The Dim-Post

November 24, 2011

Anne Tolley walks into an advertising agency

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 11:32 am

JP writes another letter to Anne Tolley. Excerpts:

  • Your policy states that one in five students leave school without any qualifications.  Could you direct me to statistics that show me a breakdown of this group?  Do they all come from all parts of New Zealand and all schools; do they come from a wide range of socio-economic groups; are any ethnicities over represented?  Is it generally true that schools with poor academic results tend to be in certain areas and in many schools the statistic of one in five is not true?
  • If national standards are supposed to help parents to compare their child’s achievement with a national average why is there no consistent test across schools, and why are these results not moderated?  It seems that a lot of parents misunderstand this point and believe that their children’s results are being pegged against a national average.
  • Your policy states that your party has spent $36 million to fund new intervention programmes to help students who are failing.  If 20% of the students are failing this seems a very small amount of money.  What is this intervention programme called, and how does it work?  I couldn’t find anything about it, and I am interested to hear about it.
  • Your policy also states that your party has put $60 million towards stopping bullying, and promoting good behaviour.  What has this programme been called, and how has it encouraged good behaviour?
  • What will a Student Achievement Function Practioner actually do?  Helping schools support struggling students is fantastic.  Will they work one to one with teachers on targeted students?  This would be great.  How do you envision this working?  We already have RTLBs in the school system.  Will you be rebranding them, or creating something new?  If you are creating something new could you explain how it will be different from the old system?
  • I realise I am raising a lot of questions so I will focus on only one sentence I am unclear on at the bottom of page six: “We’ll also shift the resourcing model so that it incentivises performance.”  Could you explain this for me in plain English?

I think teachers are baffled by National’s education policy because they assume it’s about the education system, and they don’t understand what problems National are trying to solve, or what the outcomes are supposed to be. Once you understand that it’s about market research and electoral strategy – that National’s focus groups tell them many swing voters are parents who feel anxious about their children’s education, and that their policies are designed to play upon those fears by creating the illusion of a crisis that National will solve – they make perfect sense.

Pundit’s fallacy watch

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:47 am

The pundit’s fallacy is when a political commentator decides that what they personally want to happen is the best political and strategic outcome for a party or government. And here you can almost hear the wheels spinning in John Armstrong’s brain: he wants a National-led government, he doesn’t want Winston Peters to be part of it – click; whirr; hiss – so the Greens should enter into coalition with National.

If the Greens go into coalition with National they instantly lose an unknown but non-zero percentage of their MPs. They’ll lose more during the term as English and Joyce make cuts to the public service and Finlayson and Collins go to war on the Bill of Rights and the legal system, and MPs resign from the party in protest. They lose party members and donors. They lose a huge percentage of their voters who are soft-Labour supporters, and they get wiped out at the next election. It’s political suicide. It won’t happen. It makes more sense for Labour and National to go into coalition together than it does for the Greens to sit at the Cabinet table with Judith Collins and Steven Joyce.

If National gets a majority then the Greens might agree to abstain on confidence and supply in exchange for some policy wins. And that’s a good reason to vote Green if you’re on the left – they’ll be an effective opposition but they may also deliver some policies.

November 22, 2011

Vote MMP

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:46 pm

Rather than re-hash all the familiar reasons to vote for MMP in the upcoming referendum, here’s a new one I haven’t seen discussed.

MMP is not a perfect electoral system – because there ain’t no such thing. But it’s pretty good, and because we’ve been using it for fifteen years we know what most of the flaws are – and if we vote to keep it we get a commission to figure out how to fix those flaws.

But if we vote to get rid of MMP and replace it with STV, or Supplementary Member or whatever, those new systems might solve some of the problems with MMP but they’ll introduce new as-yet-unforseen problems that politicians will readily identify and exploit. So in another fifteen years we’ll still be complaining about the unfair electoral system and demanding that something be done about it.

If we keep MMP and fix the current problems we avoid another fifteen years (plus) of electoral system teething problems with whatever we replace it with.

A teacher’s lament

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 7:13 am

John-Paul – who is a secondary school teacher – is not impressed with National’s education policy:

  • Teaching is a long hard road to success, and it is even more brutal and even more important at decile one schools.  My experience of a  decile ten school is that the students can almost teach themselves.  Is it not then true that student teachers in higher decile schools will appear to have a better disposition to teach than those toughing it out in low decile schools?  Where do you want good teachers to go?  Into the low decile schools where the results are low, and they will be judged on league tables, and their position will worsen as white flight takes place over the next few years?  I assume that you are also planning to let parents have “choice” about where they send their kids.  Which means abandoning zoning, and abandoning certain schools whose funding is tied to their roll.
  • Can I ask you this?  What was broken about our education system?  One of the best in the world for decade after decade with results we can be proud of in maths, and reading and writing?  Our identified area of concern was our long tail.  A characteristic that all multi-cultural societies face, and one that they are all battling with.  Why have you created a policy that will disadvantage the schools where the long tail is over represented?  I think that it is so parents who are educated and comparatively wealthy (compared to long-tail parents) can have a good reason to send their kids out of area.
  • Finally, I would like you to show me another country similar to our own where this model has worked over a long period of time.

National and ACT supporters look at arguments like these and turn to public choice theory: ‘teachers are self-interested agents who oppose these reforms for selfish reasons of their own, and also they belong to unions!’ But you do have to consider the possibility that teachers all hate these policies and can make formidable critiques of them that National cannot intelligently respond to – just might be because these are really, really terrible policies.

November 21, 2011

Quote of the day, although the day was a couple of years ago edition

Filed under: education,Politics — danylmc @ 3:18 pm

Education Minister Anne Tolley on league tables for Primary Schools, back in October ’09:

After months of disputes, Education Minister Anne Tolley has struck a deal with primary school unions that will see them work together on its controversial national standards policy.

Under the agreement, the Government has confirmed it will make it as difficult as possible for the media to produce league tables that rank schools.

Mrs Tolley told The Dominion Post the deal was a “a momentous occasion”.

She said she told the groups she was prepared to work with them to stop the use of league tables. “We want to make it as difficult for you [media] as possible. It will be too hard and too much work and not worth it in the end. There are a few ideas we will discuss as to how we can do that.”

Today . . .:

Education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said a National-led Government would not roll out any league tables of its own but primary schools would, from next year, be required to publish their results against the National Standards. There were be no steps to stop media or anyone else from constructing league tables out of the information.

“We want the system to be far more accountable to parents and communities,” Tolley said.

Notes towards a leaders debate drinking game

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 11:33 am

Breathe oxygen every time:

Key says ‘stable government’

Goff says ‘own our own future’.

Drink from an empty glass:

If the political commentators bemoan the lack of substance and then cut to Claire Robinson to tell us which leader has the dreamiest eyes

Impregnate the person sitting next to you and then congratulate them on their cushy new lifestyle:

If Key mentions the urgent need for welfare reform

Drink a beer:

If Garner challenges Goff to tell us his ATM PIN number, and Goff panics and proudly blurts it out.

Continue to send blood to your brain:

Every time the Prime Minister says, ‘Actually’.

Reach out and touch a physical object:

Every time Key responds to an established fact with the phrase ‘I reject that!’

Masturbate furiously:

Every time Duncan Garner asks a question requiring a complex response and demands ‘answer me yes or no!’

November 20, 2011

Dogwhistle of the day

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 7:06 pm

Tonight on TV3 news, John Key ominously warned that ‘a Labour government will include Winston Peters, Hone Harawira and Metiria Turei’.

Leaving aside the fact that Peters has ruled out a coalition with Labour and Labour has ruled out a coalition with Mana, You gotta wonder why a party who is polling double their main opponents needs to run out this kind of clumsy race-baiting during the last week of the campaign. So I’m calling it: based on this statement, and the increasingly weird and hysterical posts on Kiwiblog, I predict that National’s internal polling has Winston Peters registering at >5%.

I guess the goal here is to have Hone Harawira respond and call Key a racist, and this will ‘close the circuit’ and give the story some legs. The bulk of the population dislikes Harawira so they’ll sympathise with Key; and Winston Peters will be associated in the minds of potential voters with Harawira and classified as a ‘big-spending, unstable and volatile’ Maori. But I doubt this will work. Peters’ brand with his potential voters is way too strong.

And . . . maybe it’s me, but like everything Key’s said in the last week, this also seems hubristic. Sure, given the parameters of the current polls Goff will need the Greens and New Zealand First to form a government. But if enough voters decide they want Labour to govern on their own, then that’s what’ll happen. I don’t think it will, or even that they should – but it’s up to the people to decide.

Quote of the day, that about sums it up edition

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 6:05 am

From Audrey Young’s column yesterday:

Labour leader Phil Goff yesterday acknowledged that the final week would be “a big challenge for us”.

“But then the French were the underdogs right up to the five minutes before the start of the last test.”

The latest Roy Morgan poll has Labour down on 24.5%.

November 18, 2011

Now THIS is what I’m talkin’ about

Filed under: science — danylmc @ 4:15 pm

Further to yesterday’s discussion on empiricism and parenting:

Nelson had traveled to Romania to take part in a cutting-edge experiment. It was ten years after the fall of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose scheme for increasing the country’s population through bans on birth control and abortion had filled state-run institutions with children their parents couldn’t support. Images from the orphanages had prompted an outpouring of international aid and a rush from parents around the world to adopt the children. But ten years later, the new government remained convinced that the institutions were a good idea—and was still warehousing at least 60,000 kids, some of them born after the old regime’s fall, in facilities where many received almost no meaningful human interaction. With backing from the MacArthur Foundation, and help from a sympathetic Romanian official, Nelson and colleagues from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland prevailed upon the government to allow them to remove some of the children from the orphanages and place them with foster families. Then, the researchers would observe how they fared over time in comparison with the children still in the orphanages. They would also track a third set of children, who were with their original parents, as a control group.


This past May, a team led by Stacy Drury of Tulane reported a similar finding—with an intriguing twist. The researchers found that telomeres, which are protective caps that sit on the ends of chromosomes, were shorter in children who had spent more time in the Romanian orphanages. In theory, damage to the telomeres could change the timing of how some cells develop, including those in the brain—making the shorter telomeres a harbinger of future mental difficulties. It was the clearest signal yet that neglect of very young children does not merely stunt their emotional development. It changes the architecture of their brains.


Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:15 pm

Scott at Reading the Maps interviews Labour Party MP and Waitakere candidate Carmel Sepuloni:

SH: Are you worried about what might happen next year if Labour is elected, and faces a Greek-economic crisis, along with pressure from international and local business interests to implement neo-liberal austerity measures, of the kind Greece and Spain and Italy are implementing right now? Could we go back to 1984?

CS: I’m much more worried about what National will do if they get in.

SH: I’m not saying we shouldn’t be worried about National! But I notice that in Greece and also in Spain it is Labour-style social democratic parties which are doing the work of the International Monetary Fund and local capitalists, overseeing big cuts in government spending, laying off state workers, cutting pensions, cutting union rights –

CS: I don’t know about that. I’m focused on my community here in West Auckland, and on my party.

SH: But there’s a local precedent, isn’t there? In the 1980s it was the Lange-Douglas government that brought neo-liberalism to New Zealand. They did what National could never have done, because they had the support of the unions and the poor. National could never have gotten away with Rogernomics.

CS: Labour is a different party today. And I am focused on the here and now. We need to beat Paula Bennett. I haven’t got time to get into arguments about history.

SH: I don’t think it’s an antiquarian debate. I think it’s a real danger. From the statements I’ve seen you making I think you’re on the left of the Labour Party. I think you identify with the social democratic tradition, and want to defend the welfare state and union rights and to redistribute wealth downwards –

CS: Of course. And that’s why I am trying to get the vote out against Paula Bennett.

SH: Aren’t you worried, though, about some of the more right-wing people in your caucus, people who might be future leaders, people who don’t share your vision?

CS: I have no idea who you’re talking about.

SH: Shane Jones, David Cunliffe –

CS: Cunliffe? You think Cunliffe is right-wing? I wouldn’t say that at all. I’d put him on the left of the party. Shane Jones – I wouldn’t call him right-wing. I’d say Shane’s a centrist. Shane is in the middle of the party. Someone who is on the right, I’d say, is David Parker. Don’t quote me on this, please, or I’ll deny it. But David Parker is on the right of the party, very much so. But please don’t repeat that.

(The interview appears to be a Capote-esque recollection instead of a taped transcript.)

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