Peter O’Connor is professor of education in the faculty of education and social work at the University of Auckland. This is under his name at the Herald.
Government hell-bent on dismantling public education, says Auckland professor
Make no mistake, Minister of Education Hekia Parata is on a mission to systematically dismantle public education. Changes already in place and those planned will radically alter the education landscape in New Zealand.
The current government wants to make changes, but nowhere near ‘dismantle public education’.
After World War II the consensus was that schooling served wider social purposes than individual achievement. The war had sprung from extremist views caused by social and economic uncertainty and inequality. Public education was seen as vital to protecting democracy from these twin threats. It became part of a highly successful global agenda to reduce inequality so the poor could make enough money to own their homes and have a stake in their world.
A rich and broad curriculum designed to ensure functional literacy was supplemented by critical literacy so the population had the tools to challenge what they were told by their governments and by those with racist or extremist views.
That sounds nothing like the narrow curriculum that I was schooled under. I wonder how old O’Connor is. here’s his current profile pic.
Neoliberal policies that have dominated Western democracies for a generation have brought a reversal of this agenda with a growth of inequality that has been breathtaking in scale and speed.
The scale of exaggeration there is breathtaking. As is the inaccuracy.
Since ‘neo-liberalism’ the percentage of New Zealand adults with tertiary level qualifications has risen from 35.7% in 1991 (the Ruth Richardson era) to 54.6% in 2014.
Alongside is the growth internationally of extremist and dehumanising ideologies which threaten the fabric of Western democracies.
That’s both highly debatable and has nothing to do with past or present education policies in New Zealand.
The end game of a callous undermining of the public education system is the collapse of an informed participatory citizenship.
He actually seems to be suggesting that there is a deliberate ‘endgame’ to precipitate a ‘collapse of an informed participatory citizenship’. He provides no evidence of this.
I’d expect to see this sort of nonsense in the depths of The Standard, but not in an opinion article by a university professor.
The Government’s attack on education is still driven by the “step change” policy Hekia Parata worked on with Roger Douglas and Heather Roy before she became minister. In other words, the reforms are driven by the fringe right wing of New Zealand politics.
That might be true if Douglas and Roy were the only two people Parata consulted with and listened to. Otherwise it looks like the ranting of a fringe loony.
The Act party has never particularly valued democracy, having gamed the system with their representation in Parliament….
Why pick on Act? All parties ‘game the system’ to achieve as much representation in Parliament as they can. That’s what happens in any functional democracy.
This sounds like petulant pissiness.
…and still believes, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary at home and internationally, that private companies can provide better, more efficient core services than Government.
The reform agenda is most visible in the nonsense of charter schools. Despite poor achievement, chilling mediocrity and lack of innovation, their disproportionately high level of funding and less stringent oversight make them grow like a cancer on the wider system.
That just about totally misrepresents what is currently being promoted by Act in education – partnership schools are a very small alternative to public education, and mostly involve trusts trying to educate kids who fail under the current public system, not for-profit companies.
David Seymour has made a point of promoting Maori involvement in partnership schools – one of the demographics failing the most under the public school system.
And is O’Connor really claiming that partnership schools are less innovative than traditional schools, the sort of schools that resist innovations via teacher unions who oppose change?
While public league tables shame schools for failing to lift educational achievement, the Government refuses to admit the impact of poverty on children’s learning.
I call crap on that, I think it is blatantly false.
There is no genuine desire to uplift the lives of the poor. It is easier to deny they exist by phoning a few favoured principals to ask if they’ve seen anyone hungry.
That’s also crap, but typical rhetoric you might see from fringe lefties and the Green and Labour parties who make ridiculous accusations about anyone who they decide doesn’t fit within their narrow views.
As national standards restrict and diminish a broad and rich curriculum, critical education is replaced by a focus on low level skills for a low level wage economy.
What is ‘critical education’ and have we ever had anything like it in public schools?
I see claims like the Government deliberately keeps wages low and deliberately dumbs down education so the rich can get richer (they never explain how that might work) at The Standard or The Daily Blog, not from a university professor.
Meanwhile, private schools continue to offer a wealth of learning opportunities to children of our neoliberal leaders and a middle class prepared to stomach the debt. The alternative “choice” for the excluded majority is cheap online charter schools, siphoning off yet more public wealth.
This sort of political rant doesn’t look like it has benefited from a broad and rich curriculum and a critical education.
All current funding proposals are about shifting around existing funds. There is no further investment and no recognition that quality public education is vital and deserves real and sustained financial support.
More vague claptrap, and claims that can easily be shown to be false. From this year’s budget:
Vote Tertiary Education
The Government’s total direct spend on tertiary education is forecast to be approximately $4.3 billion in 2016/17. The Government is investing $256.5 million over four years in tertiary education through the Tertiary Education package for Budget 2016.
The Tertiary Education initiatives are a part of the ‘Innovative New Zealand’ package.
Innovative New Zealand is a series of 25 initiatives that will see $761.4 million invested over the next four years in science, skills, tertiary education and regional development initiatives. These will help diversify the economy, and support more jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders in the decade ahead.
O’Connor goes on, and on:
It would be easy to say the education reforms lack imagination and are simply a lazy reiteration of failed policies of the 1990s. However, that would be to ignore the clear vision that drives them. It’s a vision that privileges the private sector, which creates schools as competing business units and pretends poverty and unfairness don’t matter.
When public education becomes yet another thing we may lose, along with the dream that hard work meant you could leave poverty behind, own your own home and balance a 40-hour working week with leisure time, we will wonder why we let it go so easily and ask what we gained instead.
The right wing will then tell us joylessly that we got choice. And when that happens we will know we got conned. Again.
I think that O’Connor has tried to con us into believing he was educated under a rich and broad curriculum to be able to think critically.
What are his areas of expertise, apart from fringe politics? From his University of Auckland biography:
Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre and drama education. His research focuses on applied theatre in marginalised and vulnerable communities. It has led to developing cutting-edge models of interdisciplinary praxis that explore the nexus of critical and creative pedagogies, aesthetics and social justice.
There appears to have been no research or critical thinking involved in his Herald rant.
I wonder what he teaches his students.
Peter supervises Doctoral and Masters students using arts based methodologies with a social justice focus. He is an experienced suprervisor of the PhD with creative component.
He teaches people to be social justice warriors?
He might be experienced in theatre and drama, but whoever wrote his biography must have skipped Spelling 101.
Like anyone professors can have political opinions and leanings, but when they publish political claptrap while citing their academic credentials (and no facts to back their arguments) it doesn’t do them or their university any credit.