do need great teachers. Most NZ teachers are hampered by big class sizes, disruptive students, endless paperwork and the expectation that they are now responsible for solving all the socio-economic problems that have just landed in their classrooms.

    Comment by Kerry — March 17, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  51. @Mark #24: the Celtic Tiger has landed flat on its face. Unless of course, one still rain-dances for John Frum to fly over from Wall Street, still in denial that he in Chapter 11 proceedings.

    And if we somehow strike oil in the Great South Basin, we should follow the path of Norway rather than Britain.

    Comment by DeepRed — March 17, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

  52. PS. anyone noticed that WordPress have shifted the goal posts on commenting without telling us? I think they tried to clamp down on spammers and trolls, but instead caught the rest of us out.

    Comment by DeepRed — March 17, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

  53. “There is no outcome more obviously bad economically, than that the bulk of people would be encouraged into a business that produces nothing at all.”

    If we are talking about having a knowledge economy we need to move beyond the idea that the service industry is innately non-productive.

    The idea that the ideal economy focuses exclusively on producing tangible physical output rather than services isn’t rooted in any evidence. In fact in general, on a global basis, the more an economy focuses on producing physically substantive outputs as opposed to services, the poorer it is.

    Comment by Hugh — March 17, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

  54. @Clunking Fist OK, it’s fair enough to call me on “banks produce nothing at all”. That’s clearly not true. I overstated the zeal with which I feel the services of banks are massively overrated. Also, I conflated banking with every outcome of studying commerce, which is not true either. It’s becoming a pretty broad church.

    In terms of delivery of payment, banks have produced something. It’s not an incredible amount better than how it was hundreds of years ago, when you could turn up somewhere and pay with cash, or ask for credit (which has been around since the dawn of time), or perhaps write a cheque (which is now actually more difficult), but yes, that’s something.

    In terms of giving loans, banks do that. It’s not really a “service”, per se. It’s a trade. This is a useful thing, within boundaries. It’s very easy for it to stop being a good thing and become a very bad thing, a thing with negative utility. Funny though your clip is about how ungrateful we are for modern marvels, I can’t see that the production of all that debt counts – that’s not a modern marvel at all, that’s a very ancient thing, and it’s gone very bad many times. It can have a crippling effect on people, and it can do the same for entire societies. That’s what is happening right now. So I don’t think it’s especially awesome that at the same time as crippling society, it’s also swelling, and this swelling is soaking up more and more people to administer it. But I don’t blame anyone that moves into that business. You do what the times dictate. When it’s wartime, we become soldiers. When it’s a depression, we become bankers. A big growth in either of those professions is not a sign of good times. Nor is it clearly the way out of such times.

    @Hugh “If we are talking about having a knowledge economy we need to move beyond the idea that the service industry is innately non-productive”. See above response to Clunking Fist. I don’t think services are inherently non-productive, but I do not believe the knowledge economy is a path to riches under a capitalist system. Under capitalism, it’s a matter of building capital. There is no capital in services to build. You’re always just a pair of hands, or just one mind with it’s 40-odd productive hours. Stop working, and you’re losing value. Find your services less valuable? – take an income drop, or total redundancy. More to the point – as a society there is no capital – the worker is the ultimate relocatable capital, and will disappear to the highest bidder very quickly. In doing so they take not only the labour but also their knowledge, which might have kept some business going, but is suddenly gone.

    So in answer to both you and Clunking Fist, yes, fair enough, I overstated the case. The point I wanted to make was that I see a massively swelling services sector as a precursor to an entire nation in servitude, and it doesn’t soften the blow that the service is “knowledge work”. The ultimate direction for the value of all of this work is downwards. It becomes steadily less and less valuable as an outsourced product, competing with no real barriers at all with the exact same services provided by anyone else, anywhere. In other words, within a capitalist system, it is a strategy designed to make us all workers, rather than capitalists. Which means we end up, as always happens with capital and work, eking out an existence at the bottom end of the food chain.

    Yes, this is not nothing at all. But it’s a damned sight less than what it could be. It’s not aspirational at all.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 19, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  55. “I overstated the zeal with which I feel the services of banks are massively overrated.”
    I assumed that was the case, but I am forever dealing with folk, some of whom are in the service sector themselves, who still believe goods = good, services = not so good EXCEPT for their own service industry of course.

    “It’s not an incredible amount better than how it was hundreds of years ago, when you could turn up somewhere and pay with cash, or ask for credit”
    Um, bullshit? Sure you can turn up with cash, if someone hasn’t already relieved you of it by force. And credit was only available to those who are known to the merchant. If you was furrin (i.e. from the next valley) no chance. I place a value on the fact that the bank will safe guard my money whilst paying me for the privilege. I am most pleased that they will give me bits of it back any time of the Day and Night™ without a fuss. And as an employer I am now so pleased not to have to spend hours counting the shit out into little brown envelopes, only to have some idiot come crying to me because they lost it when they left their bag behind on the bus.

    “It’s very easy for [loans] to stop being a good thing and become a very bad thing, a thing with negative utility.”
    I wonder if many of the ills blamed on banking are actually the result of fiat money?

    “I can’t see that the production of all that [replace debt with wine, cars, women’s liberty, leisure time, zipper flies, etc] counts – that’s not a modern marvel at all, that’s a very ancient thing, and it’s gone very bad many times. It can have a crippling effect on people, and it can do the same for entire societies.”
    Actually, in that clip, the main banking highlight was the release from having to go into a bank branch, to stand in queues, or starve after the banks closed. Of course, none of that mattered in the olden days, when the wife could just go to the bank after dropping the kids at school and before going to the butchers for me dinner.

    “That’s what is happening right now.”
    What? Excessive debt which many blame on lose money? Blame central bankers, who are kinda answerable to politicians who always hate to see bubbles burst on their watch, but who are busy looking the other way while the bubble inflates.

    “When it’s wartime, we become soldiers. When it’s a depression, we become bankers. A big growth in either of those professions is not a sign of good times. Nor is it clearly the way out of such times.”
    When it is peacetime, we become Bureaucrats. Anyway, when it’s a depression, I think the population of bankers actually falls: some of them literally jump. Most banks around the world seem to be retrenching, going by news reports. I still think you are harsh on an industry that can usually survive on the money it makes from the provision of services (or trade if you prefer). Sure, many bankers took money from the taxpayer, but many businesses would accept royal govt favours if they can access them. Just look at your beloved car makers, GM for instance, and all those installing heat pumps and insulation.

    And your last few paragraphs seem to be saying that working in a factory is better than working at a desk, but then go on to say that all work is servitude. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying there is no hope for us. Should we all kill ourselves now?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 19, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

  56. >Um, bullshit?

    The improvements you’re noting are not in the same ballpark as the life-changing inventions in so many other spheres. So, life got a little bit more convenient in the last 30 years of banking. Not that I can even imagine too many more improvements – that’s part of the point, it wasn’t really that bad in the first place.

    >I wonder if many of the ills blamed on banking are actually the result of fiat money?

    Debt has nothing to do with fiat money. You can make debts with beans, or gold.

    >Actually, in that clip, the main banking highlight was the release from having to go into a bank branch, to stand in queues, or starve after the banks closed

    Yup, pretty minor stuff, really. Starving after the bank closes is a pretty extremely example, since it takes weeks to starve, and you’d have to have exhausted your pantry, and every line of credit, know no-one, and have nothing else of value. Which you can still experience whether you have a pocket full of plastic or not. The other things mostly came down to a bit of time, and the industry imposed difficulties of the bank not being open at convenient times in the first place.

    >What? Excessive debt which many blame on lose money? Blame central bankers, who are kinda answerable to politicians who always hate to see bubbles burst on their watch, but who are busy looking the other way while the bubble inflates.

    I do blame them. But they are massively influenced by the other kind of bankers, drawn from the same group of people, who lobby powerfully for the system never to be changed, since it leads to them being incredibly profitable.

    >Most banks around the world seem to be retrenching, going by news reports.

    Simultaneously with posting large profits. They’re retrenching because they can get away with it, not because they have to. ASB, ANZ, BNZ, Westpac, TSB, Kiwibank all recently posted big profits.

    >And your last few paragraphs seem to be saying that working in a factory is better than working at a desk, but then go on to say that all work is servitude.

    Not at all, I neither said those things nor implied them. It’s more complex than that – my point is that I very much doubt that doing service work will break the trend of hundreds of years of capitalism and suddenly lead to a hugely profitable sector. More likely it will follow the trend, and the services will eventually be replaced by cheaper people or machines. Or we will become the cheaper people, working like machines – or more likely both.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 19, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  57. “The improvements you’re noting are not in the same ballpark as the life-changing inventions in so many other spheres.”
    Once money, money-lending and double-entry accounting were invented, everything else has been evolutionary I guess. If the advent of banking was kind of like the first car, then ATMs are equivalent to remote fuel cap release. However, I put it to you that farmers’ beloved forward exchange contracts are a bit meatier: a bit like independent suspension maybe?

    The industrial rtevolution and perhaps the internet age have made us richer in the West and East, so why so pessimistic about the future?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 20, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  58. >The industrial rtevolution and perhaps the internet age have made us richer in the West and East, so why so pessimistic about the future?

    I’m pessimistic because it really depends who you are talking to about whether things have improved, and also how you measure it. In terms of generating vast amounts of toys for people who can afford them, then things are going swimmingly. In terms of a bunch of things I value, like a roof over my family’s head, food on the table, and electricity to keep them warm, things have deteriorated in my lifetime. This might not be noticed by some joker on the TV whose mates are bitter about the latest thing wrong with their cellphone, but perhaps that says more about his mates than it does about modern affluence and the distribution thereof.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 20, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

  59. I know what you mean: we’d all be so better off if we didn’t pay so much sodding tax.
    “But the rates are so low now!”
    Well, income tax maybe, but now we all pay 15% on pretty much everything we buy, including our houses. And you know that’s true: govt revenue over the last 100 years has been a growing % of a growing real GDP. (okay, so I only paid 12.5% when I built
    “I’m pessimistic because it really depends who you are talking to about whether things have improved,”
    Maybe you are in one of those jobs where you think “I bust my gut all day programming java games for smart phones. Sure I’m paid well, but I mean really, what’s the point”?
    I guess the coal miners, loom workers and peasant farmers of yore who simply died if they got sick and who toiled all day just for 3 meals, might view your lot more favourably.
    I think this could be what is the root cuase of your pessimism: in the olden days, a few great men and women came up with ideas or inventions that helped shape the world for the better (or worse). These days, because we are all “great, super, clever” etc, (according to our mums and teachers) when we can’t come up with the great idea or invention that will immortalise us, we feel a little worthless. What wrong with just being happy with whanau around you and the odd beer with a good mate? Sure, within a generation or two, we’ll be forgotten, but what the hey: “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realised how seldom they do” and “Here for a good time, not a long time!”

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 21, 2012 @ 1:07 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 413 other followers

%d bloggers like this: