The Dim-Post

November 14, 2012

Education Minister translated redux

Filed under: education,Politics — danylmc @ 8:08 pm

The Gunning-Fog index is a commonly used algorithm to determine the readability of English writing. (Details on the wiki page here. See also the comments section.) I wrote a perl script that reads in Hansard transcripts from Question Time and looks for sentences that score an 18 on Gunning-Fog, which ranks as incomprehensible, and then replaced that sentence with the word AAARRGGGGGH! Here’s how Hekia Parata’s most recent oral question plays out.

6. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: What specific criteria were used to determine whether a school in Christchurch was identified for restoration, consolidation or rejuvenation?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education) : Tena koe, Mr Speaker. AAARRGGGGGH! However, it is important to note that those categories describe learning community clusters, and not individual schools.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister’s answer has given me an explanation of what each of the categories are. I have asked for what the criteria were in order to put schools within those categories.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has got a legitimate grievance because the member actually asked what specific criteria were used to determine whether a school was identified for restoration, consolidation, or rejuvenation. The Minister, in answering, gave criteria for clusters. If she could clarify for the House whether that applies to individual schools, that would be helpful because that is what the question asked.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: AAARRGGGGGH! They do not relate to individual schools.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Schools were specifically listed in her proposal under one of those headings, and I have asked the criteria on which they were listed under those headings. That is a primary question, and it is not an unreasonable question.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept absolutely that it is not an unreasonable question, and that is why I sought clarification from the Minister. What the Minister seems to be pointing out to the House is that those three classifications—restoration, consolidation, or rejuvenation—did not actually apply to individual schools. As to what the Minister has told the House, I have got to take the Minister’s answer at face value. I cannot second-guess that. The Minister has given an answer to that question.

Chris Hipkins: What specific criteria were used to identify whether a specific school was proposed for a merger or a closure?

Hon HEKIA PARATA:  Sorry, could the member repeat the supplementary question?

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to repeat his question.

Chris Hipkins: I will try. What specific criteria were used to identify whether a specific school, an individual school, was proposed for a closure or a merger?

Hon HEKIA PARATA:  I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If I am going to help members on this matter, they should be a little silent. I think it is not unreasonable—the primary question asked what specific criteria were used to determine whether a school in Christchurch was identified for restoration, consolidation, or rejuvenation. The Minister in answering that question pointed out those three categories applied to clusters of schools, so the member has not unreasonably now dug further into that answer and asked then what criteria were used to identify schools for, I think his language was, merger, which is similar to consolidation, or closure, which is highly relevant to some schools in Christchurch. That is not an unreasonable supplementary question, and I am ruling that it is not an unreasonable supplementary question.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH! That is what—

Hon Members: What are they?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH! Those are some of the criteria.

Chris Hipkins: Were the assessment of earthquake damage and the likely cost of repair for each of the schools proposed for merger or closure based on a physical inspection of each site and building; if so, who conducted that assessment?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH! Some of them involved book assessments. AAARRGGGGGH!

Colin King: Was the change in demographics taken into account when developing the criteria?

Hon HEKIA PARATA:  Yes, it is a people-related issue. AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!

Chris Hipkins: Was a physical assessment of the earthquake damage done on each of the schools that she proposed for merger or closure before she proposed that; if not, why not?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: AAARRGGGGGH!

Mr SPEAKER: Tracy Watkins [Interruption]—Tracey Martin. I beg your pardon. My goodness.

Tracey Martin: Kia ora, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon.

Tracey Martin: Kia ora—

Mr SPEAKER: My apologies to the House.

Tracey Martin: Can the Minister assure the House that parental elections for boards of trustees will be held within 6 months of any consolidation or merger of schools in Christchurch as per the requirements of the Education Act 1989?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!

Tracey Martin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise. Perhaps I missed it. I understand the time line around mergers might not be quite clear at the moment, but my question was whether the elections for boards of trustees would be held within 6 months of any consolidation or merger as per the Education Act 1989.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Minister to actually answer that question.

Hon HEKIA PARATA:  Yes.

Chris Hipkins: Did she review all of the information prepared by the Ministry of Education on the likely or estimated cost of repairing schools that she was intending to propose for merger or closure, before she made the decision to propose those schools for merger or closure; if not, why not?

Hon HEKIA PARATA:  Yes.

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38 Comments »

  1. I stopped laughing only long enough to look for the satire tag. Oh dear.

    Comment by Vanilla Eis — November 14, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

  2. Hilarious

    Comment by Dan — November 14, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

  3. Good lord, I think you’ve accidentally reverse-engineered next week’s The Walking Dead script.

    Comment by Andre Alessi — November 14, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  4. i am so happy :-D

    Comment by Anita — November 14, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

  5. That’s hilarious. The alternation between AAARRGGGGGH and “yes” is especially piquant.

    Comment by Moz in Oz — November 14, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

  6. This is great, if very frightening. As you mention, it’s from her latest effort in the house, which feels like a few weeks ago, and probably is, as she’s been down in Christchurch talking to the schools in question. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of going to one such meeting, at my old school, Manning Intermediate. While her utterances on TV and appearances in the house can seem mind-blowingly stupid, you have to remember that she is turning up at school halls and spouting this tripe at parents, teachers and children (or “learners”, as she prefers to call them) in an attempt to justify the closure of their schools. She takes questions from the audience, but unlike in the house, there isn’t a moderator who can force her to answer the questions. So you have whole school communities who have gone to a meeting to hear the minister try and justify these closures, only to have Hekia screaming “AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!AAARRGGGGGH!” at them for an hour. There have been a couple of small backdowns in the last week, but to put it plain and simple (unlike her English): she simply has to go.

    Comment by James Macbeth Dann (@edmuzik) — November 14, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

  7. Nice work, but have you tried the script on a control subject? I recommend some of Parekura Horomia or Mike Moore’s vintage Hansard.

    Comment by Will de Cleene — November 14, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

  8. You provide a link to Hekia’s most recent oral question but that question doesn’t exist. That’s incomprehensible. AAARRGGGGGH! How about analysing something that Hekia has actually said?

    Comment by Ross — November 14, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

  9. You might want to check your script. The sentence “The assessments were made in a range of ways” was replaced, but this only scores an 8, as far as I can see.

    Comment by Mark — November 14, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

  10. Best laugh this week!

    Comment by Humphrey — November 14, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

  11. You might want to check your script. The sentence “The assessments were made in a range of ways” was replaced, but this only scores an 8, as far as I can see.

    Thanks – I’ll take a look at it tomorrow. I used the Perl Lingua::Fathom module, and it treats clauses separated by semi-colons as run-on sentences.

    Comment by danylmc — November 14, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

  12. @ #6: (or “learners”, as she prefers to call them)

    Her patronizing attitude just gets more atrociously funny every passing moment. One wonders what it’s like to have to live with her.

    Comment by Dan — November 14, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

  13. Hate to be a spoilsport but I think your implementation of the algorithm is flawed. For example the first sentence you marked as AAAARGH! is “The criteria for clusters were restore, mainly low-level change; consolidate, moderate-level change; and rejuvenate, major change across the cluster.” This scores only a 12.67 on the calculator at http://gunning-fog-index.com .

    Maybe you’re not scoring semicolons and dashes correctly? The correct link for the original text is http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QOA/d/e/5/50HansQ_20121016_00000006-6-Schools-Canterbury-Criteria-for-Proposed.htm

    Comment by Dave — November 14, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

  14. This script just made my day, can’t stop laughing.

    Comment by Mike @ TattooSeminar.com — November 14, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

  15. The script is not very interesting. Good effort.

    Comment by milegi — November 14, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

  16. Captain Hekia, Pirateer.

    Comment by Aztec — November 15, 2012 @ 3:43 am

  17. Hate to be a spoilsport but I think your implementation of the algorithm is flawed. For example the first sentence you marked as AAAARGH! is “The criteria for clusters were restore, mainly low-level change; consolidate, moderate-level change; and rejuvenate, major change across the cluster.” This scores only a 12.67 on the calculator at http://gunning-fog-index.com.

    Stepping through the code: what happens is that it accumulates sentences until it has enough words to run an analysis, then marks an ‘AAAARGH!’ for each sentence. Which isn’t quite fair, but is still pretty funny, so I’ll leave it up but link to this comment from the post.

    The reason the script picks on Parata, btw, is that her answer to the primary is very long and jargon-ridden, and then her answers to supplementaries are just to read the same primary answer over and over.

    Comment by danylmc — November 15, 2012 @ 4:58 am

  18. Sublime. Henceforth the very appearance of Ms Parata will never fail to elicit the very apt reaction HEKIAAAARRGGGGGGH! in the minds of thousands. Thank you.

    Comment by ak — November 15, 2012 @ 8:15 am

  19. This is great.

    Comment by dpf — November 15, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  20. Fantastic. Laugh of the week. Well done.

    Comment by eszett — November 15, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

  21. Video:

    Comment by Robbie — November 15, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

  22. From the 2011 Standing Orders, Appendix D:

    “(1) Official television coverage of the House is made available on the following conditions:

    2. Coverage of proceedings must not be used in any medium for—

    (b) satire, ridicule, or denigration:

    (2) Breach of these conditions may result in a loss of access to official television coverage, and may be treated as a contempt and
    proceeded against accordingly.”

    You are SO in trouble, Robbie! Lockwood’s going to come after you with SUCH a big stick!!

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 15, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

  23. Lockwood’s going to come after you with SUCH a big stick!!

    Sounds perfect for a Parliament Christmas pantomime.

    Comment by Ataahua — November 15, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

  24. LOL. What a debacle however lets not forget the ongoing clusterfuck that is the Shearer and Cunliffe bitchfight ably assisted by the unions, gays and greens.

    Comment by Tim — November 15, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

  25. hahahhaha

    Comment by Rob — November 15, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

  26. omg. this is real.

    Comment by sheesh — November 15, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

  27. Love Simon Bridges looking non-plussed in the background!

    Comment by MeToo — November 15, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

  28. “… lets not forget the ongoing clusterfuck that is the Shearer and Cunliffe bitchfight ably assisted by the unions, gays and greens.”

    Yes, wim! Mustn’t forget to change the subject to one that is more amenable to National’s interests! The problem being, the clusterfuck you refer to is such an inside-the-beltway, first world problem. Yawn.

    Comment by Flashing Light — November 15, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

  29. Dear Flushing Blight, you just hit 18 on the Gunning-Fog index. Diiiickhead.

    Comment by Tim — November 15, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

  30. lol, what would this blog be like without the usual series of verbal insults being exchanged by FB and Wim?

    Comment by Dan — November 16, 2012 @ 1:12 am

  31. Quick – someone mass-produce tastefully-designed hand-held AAARRGGGGGH!s for opposition and public gallery use. The demand in the local government arena alone would be enormous.

    Comment by ak — November 16, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  32. Great, now I need to rewatch Mars Attacks, ak ak ak ak http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VepS-IyKOLE

    Comment by Paul Behrens — November 16, 2012 @ 10:13 am

  33. This is priceless stuff. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this particular session, so it was an enormous treat to find that others too had been impressed. Can anyone learn to speak such impenetrable gobbledygook, do you think?

    Comment by Alma Rae — November 16, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

  34. So pleased that during Parata’s speech, you allowed her gasps for breath to be left in their pure form. Or maybe the extended AHHHHs might have needed a gasp for breath. Funny how the YES and YES were also left intact.

    Comment by xianmac — November 16, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  35. >Great, now I need to rewatch Mars Attacks

    There was me thinking you’d link to the scene where the machine translation device is screaming “we come in peace, we come in peace” (in translation of ak ak ak), as the martians lay waste to everything they can see.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 17, 2012 @ 8:13 am

  36. This would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Someone should teach the Minister how to speak English.

    Comment by Paul Orr(leprachaunz) — November 20, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

  37. …its a policy mangle turned by Nat’s beltway wonks. CERA & Dpt Ed are the two mangle rollers. The real world sends its washing through & Parata does the ironing (badly).

    Comment by Jim Whitman — November 26, 2012 @ 6:04 am

  38. I thinks this is a little bit of a red herring, because the Wikipedia page about the Gunning-Fog index makes no value judgements about the comprehensibility of the text; it refers only to the reading age one would theoretically need to understand it. There is no reference to an index of 18 being incomprehensible. The original text is far from incomprehensible, although it very cleary demonstrates that the minister is obfuscating or side-stepping the question being asked by the member. I understand the subject is very much a political hot potato in NZ at the moment, and it is therefore hardly suprising that the minister is taking this tack; it is something politicians are quite good at, especially ministers. Of course, there is always the opportunity for a cheap shot, and pollies constantly lay themselves open to this – it’s something they accept as part of being elected to public office.

    For the information of the compiler of this text, the Gunning Fox calculator at http://gunning-fog-index.com/ rated all the half-dozen or so Hansard extracts I put through it at between 16 and 22. Though my standard of literacy is slightly above the average, I found none of the extracts incomprensible – boring as bat-shit, yes, but not incomprehensible. Actually, it just occurred to me to put some of the minister’s answers through the same calculator and, suprisingly, none come near to rating 18. I don’t have the time to rate them all. The highest rating passage was actually the Speaker’s statement beginning with the words “Order! If I am going to help members on this matter, they should be a little silent …”

    What I did find surprising about this passage was the way in which the Speaker directed and guided the minister towards providing a succinct and informative answer; something that the minster was clearly not inclined to go. Most parliamentary presiding officers would stop at offering some anodyne statement like “I am sure the minister is answering the question, though the member may not like the answer he is getting.” I would hardly rate parliamentary question time as a golden opportunity for members to gain clear and concise information about government policy.

    In summary, a nice try at a humourous rendition, and probably worth a bit of a chuckle, but perhaps the author might like to try something really clever next time.

    Comment by Bryce Moore — January 7, 2013 @ 6:41 pm


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