The Dim-Post

October 4, 2012

An issue dear to my heart

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 7:36 am

I think Hekia Parata is a poor Minister. Every time I hear her speak I think of the famous Orwell essay Politics and the English Language, and his translation of a passage from Ecclesiastes into modern bureaucratic speak:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Hence schools marked for closure are being ‘rejuvenated’, and all of Parata’s debacles are ‘challenges’. Well, one more major ‘challenge’ and Key is going to have to sack his Education Minister for gross incompetence. But I do think the PPTA are being pretty damn precious here:

Education Minister Hekia Parata hit a bum note with secondary teachers today when she said children had told her their teachers weren’t pronouncing their names correctly.

Ms Parata told teachers at the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference in Wellington that one of the most common things Maori and Pacific children tell her is that teachers don’t know how to correctly say their names.

“It starts with pronouncing names correctly. It’s one of the most common things I hear [from] focus groups with Maori and Pacifica kids.”

The comment came in the middle of her speech, which had been well-received until that point, but was met with a collective jaw-drop and groan from teachers in the room.

The atmosphere quickly turned icy as the teachers became outraged.

Outraged at the suggestion they pronounce students names correctly? As someone whose name is occasionally mispronounced to rhyme with ‘anal’ (some people get a funny gleam in their eye: ‘Danal! That’s a hell of a nice name!’) I’m with Parata on this one.


  1. They were not outraged at the suggestion, but at the implication that they are incapable of correctly pronouncing their student’s names

    Comment by Brad — October 4, 2012 @ 7:39 am

  2. Well what do you expect from an organisation who right up to the ex-minister (and ex member) call children kids!

    Comment by rayinnz — October 4, 2012 @ 7:41 am

  3. Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

    Nah, that’s not modern English; it makes sense. THIS is modern English

    “we have to “formally” close the five under the Aranui campus proposal, but it is expected they would become part of the new campus – helping to shape and inform what it will look like. So they have a continuing existence in that sense.” (Ministry of Education letter as quoted on Campbell Live last night

    Comment by TerryB — October 4, 2012 @ 7:47 am

  4. To be fair most of her speeches would be written by some jobsworth seconded to her staff.

    Comment by Leopold — October 4, 2012 @ 7:56 am

  5. It’s not that they’re disagreeing that they should pronounce kids’ names right. It’s that Parata is being an arrogant arsehole by suggesting that they don’t try.

    Comment by Deano — October 4, 2012 @ 7:58 am

  6. I think the collective grown was less around the mispronunciation of peoples’ names and more around the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not really worth getting bent out of shape about — especially if the education system is as broken as the National government constantly suggests it is.

    Comment by SG — October 4, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  7. Groan, not grown.

    Comment by SG — October 4, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  8. Have to concur with Deano there. That article made it sound like they were being told off for something they were already aware of and working on.

    Comment by Ben — October 4, 2012 @ 8:19 am

  9. “One sucks an egg by first piercing the shell with a sharp kitchen implement.” If the Minister is getting this feedback about pronunciation then clearly it’s still an issue among schoolchildren – but the way Parata delivered the message was a bit obnoxious.

    Comment by Ataahua — October 4, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  10. My mother pronounces banal to rhyme with anal. It brings me joy.

    Comment by David C — October 4, 2012 @ 8:54 am

  11. It seemed that while castigating the teachers for the failures of some kids, Parata offers no solutions except to pronounce the names correctly. That is a crazy solution. (Most teachers do pronounce names as carefully as they can and I marvel at the confidence that news readers handle some very complicated foreign names.)

    Comment by xianmac — October 4, 2012 @ 9:26 am

  12. The problem here Danyl is that given all the issues currently swirling around education that Parata uses the opportunity of giving a speech to the PPTA to talk about pronouncing children’s names. Pity we don’t have a Daily Show equivalent in New Zealand, Jon Stewart would have a field day.

    Comment by Ieuan — October 4, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  13. Frankly I do not understand why she bothered going to talk to them at all.
    No National govt is ever going to get support from the teaching industry. She could double their pay and it would see them outraged.
    National have not said education is broken, they are just trying to get some measurement tools in place.
    Having sat through nearly two decades of parent teacher meetings I for one am happy that they now seem more willing to discuss specifics rather than the decades of mealy mouthed wishy washy “we don’t measure” verbal nonsense.

    My comment should in no way be seen as supportive of our current minister of education.
    She is tits.

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — October 4, 2012 @ 9:56 am

  14. “teaching industry”? For serials?

    Why is it that the right hate teachers and education?

    Comment by Deano — October 4, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  15. why not an industry? They churn out students, books, reports, notices to parents, begging letters.

    Comment by insider — October 4, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  16. Danyl is just a phonetic spelling of Daniel, pronounced the same way, right?

    I wouldn’t have thought pronouncing Edge- followed -Ler would have been difficult, but it seems to trip up a lot of people. Although I guess I can’t blame them, given even I’ve never been sure how many syllables there are.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — October 4, 2012 @ 11:18 am

  17. Deano. Hate?
    Misdirected methinks.
    We pretty much have two choices for government in this country. National and dags or The teachers party and dags.
    That is why the teachers lobby groups (Labour and the unions as well as other associated useful idiots) are always the first to go on attack when the country eventually wakes up and kicks Labour out.
    Engaging with them if you are the national party is a no win situation.
    Better to keep hammering home the message to the teaching industries customers which actually seems to be going fairly well if you look at all the polls done around national standards.
    Not a comment in support of the current minister of education.
    She is tits.

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — October 4, 2012 @ 11:49 am

  18. Have to agree with people at the top of the thread: when dealing with a very complicated situation around Maori and Pacific achievement suggesting that teachers should focus on getting names right is (a) redundant because almost all teachers are aware of this and make an effort daily (much more so now than in the past), and (b) so woefully simplistic it is insulting. I happened to be at a conference and heard Hekia speak to a group of History teachers on Monday. It lowered my opinion of her enormously: a variety of stories she has used before and a speech someone else had written for her that she hadn’t read. I think Hekia finds herself tremendously inspiring.

    Comment by John-Paul — October 4, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

  19. No Danyl, she was wrong here. I have just retired from teaching and know how hard we all tried to get names right. Many schools will have been on the Kotahitanga programme which saw as a centrepiece the a respect for the culture of the students. I’ve seen excellent caring teachers much loved by their students who have a bad ear for language and just can’t get the vowels and consonants right. We were cavalier about it back in the bad old days, but not now. Well, I’m sure nearly everyone tries.

    To make matters harder, there are some very hard to pronounce new names out there now and I can vouch for the fact that it is extremely difficult for a relieving teacher especially to begin to pronounce them when confronted with a list. (This is probably not what she was talking about.)

    She’s just so very arrogant, thinks she knows best and is grasping at any critical straw she can find. After all, there were 42 students in her class when she was a child and she did all right. What’s wrong with these blimmin’ teachers?

    Comment by M0 — October 4, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

  20. “I think Hekia finds herself tremendously inspiring.” @18.
    Have an uneasy feeling that her bluster and blather might be deliberate. Perhaps a means to undermine the dreaded Union. The NZEI is an institute and has trouble getting a forum to meetings. Hardly a militant body. But most seem passionate about doing the best for kids and that might mean resisting poorly researched and damaging trends.
    Dave Kennedy has an excellent report on the Finnish Mr Pasi which outlines just why Finland is so successful. NZ via Parata is heading in the opposite direction.

    Comment by xianmac — October 4, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

  21. Overall the journalist’s tone seems pretty sympathetic towards the Government’s anti-publiceducation platform.”Teachers overreact to legitimate concern of students!” It’s icy and they’re outraged, but no mention of the Minister’s at times plaintive, at times snarky style of engagement. And what’s this doing in an article about a PPTA meeting: “Oh, by the way, basically half of all primary school teachers are failures when it comes to testing”?
    Anyway, to be fair, considering the average age of secondary school teachers is Boomer, and that generally speaking boomers (including many Māori unfortunately) grew up in a monolingual society, pronunciation was always going to be a difficult aspect when it came to adult second language learning of Te Reo. However, getting someone’s name right is a basic sign of respect. And if Jim Hickey can do it people, anyone can!

    Comment by Gratuitousbanter — October 4, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

  22. I’m kinda on the fence here. Parata is not a great minister, and her ministry is pretty damn incompetant as well.

    In my experience teachers are mighty hand wringing bunch. Most are well meaning, but get them in a crowd and they are as rowdy as their students.

    Comment by max — October 4, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  23. It’s a little point, which only a minority of teachers really need to be reminded of. it’s fair enough for one sentence in her speech to be dedicated to something only the slowest and most arrogant teachers need pointed out to them.

    Comment by kahikatea — October 4, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  24. Is Hekia Parata any worse than Anne Tolley? And John Key kept her on as Minister of education for a long time.

    Comment by Andrew R — October 4, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

  25. Honestly, I can’t believe that woman is in Parliament. Her patronizing tirade to teachers was ill timed and not at all thought out. Who can blame them for taking her comments as an insult? People, when their careers are threatened, do not want a monologue and they don’t want a mandate in consultation clothing.

    Her answers in question time in Parliament regarding this issue have been continually vague and without the expected substance of someone in her position. She has alienated not only the opposition but her constituents, far and wide, and of course the quota of backbenchers from her own party who are confused by her answers and her conduct in regards to these proposed closings and mergers.

    Comment by Dan — October 4, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

  26. She has to watch out. Some teachers vote National, but numerically they’re fairly unimportant. But parents are a far larger voting block (and some of their children turn 18 between elections), and parents generally have closer relations and a better regard for teachers than they do for the government.

    As well as being quite uninterested in evidence about what improves education, this government is playing a risky game electorally. Why can’t they do something safe and useful and just beat-up on some beneficiaries or criminals?

    Comment by George D — October 4, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

  27. The goal they have assumed is to beat up on everybody because apparently nobody can do anything for themselves. Beneficiaries can’t spend their own money wisely; parents don’t know what is best for their children; retirees need an unaffordable safety net in the form of superannuation … and the icing on the cake is that the government thinks we need an increase in mining jobs and endless new roads, without new legislation to regulate practices in mining, and in the middle of a recession which, in my view, would have sent a clear signal to any sensible government to postpone the roading scheme.

    Comment by Dan — October 4, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

  28. possibly they groaned because a) they don’t think it’s the biggest reason for under achievement by maori and pasifika children (that’s poverty) or b) they are already aware of this issue and are doing their best.

    I only know one primary school teacher well but they are very aware of how impt it is to get names right. last year they had 28 children in their class and three were pakeha. the rest were PI , Indian and Chinese new zealanders. they really really tried hard to get their kids names right but there are some phonemes that English language speakers simply can’t learn. or at least not with about five years immersion in another country which seems like a fairly drastic solution.

    on the other hand, I have no idea what purpose thePPTA hoped to achieve with this press release except perhaps to get across the idea they really hate hekia and national, thus further weakening their credibility as an independent commentator….

    Comment by lucyjh — October 5, 2012 @ 4:39 am

  29. 2011: Hooray – the National Party is finally showing some diversity and putting a Maori woman in charge of an important portfolio!

    2012: Dear lord she stinks! Why don’t National put someone competent in charge of this important portfolio!

    I can’t wait until 2014 when we will have a decent Minister of Education, someone like – oh I don’t know – Nanaia Mahuta?

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — October 5, 2012 @ 6:31 am

  30. #29

    Are you suggesting Mahuta and Parata are the same because they’re female and Maori? I’m not sure Mahuta would say that the way to rejuvenate schools is to close them. It’s like taking your pet to the vet to be put down. The vet smiles at you, saying to look on the bright side, “your pet is being rejuvenated”.

    Comment by Ross — October 5, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  31. No, I’m saying that promoting someone to a position that is beyond their capabilities just so you can tick the diversity box and show everyone how wonderful and enlightened you are is a dumb idea. It’s a shame that this appears to be the case with both our Minister of Education and the opposition party’s spokesperson for education.

    “I’m not sure Mahuta would say that the way to rejuvenate schools is to close them.” I’m not sure either, it would be nice if the opposition party’s spokesperson for education would let us all know what she actually thinks about schools ‘n shit from time to time.

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — October 5, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  32. From my school years, getting names right wasn’t an issue. And this is primary school in the early nineties, so it wasn’t that long ago. The problem here lies with lax immigration policies devoid of any semblance of structure.

    I found my primary school teachers to be a mixed bunch. There was the stern Scottish woman who didn’t like me (apparently a six year old can be very arrogant); the young female teacher without a clue; the aggressive macho teacher whose classes consisted of bullying students he liked, interspersed with his ego inflating impersonations of Billy T James and Mr Bean; the middle-aged woman of good social standing with a compassionate attitude; the adventurous teacher with a passion for music and science; the other female teacher without a clue; and the former pro rugby player from Italy (Kiwi originally) who became a well respected Deputy Principal.

    As for Highschool, the teachers were really dedicated. One of them even went so far as to illicit her husband to take me shopping for a $220 electric shaver.

    The problem isn’t with the teachers, it’s with the politicians that make the decisions that affect the ability of the teachers.

    And there’s all this debate about children living in poverty and not being able to afford school lunch and their school work being affected by it. I didn’t exactly grow up in poverty but I was never one for school lunches. I don’t think I had more than one lunch at school every couple of weeks since the time I was six. And when I was eight, I had the reading level of the average 12 year old.

    Comment by Dan — October 5, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  33. “It’s a shame that this appears to be the case with both our Minister of Education and the opposition party’s spokesperson for education.”

    So you are saying they’re the same 🙂 Seems to be based on the assumpiton they were selected irrespective of anything but race and sex. As for Mahuta, she might be being replaced in the near future.

    Comment by Ross — October 5, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  34. “Seems to be based on the assumpiton they were selected irrespective of anything but race and sex”

    If either of them posses qualities making them worthy of their positions I would love to know what they are, it sure as hell won’t include competence. Face it, these two are the Sarah Palin’s of NZ politics.

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — October 5, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

  35. I think Parata was given the opportunity of an important portfolio so she could do a sterling job, but she has failed and an element of that was because of the charter school scheme, the plan to keep the National Standards, and the plan to close and merge Christchurch schools following the earthquakes. I do not, however, think that her selection to this portfolio had anything to do with her race or gender (although I could be overestimating Key’s integrity here, as he was on the news tonight about schmoozing Hollywood producers).

    As for Mahuta, she hasn’t been given the opportunity yet so it’s still far too early to say whether she would be good at the job. I think Labour strategists probably have selected her based on her race and gender, although that’s strictly only my opinion.

    Comment by Dan — October 5, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

  36. Maybe the minister should make it easier for us to recognise her by changing her name to Heckler Parroter.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — October 5, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

  37. We can already recognise her well enough by the ‘graceful’ saunter and ‘beguiling’ smile

    Comment by Dan — October 5, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

  38. Hey Dan, are those illicit $220 shavers the kind that vibrate? 🙂

    Comment by insider — October 5, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

  39. They’re not illicit in and of themselves. Honestly, I can’t remember.

    Comment by Dan — October 6, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  40. Most shavers vibrate..But a vibrator that shaves? That has the potential to get messy.

    Comment by frank_db — October 6, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

  41. a three head electric shaver with attached razor that did … vibrate. Yes, glad it wasn’t the opposite, that would have put paid to National’s attitude towards teachers.

    I believe they are less expensive now, but were all the rage then. We looked down our noses at the one head shavers.

    Comment by Dan — October 6, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

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